Stocks have been taking a hit after news of the anti-government demonstrations in Egypt launched a sell-off that began on the Egyptian stock market and is now spreading worldwide. The question is, why was everyone so surprised? Financial types never believe anything like this will happen. They assume that dictators like Mubarak, even though he is in his eighties, will be there forever and that the people will suffer in silence as his police state keeps the lid on. That the CIA missed this should come as no surprise either, considering they missed the Ethiopian revolution, the Iranian revolution and the Tunisian revolution. The revolution is spreading throughout the Arab world, exactly the opposite of what Robert Kaplan predicted in his New York Times Op Ed piece declaring the uprising in Tunisia to be an isolated case that would never spread to Egypt or anywhere else.
To be an expert in this country is to be a complete idiot. When my wife, Mary, and I got off the plane in Addis Ababa in 1967 we looked at each other with the same thought: When does the revolution start? The Americans, CIA included, considered Haile Selassie to be a permanent fixture, beloved and admired throughout the world. They had their heads in the sand. I told anyone from the embassy who asked that the students were fed up with the emperor and with America for supporting him. All I ever got was a shrug. When I wrote an Op Ed in The New York Times predicting the revolution, the powers that be went bananas, going so far as to suppress a book I had proposed to several publishers at their request. Then, when it was happening, that overrated jerk, Henry Kissinger, told Nixon to send more arms to the emperor. Actually, what I knew that few others did, was that Nixon had already sent combat troops to Ethiopia to stop the insurgency. I knew this because I had seen them with my own eyes at a remote airport. There was another Vietnam in the making, stopped only by Nixon’s impeachment and resignation.
If one considers that there are more than 250,000 students at Cairo University alone, it ought to be pretty obvious that anti-government sentiment has got to be seething beneath the surface. Egypt was once a wealthy country until Britain robbed it blind when it was a colony. Under Mubarak, poverty has increased dramatically, assuaged only by the one-cent cost of a loaf of bread the government makes possible through subsidies. There are no jobs, there is an arrogant and rich elite and the country is virtually an American colony. Why would these young Egyptians put up with this? At a certain point, they were bound to risk everything because they had nothing to lose. Yet the idiots at Davos were shocked by events, with Tony Blair blathering about the need to “manage change.” The entire notion that things can be run interminably from the top whilst millions of people get the shaft is so dumb as to defy the imagination. And yet it persists–the British when the colonists rose up, the monarchy and the aristocrats in France when the revolution overwhelmed them, the Czar, his family and the Russian elite when Kerensky and then Lenin toppled them.
I have always wondered if these things happen because the leaders are stupid or just greedy and without compassion. After all, justice is ultimately a matter of self-interest if you want to save your own skin. When I watch the Republicans setting out to get rid of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid whilst they give tax cuts to the wealthy during wartime, I am amazed at their arrogance. They keep believing that the dumb goyim will keep going along like sheep as long as they feed them the same stuff about the dangers of socialism.
I have to admire, in a way, Jamie Dimon’s chutzpah. Boss of JP Morgan Chase, he recently proclaimed indignantly that he was tired of people criticizing the banks. He just paid himself $17 million as salary, not counting bonuses. This is the guy who blamed the entire financial meltdown on the mortgage holders who had to default. He had nothing to do with this? This would be a farce were it not so tragic.
At what point will there be a critical mass in America, when a sufficient number of people refuse to accept the new normal of high
unemployment and a great disparity of wealth? Perhaps it will be young people coming out of college burdened by debt and unable to find a job, fed up with the interminable wars and the huge profits made by cutting payrolls even as banks are awash in cash that they will not lend. I saw a young Egyptian demonstrator shout into the camera. “We are angry! We are fed up!” As they used to say in Ireland, “Up the rebels!” Wherever they may be.