Tuesday, April 8, 2008

When the Stomach is Empty

Many despotic and tyrannical governments such as Chavez in Venezuela rely on their power by providing free or cheap food to the poor. The same pattern appears in the Middle East. No thought is given to free and democratic society. The only thought is to maintain power and the privileges thereof. And as long as a balance is maintained, rulers such as Mubarak and others have no fear of their peoples clamouring for democracy. As long as the belly is full, the populace can be controlled. But what happens when the government can no longer provide the cheap bread that is so necessary to those who live in squalor because their government does nothing to help raise people from poverty? You get what is happening in Egypt.

There has been little in the media about the riots and strikes occurring in Egypt. Most attention is focused on the demonstrations occurring around the Olympic Torch. Those demonstrations are pertinent to what is going on Egypt: Where ever tyrants rule, people must speak up. China is one of the world's most prolific human rights abusers and should not have been allowed to host the Olympics. The Chinese crackdown on Tibet is echoing across the world and it should. At least the Tibetans are receiving the attention the Burmese monks did not. And the riots and strikes in Egypt should garner as much attention. The Egyptian people live under the threat of police abuse and people were generally willing to live under this repression as long as the stomach was full.

The Sandmonkey has been posting about the riots and strikes. In his post, We Have Come to the Day, he makes the following observation:

Thirdly, and most importantly, allow yourselves to enjoy those brief moments of joy before the get crushed, as they're going to. If this spreads, then the regime will spare no expense to squash it, especially with the visible absence of the western media and their coverage. Without international cover, this won;t survive, and the government will fuckin air bomb the demonstrators if they truly became a threat to the regime. The point isn't the overthrow of the government, not yet. It's a warning shot, letting them know that they can't get away with this shit much longer, that the corruption must stop, that political liberties must be respected and that the mismanagement of the economy can not continue. That the people won't just bend over and take it anymore. That they better change or this might breed the revolution you so rightly fear. But that won;t happen today, or next week, so please, quit your whining, worrying and bitching about the protesters, and start fearing for their lives. Those people have almost nothing and are risking what little they have for a chance for a better life. Nobody asked you to act like them, nobody asked you to support them, but at least try to respect them. They earned that much!

The New York Times had this:

But what has turned the demands of individual workers into a potential mass movement, officials and political analysts said, has been inflation of food prices, mostly bread and cooking oil. The rising cost of wheat, coupled with widespread corruption in the production and distribution of subsidized bread in Egypt, has prompted the president here to order the government to resolve the problem.

That, however, has done little to calm public outrage, or lower bread prices.

On Adly Street, a broad thoroughfare in downtown Cairo on Sunday, many more stores than usual were shuttered, according to street vendors and residents. A sandstorm and midday rain also may have contributed to keeping people off the streets.

“People are staying at home today,” said Ashraf, a clerk in a luggage store who was afraid to give his last name for fear of arrest. He said he kept his children home from school, and dressed in all black, as a sign of support for the protest. “Because of the prices, because we can’t get food,” he said explaining the reason for the strike.
Belal Fadl, a script writer and satirist in Cairo, said that Egypt was going through a very confusing time, and that the government could no longer rely on an politically apathetic population. The problems, he said, are now too widespread and too close to home, nearly everybody’s home.

“People in Egypt don’t care about democracy and the transfer of power,” he said. “They don’t believe in it because they didn’t grow up with it in the first place. This is unfortunately the case.

“Their problem is limited to their ability to survive, and if that is threatened then they will stand up.”

When the stomach is empty, people will revolt. It happened during the French Revolution and it is beginning to happen in Egypt. It seems that the Egyptian government can no longer hide its abuses by whipping up public opinion against Israel. It can no longer hide the fact that those living in Gaza, live much better than a majority of Egyptians. It can no longer hide its abysmal running of the government. The people who live in the slums of Egypt can no longer afford the bread the government used to provide at low cost. It can no longer hide the depth of corruption of the political elite who live in unfathomable wealth while those who live in the slums of Egypt go hunger.

And because of technology such as cell phones and the internet, the Egyptian government can no longer hide its brutal tactics against the people of Egypt.

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