Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gloating Arab Princes

Prince bin Talal of Jordan is in East Europe this week promoting his message: the Occupy Wall Street protest movement proves the West has lost its moral authority. His own part of the world can no longer look to the West for advise, and must now go its own way, following its own history and making use of its own institutions, which needless to say, and he didn't say, include Kings, Princes, Potentates. He went on: the revolutions based on Western models, like the recent Middle Eastern ones, as well as seen in the past examples of Turkey and Israel, start out with liberal intentions but end up nationalistic and theocratic. The implication being, again, Princes are not so bad after all.

His part of the world has its problems, he admitted. In his own country Jordan, seventy percent of University admissions are obtained by bribery. In the region as a whole, seventy percent (apparently his favorite number) of the economy is "black", that is, untaxed, and based on money laundering and drug smuggling. The region has no research institutions, few Universities, little cohesion between states. But these problems can be solved, and he is optimistic.

On either side of Prince bin Talal as he spoke were pairs of body guards, more body guards were in the aisles, more outside the auditorium in the lobby and hallways. What was he afraid of? He is not the hypocrite he appears to be, a democratic Prince, because he has come out in the open saying he is not democratic: that is, Western. He's told us the Western way has failed, now they'll go it alone their own way. If he hadn't explained himself so clearly, someone in the audience might ask him why he and his family didn't use their "own" money to solve the problems in their own country. Anyway, nobody asked.

His gloating argument demands an answer. Here is mine. The West is not really corrupt. Anyone who has been around in the world knows that as corrupt countries go, even now, the United States is one of the least corrupt. That with one proviso: except the government, except the small group of people who have bought it. Compared to the "seventy percent corrupt" Arab nations, the United States is utopia. Occupy Wall Street says, "We are the 99%".

The institutions of the United States remain good. It is the people who fill the offices in the government who are bad. The solution is not to change the rules of government but to change the people.

Unlike the Middle Eastern revolutions, the present revolution in the making is against particular people, not form of government. The institutions work. Nothing needs to be changed except the people in power. All of them.

It's a ridiculous phrase, but what is going on before our eyes is a revolutionary revolution. A political movement with only a moral objective, working outside the non-working government in order to get it working again. I am on my way to the library where I will look for precedents for this kind of revolution. Maybe this is the first.

P.S. According to the textbook, Social Movements, Porta and Diani, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2nd Edition, 2006, it is not a social movement when, "Collective action focuses exclusively on the behavior and/or the legitimacy of specific individuals."