Reform by mob: does it always work?

Some recent events in Egypt and Tunisia illustrate the whole trouble with street mobs supposedly calling for “reform” – that in a situation described more by anarchy than any sort of clear higher purpose, it becomes difficult to sort the devils from the angels. Reports of looters vandalising ancient Egyptian artifacts and of Tunisian shopkeepers suffering financially from the business disruption of protests there suggesting that some of the rampaging gangs are simply not interested in a return to normal life.

Much of the chatter in “social media” had already collectively stamped a high-nosed “people power” brand onto the escalating unrest in Egypt and similar rumblings in the rest of the Arab world. But is deposing an Arab dictator really a good thing?

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Recall the cases of the sort of state that Iran became after its Shah was deposed in 1979. Or what a grand crusade the War-Against-Terror-branded second Iraq invasion seemed to be at the time — before everyone realised there were no weapons of mass destruction. By the time the religious and moral fervor that fueled the US invasion of Iraq died down, the foolish hubris of presuming to resort to direct intervention to topple a Third World “tyrant” had become evident as warlords and Islamic zealots descended upon the political vacuum left by the fall of Saddam Hussein, ruler of what was once a relatively stable mercantile secular state.

So I sit here today quite bemused by the way Filipino pundits engage in quaint chatter as they “monitor” events in Egypt. It seems here that we fancy ourselves some sort of godfather of “people power” politics doting upon fledglings taking baby steps halfway around the world.

But what “freedom” had wrought upon the Philippines in the aftermath of the 1986 Edsa “revolution” — the eventual takeover of the government by clueless Eraptards and Noytards — may not result in as benign an outcome in the Middle East. Indeed, the ominous shadow of Islamic fundamentalism cast by some powerful elements in those Egyptian and Tunisian mobs becomes more evident by the day. “People power” in the Philippines is unlikely to apply today and over there any more than the principles underlying the victory of allied forces against the tyranny of Adolf Hitler in World War II and the rebuilding of Germany and Japan paralleled themselves in the subsequent US invasions of Vietnam and Iraq.

Solutions that worked elsewhere cannot be turned into shrinkwrapped products to be sold in other societies without taking into account the nature of the culture of the societies being impacted. Perhaps we should observe the events unfolding in the Middle East with a more open and critical mind and not colour these with our pre-conceived notions that are propped up by nothing more than relics of 1980’s thinking.

20 Replies to “Reform by mob: does it always work?”

  1. In Egypt’s case, it wasn’t really a secret that the United States supported him from the start, mainly because they tried to invade Israel several times before. It probably explains their ambivalent hands-off approach now. Worse comes to worse, they’ll bolster Israel instead and the IDF probably just obsess over Gaza again since it shares a border crossing.

    It would be especially true if the “al-Ikhwan” (aka the MB) does take over, which is a very likely scenario even if a lot of the #Jan25 tweets try to disown them from their little revolution.

  2. 25 years later and we still remain gripped in a kleptocracy – rule by thieves.
    and 70 percent plus of the population struggle to survive day to day.
    in many respects and by many measures the philippines has only gone backwards compared to our neighbours.
    so what did people power really achieve.
    the criminals are still there – marcos, arroyo, cojuangcos, estrada, aquino.
    they just pass around the keys to the countrys money bank, make sure they maintain the status quo, and keep people uninformed and subservient.
    they want to be consider themselves asian royalty but the rest of asia has moved on.
    they cling on through legal protection, business monopolies- which they stole – and a code of family secrecy and almost interbreeding.
    the 2 things they fear most is business competition and open information.
    this would destroy everything for them.

    1. Which is why they’re trying to set it up so that we’re part of the “everything” that business competition and open information would destroy. If they go down, they’ll want to take everything with them.

    1. Yes sir, just like AIDS virus coming from Africa, I reckon People Power virus coming from the Philippines. This isnt good.

  3. Could be the philippines? corruption is rife, 40% live on less than $2, same GDP growth (6%pa), almost same population, location deemed strategic by US. Member of Next-11. Whilst we have democracy of sorts. in 25 years our politicians have failed grossly to tackle our dysfunction. we need reforms. 1) charter change, now is best time 2) anti corruption and govt bureacracy 3) encourage savings and investments

  4. Doing something is change for the worst.  Doing nothing more of the same.  It is the devil and the deep yellow hordes of Aquinistas.

  5. Egypt and Tunisia Revolution versus EDSA Revolution, THE DIFFERENCE:
    1. Egypt and Tunisian Revolution instigated by bloggers, twitters, facebook versus EDSA revolution was started by both corrupt camps in Marcos administration
    2. Egyptian and Tunisian went out in the street with one main focus, CHANGE GOVERNMENT versus EDSA revolution in which Filipinos went out to witness and tsismis who be the victor between corrupt camps.  Change government was an afterthought.  It was a byproduct of tsimis.
    HUGE DIFFERENCE !!!!  It is right in front of them and not one Philippine columnists and PHilippine peryodistas and Philippine analysts able to see it.  THEY ARE BLINDED.  

    1. EDSA was “Hakot Demonstrators” phenomena…revolution lead by political opportunists and Oligarchs…same people who started the “Culture of Corruption” in the Military and in the
      Political System.
      It was like the MOB WAR of the Mafia Mobsters in New York. One UnderBoss; Wacking the Boss of the Bosses…the UnderBoss just wanted to become Boss of the Bosses…
      Remember how the New York Mobster by the name of John Gotti; wacked his Boss: Castellano, in a Steak Restaurant in New York… John Gotti, became the Boss of Bosses of the Gambino Family, afterward…Our political system, parallels that of the Mafia System…

  6. The rumblings of Tunisia; Egypt; etc…may be giving some Sleepless Nights, to Noynoy Aquino and his Yellow Horde Nazis…if people’s stomachs are rumbling, because of high costs of living:
    it will be transmitted into the streets.
    EDSA was a Church and Yellow Hordes People Power Protest. With the support of Political Opportunists and the C.I.A.

  7. It is said that someone asked former chinese premier Chou En Lai on the effects of the French Revolution on the world. His answer was that it was too early to tell.

    Let us look at our own Cory “revolution” many who post entries in this blog are all earning their keep abroad. The cry in Egypt today is “we don’t want to be beggars and we don’t want to become thieves!!” In the Philippines off course if you can’t get to go abroad you in so many ways have to become a thief. The gap between the haves and have nots in the Philippines have grown larger.

    We are slowly realizing that the Cory so called revolution was simply one group of family clans getting back into power after deposing another set of clans. The merry go round continues. Egypt will no doubt go through the same process.

    1. You forgot that the clan prior to that has done a monumental amount in providing vast infrastructure that is still used even to this day. And a potential power source that would though questionable, would have changed the dependence for power in the country.

      The Aquino-Cojuangco provided an infrastructure that they alone profit from. Network stations to subvert the citizens allied to their cause and deflect the actions of their leader, more food processing advancements but no laws to actually advance the cause for the farmers and a total age of dumbing down.

  8. The whole world is controlled by CIA sponsored thugs and cronies, they put their man in power. Why you wonder, when a state president gets elected he first makes a visit to America…like in PH president did, so did prime minister from India and 100 other countries.

    People have no idea how wicked American empire is…behind all the glomour and nicely laid out roads..their lurks a shadow government who is responsible for all terror attacks to revolutions to money control.  

    Good guys have no chance, untill these evil cabel is exposed…Human beings are very good…I have traveled to many places and only met good people…there is a power that is manipulating for David Icke and Micheal Tsarion …there is only hope in Conspiracy not truth

  9. So what do you say guys? Should Filipinos revolt? The people won’t have to step outside and engage in chaos. Filipinos should just stay home and cripple the corrupt system. Do it for a month. Sacrifice one month of your life to paralyze the oligarchs.

    The Egypt revolution will be another reason for the government and businesses to raise prices here and there.
    If Filipinos don’t act, then stop complaining about how hard life is.

    1. It is not for us to say when a  people get fed up and explode, these are things beyond anyone’s control.  So what if no meaningful change happens after a social and political cataclysm, it is for the people to decide what to do next.  That finally the Egyptians and Tunisians are rising up against a corrupt and well-entrenched leader is laudable.  It is not always certain what the outcome of revolutions like this, what is certain is that it is empowering for a people to rise up and overthrow an ineffective government.   The first people power in the Philippines was a cathartic one politically, and we are still struggling to  make it a meaningful experience.  The succeeding ones were exercises in futility.  AP can help effect the much needed change in our country and with current idiotic leadership, we may yet be successful in effecting real change which should begin with charter change.

    2. @pugot

      They could do just that, but life still moves on and the war of attrition favors those with resources. Even if the employment climate gets shaken up and creates a more chaotic atmosphere, you still haven’t hit those who own the resources that allow the citizens to survive in the kind of society they are in.

      Or you could pull real chaos like Tyler Durden’s attempt to bomb the buildings of the credit companies. You ever wonder if the world stopped depending on oil, those rich middle easterners would have nothing more to their name than vast lands of SAND.

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