Saturday, February 19, 2011

Middle East Crisis: Danger and opportunity. New economics needed to complete the job


As a small child, I was once impressed to see a jet of marmalade, a sticky, fragrant volcano applying itself to the ceiling of our kitchen when the weight was blown off the top of my mum's pressure cooker.

Hold that thought.

Our whole world is changing.

Old regimes are falling, and around the world, the same thought is passing through millions of minds:

"Maybe we are not powerless after all. 
Could be we really can change things. 
We have political power  - if we all act together".

We in the UK are not going to succeed in regime change - that requires decades of repression on an Egypt scale - but we can hope to change the destructive financial policies of the Coalition.

Common purpose is the key the success to this amazing revolution.

Of course, the new forms of communication have played a part. The old power of state media is undermined by social networks. But it was the sense of common purpose that gave the Tunisians and Egyptians uncommon courage and persistence, born out of deep desperation resulting from decades of repression. The oppressors were the focus, enabling the extraordinary social unity, shown most memorably in the photo above of Christian youths forming a protective circle around praying Muslims,

They will need more of that unity of purpose if they are to succeed in the post-revolution phase, and this is not going to be easy.

There is a tendency for people to go a bit dis-inhibited after the removal of a repressive regime. Authority is no longer respected. Crime can flourish, both small and big. In the place of a single dominant political party, a plethora of parties arises, some built on naked self interest. The corporate giants will try to move in again, paying politicians to act in corporate interests.

In short, revolutions can be disappointing. Disorder flourishes, and people get fed up with crime and disorder, a strong man or strong party take over, and the cycle begins again.

Common purpose is the way out of this vicious cycle.

The spirit of co-operation that was manifested in Tahrir Square can and must be maintained in mending, not just the politics, but the economics of the renewed nations.

Unemployment and its consequence, poverty and hardship, are very common features of the youth uprising.

The ruling classes response to that is to promise that sooner such demonstrators who do have jobs get back to work, the sooner the economy will pick up &c.

"Believe us. Trust us".

The revolution deserves better than this. It deserves a new economics.

Insofar as the revolution is a response to unemployment, it is a rejection of conventional economics, which is based on market values, and uses unemployment as an instrument to keep wages down and profitability up.

The new economics begins by asking, what do we need in order to live?

The answer is clear. We need water, food, houses, energy, and waste management. After that we are free to be with friends, make music and dance.

In the Middle East, water, food and waste recycling are the prime commodities for the people to provide. Local circumstances will show up other needs.

If there is a task to be done, it is the job of the Government to ensure that the work gets done. Governments must invest in broad, employment intensive infrastructure projects to secure access to water and food.

In creating a new sense of purpose, of everyone working together on projects that have an immediate benefit to society, the power of the people is focused on construction rather than crime, self-interest and destruction, the unity of the revolution is maintained, and a new social and economic order can emerge, not just in the Middle East, but around the world.

Overview of the new economics
Water projects as channel of co-operation

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