Thursday, February 17, 2011

1848 and 2011

In 1848, revolutions (eventually crushed with great bloodshed) broke out among several European nations (France, the German and Italian states, the Hapsburg Empire, Poland, Ireland). Obviously, economic factors aren't going to be the only things that stir up revolutionary sentiment. The human desire for dignity, respect, justice, are equally important. But there's nothing like an empty belly or the hopelessness of unemployment to focus one's energies:
These revolutions arose from such a wide variety of causes that it is difficult to view them as resulting from a coherent movement or social phenomenon. Numerous changes had been taking place in European society throughout the first half of the 19th century. Both liberal reformers and radical politicians were reshaping national governments. Technological change was revolutionizing the life of the working classes. A popular press extended political awareness, and new values and ideas such as popular liberalism, nationalism and socialism began to spring up. A series of economic downturns and crop failures, particularly those in the year 1846, produced starvation among peasants and the working urban poor.
It appears that the same thing can be said about Tunisia, Egypt, and the rest of the Arab world. There's this Egyptian woman who argues that a lot of Egyptians are just fed up with the daily power plays and little oppressions of every thug in a police uniform or government office:

But it's also the case that there are a lot more hungry and unemployed people in Egypt:

As IPS reported, “Wall Street investment firms and banks, along with their kin in London and Europe, were responsible for the technology dot-com bubble, the stock market bubble, and the recent U.S. and UK housing bubbles. They extracted enormous profits and their bonuses before the inevitable collapse of each.

Now they've turned to basic commodities. The result? At a time when there has been no significant change in the global food supply or in food demand, the average cost of buying food shot up 32 percent from June to December 2010, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Nothing but price speculation can explain wheat prices jumping 70 percent from June to December last year when global wheat stocks were stable, experts say.”

Here’s a key fact buried in a CNN Money report—the kind intended for investors, not the public at large: “About 40% of Egypt's citizens live off less than $2 a day, so any price increase hurts.”


Think about that: what would you be doing if you were living of $2 a day. You won’t be drinking mochachinos at Starbucks, that’s for sure.

What we're seeing is important. It's huge. It's as huge as 1848 was for the cause of human freedom. We're on the good side people. Don't forget that.

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