Egypt: A Vote on Should He Stay Or Should He Go?
by Dan Ehrlich

A plebiscite or referendum may be the fairest and non violent way to settle the upheaval in Egypt, one that now seems could lead to civil strife or even warfare.

The revolution took a nasty turn Wednesday as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's populist forces made themselves known with a massive violent rally in the same Cairo location where the massive anti Mubarak rallies have been taking place. Small by comparison, the pro Mubarak people are attempting to mobilize forces the same way as the anti forces, through the Internet.

If the pro government forces increase, there's a real chance for ramped up violence of the sort that happened at Wednesday demonstrations. The democratic solution would be to hold a quick referendum on a simple question: Should Mubarak stay or should he go.

Of course, the man himself has answered that question, saying he won't stand for re-election in September. But, that's not set-in stone and the anti forces want him out now.

Poverty, Hunger & Web Override Old Excuses
The mass protests sweeping the Middle East aren’t about democracy and freedom or even Israel. They’re about food, jobs and the Internet. It appears the ageless Arabs may be catching up with the present time, possibly the most notable aspect of this developing regional revolution.

Throughout the Mediterranean Arab leaders maintain undemocratic often-repressive theocracies, which keep their masses hovering in sort of a stagnant limbo between poverty and relative affluence. Many towns and villages had been existing without major changes for hundreds of years.

Israel, a western style liberal democracy complete with beaches filled with bikini-clad women, has long been a thorn in the Arab side largely because of this. A similar situation existed in Lebanon when it was wealthy finance base nation ruled by a Christian Arab majority. However, that was destroyed in tribal warfare when Palestinians tipped the balance of power towards Islam resulting in the collapse of a strong central state and the rise of feudal style clan warfare.

Now, the world economic revolution and financial recession in the West had made itself known in the Middle East with increased unemployment, high farm production costs and food prices going through the roof in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.

For hundreds of years, before oil was discovered in the region, the Arab world had existed largely unchanged as a people held in check by their religion, a religion that was part of the state. Remember, much of Islam rejects the idea of church-state separation. This made government control that much easier and total.

The Arab masses were fed a line that to be an honorable and humble poor person was a blessed state, something that would be rewarded in heaven…sounds like Christianity, doesn’t it? Under this system, the Arabs have maintained an almost timeless society, which actually was one of its strong points. Wealthy and powerful nations rise and fall, but the Arab is eternal. And that’s because they didn’t change…until oil was discovered.

Today the Arab World is divided between rich and poor nations. The Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, with oil reserves have, through the West, become wealthy. Yet, even here, most citizens are held in religious bondage. For example, with all its oil, the average Saudi makes less than official poverty level income in America and their social domination is extreme.

In fact, the official quality of life index has most Arab states listed in the mid to bottom rung of rankings. Libya and Saudi Arabs, wealthy with oil, are still way down towards the bottom; with Yemen only three up from last place Somalia.

Yet, even with poverty, technology has enabled the various populations to have two modern luxuries, now necessities, television sets and computers. With these repressed populations have been able to see how more affluent and liberal people live as they examine their own lives.

Reports from the troubled areas claim Facebook has been used to mobilize protests and spread the word of dissatisfaction with the order of things. For the first time in memory, the Arab masses have taken to streets in protests against their various autocratic rulers.

TV networks such as Al Jazeera, widely viewed in the Arab world, has been tested as an honest journalistic broker on its own turf, showing scenes of protests and violence. In Egypt, journalists have been arrested and the Internet was cut-off, an ominous reminder of the fragility and hazard of having all information sources on the Web.

One can only wonder which country, if any, is next on the list for upheaval. What seems to be evident is that the old excuses and reasons for their growing impoverishment won’t wash anymore. They can only blame Israel for so much, until their empty stomachs tell them otherwise.

Last year the city-state of Dubai posted a $60 billion debt. Was it from money going to aid Palestinians or from building largely empty skyscrapers and ski runs in the desert? The self-interest of a few potentates and corruption that accompanies them has seen massive fortunes made and disappear without any noticeable change to the Arab world, other than those obscene monuments to avarice in Dubai.

Yet, just because there is a movement for change in the Arab World doesn’t mean anything lasting will happen. Too often one dictator is simply replaced by another.

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