Yesterday I saw on "Global Voices" that Bahrain was in Day 2 of their Day of Wrath. Maybe they're hoping for a week of wrath. The Libyan city of Benghazi, where protesting is illegal, was prepping for a Day of Rage this Thursday - and it looks like they got off to a premature start, today, objecting to the arrest of a political activist and getting a swift crackdown. Probably not enough to put any real cracks in Ghadafi's reign, Africa's longest. Some in southern Yemen organized a Friday of Rage last week, though attendance was relatively slim. Several attempts to organize "rage" events in Syria were successfully quelled by the government.
The trend started in Tunisia, of course, escalating from the self-immolation of a frustrated and disillusioned street vendor into a wave of uprising against unemployment, corruption, and poor economic conditions in countries across the Arab world and beyond.
It would be easy to characterize these uprisings as progress - especially from a place of isolation (in the middle of a big, powerful, and self-involved country rather far away). Those people over there are throwing off their evil dictators to pursue a democracy like ours. But I think I'd agree with George Friedman (HT Justin Long):
"The reality of what has happened in the last 72 hours and the interpretation that much of the world has placed on it are startlingly different. Power rests with the regime, not with the crowds. In our view, the crowds never had nearly as much power as many have claimed."
"... The crowd in Cairo never swelled to the point that it involved a substantial portion of the city."
"...What we see is that while Mubarak is gone, the military regime in which he served has dramatically increased its power."
Can removing a corrupt leader or even a whole regime - though justified - do much to improve the conditions that created such frustration? Soaring food prices, economic sluggishness, widespread unemployment, and a general lack of opportunities - those seem like complex problems, difficult to untangle. I suppose if the leaders are creating or exacerbating the problems or blocking the solutions, a change of leader or regime could be a good first step. But then what?
Even in my own country, where corruption seems to be relatively low, we're always hearing politicians claim greater power to effect change than they can deliver. Chalk that up to the democratic model, in part: checks and balances, representative government, division of power, term limits. Good things I think. But they mean nobody can really go to Washington and turn everything upside down. And where corruption is deep-rooted and widespread, how can a community eliminate or at least reduce it? It's so much easier to see and define a problem than its solution. I guess that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to make things better, though.
"With governments committing huge sums to tackle the world's most pressing problems, from the instability of financial markets to climate change and poverty, corruption remains an obstacle to achieving much needed progress. The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that nearly three quarters of the 178 countries in the index score below five, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). These results indicate a serious corruption problem.
"To address these challenges, governments need to integrate anti-corruption measures in all spheres, from their responses to the financial crisis and climate change to commitments by the international community to eradicate poverty. Transparency International advocates stricter implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption, the only global initiative that provides a framework for putting an end to corruption. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore are tied at the top of the list with a score of 9.3, followed closely by Finland and Sweden at 9.2. Bringing up the rear is Somalia with a score of 1.1, slightly trailing Myanmar and Afghanistan at 1.4 and Iraq at 1.5."
Source: Transparency International3. Mobilization
As with many issues related to public policy and politics, I scratch my head and wonder. I feel the same way about fighting human trafficking, or responding to the global AIDS crisis. I'm stuck on step three of CP's old mobilization scale (yes, I resurrected this in an article last week). I don't have a "vision of what can be done."
Steps to Strategic Involvement
1. Initial exposure to the world’s situation
2. Growing biblical and global awareness
3. A vision of what can be done
4. A general commitment to do something
5. Waiting and guidance
6. Specific commitment to a particular ministry
7. Strategic involvement / active engagement
I suppose that's how many people feel about the area where I =do= have a stage-seven commitment: church planting among the least-reached peoples. I see what can be done, I know how I can be part of it, I'm actively involved, and I scratch my head that others don't see why this matters, believe it can be done, and feel a duty and urgency to take part.
But politics? Not my deal, I think. Not my mountain to climb (Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture identifies the major spheres of culture as entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion).
This challenges me as a mobilizer: I don't want to slip too quickly into preaching, about anything, "It's your responsibility to do something about it - it's everyone's!"