Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Walker like an Egyptian?

“From today,” I have said in a previous essay, “Madison, Wisconsin, is next door to Cairo.”

Wisconsin Governor Mubarak: Would it be any worse?

Wisconsin Governor Mubarak: Would it be any worse?
[ Image Source ]

How can this be? How can two cities so far apart and so disparate have so much in common? To understand this phenomenon, it is useful to look at the causes of the protests that have filled both capitals.

It is commonly suggested in conventional media accounts that Egyptians eventually, after 30 years of rule by one party and one tyrant, refused any longer to accept the repression, torture and open scorn for human rights that characterized Hosni Mubarak’s regime. All of this is true, but it is also incomplete. An additional motive that one will learn of in less widely read sources, or that one may discover in talking directly to Egyptians on the scene, is the grotesque economic gap between the ruling elite and its associates on the one hand, and, on the other, the majority of citizens in a country where 40 percent of the population must eke subsistence from two dollars or less a day.

This gap is a direct consequence, not so much of the peculations of an individual regime, but of global neoliberal/neocolonial economic policies by which corrupt satrapies furnish national resources to metanational corporations at a heavy discount (and with minimal to no environmental or labor regulation), in exchange for which, the ruling class siphons off most of the proceeds for itself. Thus it is that Mubarak himself is believed to have amassed assets worth some $70 billion while lavishing billions more on his family and friends.

Since resources sold for private profit do not contribute to a nation's wealth, this obscene enrichment of the few came at the expense of the many. And far more than political repression, it was this kleptoplutocracy that left millions of Egyptians in misery and want that grew every time Mubarak and his lieutenants devised new ways to divert wealth from the public treasury to their own private concerns. Finally, the steady diet of propaganda, surveillance and violence ceased to suffice, and a nation rose in peaceful and well-disciplined revolution — an inspiration to other victims of such regimes, and a dread herald of Nemesis for the hubris-ridden elites.

As the sign in the image above testifies, this inspiration did not pass unperceived. Nor, from the reactions of the United States’ neoconservative-dominated governmental and corporate media orthodoxies, has the herald gone unheard. Intuitively, both sides know what this means: Both parties to the struggle in Wisconsin have referred — with opposing biases — to the Egyptian revolution; both sides know or suspect that the real motivation for the two cities’ protests is the same.

That this is not lost on Egyptian protesters and union leaders is proved by reports that the latter have told the people in Wisconsin, “We stand with you as you stood with us.” We see signs to this effect held by young people on Tahrir Square, and others have famously treated Wisconsin protesters to pies from Ian’s Pizza in Madison.

Ian's: Pizza for protesters only

Ian’s: Pizza for protesters only.
[ Image Source: Unknown ]

In Madison as in Cairo, in Athens as in Toronto, the ultimate cause of anger and protest is the same: kleptoplutocracy. Ruling elites that hold themselves above law and morality alike have worked sedulously for three decades to pervert national institutions, to elect their own most shameless conspirators, to allow their lobbyists to rewrite laws, and to silence or distort dissent in their media. All of this has been done with a single object and often quite overtly: to transfer wealth from the many to the few.

And now the many have lost patience, from Egypt to Wisconsin, and have begun to demand an end to the kleptoplutocracy, an end to the officially approved theft of public assets, and an end to a cruel system which, in the name of free trade, allows the waste of so much human potential, the crushing of so many minds whose light might otherwise guide us toward a paradise on earth, the premature end of so many lives that could incalculably enrich our societies.

Peace, liberty, unity, justice, equality
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