I published this map in the beginning of June as a sequel to my previous dictatorship map but I delayed this article because I had a feeling the play wasn’t over. The map itself was a sketch of the moment, something you do in a middle of a TV program and put aside to continue watching with the bag of popcorn on your lap.
But looking at my greasy fingers, I think it’s time to reach for a napkin, wipe out the butter and stop for some notes. This show is still far from over. The Arab spring became a summer and in several days the summer will morph to either autumn or fall, depending on the continent you live in.
Those of us who drew parallels with the fall of communism simply failed to realize how different this process was. The Fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the reversal of barely 50 years of oppression, the Tunisian revolution marked just another attempt for Arab emancipation, a zig-zaggety affair that has been unraveling ever since the decline of the Ottoman Empire.
Revolutions in the Arab world are not something strikingly uncommon. Most of the dictators that came to power after the wave of independence throughout the Near and Middle East were revolutionaries. If you keep that in mind, the situation in Egypt, despite the fall of Mubarak, suddenly loses its fairy tale finish. Regardless of what mediocre journalists may try to convince you, Egypt is not a democracy yet, it is under a military regime.
Libya, however, is a special example. For all the problems Egyptian rulers had with being adequate to the times they lived in, at least they had established institutions. The neighboring Libya is politically and institutionally closer to a barren field on Mars than to any country on Earth.
Gaddafi, The Evil Drag Queen, was (and still is) the Michael Jackson of the politics world. Ever since he took power, he has lived in such a fame bubble that it’s completely useless to try to predict any of his actions. Many people say he doesn’t make sense. They’re wrong. He does. But it’s his own brand of sense.
The so-called rebels managed to conquer his Neverland Ranch with the crucial help of NATO’s metal pterodactyls dropping eggs from the sky in carefully calculated outbursts of compassion. For any other dictator, this would be a sign to billyjean his way out of the country. Not for Gaddafi. He’s the only guy in this charade who’s truly entertaining.
The rest is a mess of easy predictable nonsense. And because there’s plenty of it, the only complicated part is to figure out which nonsense will overshadow the rest. The crack between Italy and France was a first grade equation. Every child knows that when Gaddafi sneezes, Berlusconi’s wig gets blown away directly into Sarkozy’s face.
The spoiled xenophobic freaks in Denmark, always one step behind, went berserk calling for tighter control of their borders with Sweden and Germany. Which are, like every Danish caricaturist knows all to well, Muslim countries from the Third World. Even the mad mass murderer in Norway was somewhat predictable, at least by Chekhov standards.
And the London riots? The only surprising thing was that Cameron went public with his plans to censor social networks, thus giving China an opportunity to point a finger at Old Britain and laugh like that: “A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha”. Classic sitcom gag.
Stupidity in politics never, ever, ceases to amaze me. So take this map as a still shot. There will be more to come. It’s just that I don’t know when exactly.