You never see the geopolitical bus that hits you.
Suddenly, the Middle East is on fire…literally. Stock markets in the region are reeling as the protests against authoritarian rulers in the unsettled hotspot are spreading.
Starting in Iran last year…moving this year first to Tunisia then Egypt and now reports are coming of anti government demonstrations in Yemen and Gabon. The discontent and defiance is spreading at a rapid pace and unfortunately has become deadly in Egypt.
A 29 year old Suez glass factory worker takes a break from protesting to speak with the British media. “Our government is a dictatorship…a total dictatorship!” he says pausing by a burning car. “It’s our right to choose our government ourselves!”
He speaks with the angry voice of a lost generation of young Middle Easteners who have suffered at the hand of repressive governments. They have experienced nothing but a degrading economy with high inflation and high unemployment for most of their lifetimes and have been politically disenfranchised in the process.
So what’s changed? Why the demonstrations now? Certainly these feelings of political repression have been festering for some time. And yes…the ongoing global economic crisis that is now entering a new and dangerous commodity based inflation phase catalyzed by excessive US and ECB Central Bank money printing is a factor.
And of course technology is playing a role as demonstrators are getting their “call to arms” via their Twitter and Facebook accounts….one 50,000+ event was organised in less than 24 hours. But I don’t think that’s THE reason.
I doubt if you will read or hear this in the mainstream media but I think what is happening here is that the politically repressed people in these authoritarian Middle Eastern countries have been monitoring the events in Iraq over the past several years. They have had a front row centre seat watching the birth and evolution of a new Iraqi democracy with its politically empowered people and all of the economic freedoms that go along with it…and they now want a piece of that…because the political and economic status quo is not working for them. As an aside…my guess is that the Chinese ruling elite is watching these events very closely and with some anxiety as there own inflation rate is set to hit 5% this year…but that is a story for another day.
Now I can read the naysayers in the commentary section below…”Iraq was a failure”…”It was not worth the sacrifice”…”it was about WMD’s and there were none”…”It was W’s war folly”….”Cheney was a war monger” etc etc…that is the parochial view and I don’t agree that it was a failure nor a folly. And the latest events in the Middle East support my point…think about it…there is a correlation. History will show that Iraq was the turning point for even more democracy and increased freedoms for all people in the Middle East…it was the line in the sand. And we may be speeding up the history movie here.
The key of course will be Iran…one of my predictions in my “20 Investment Themes for 2011” was that Iran would see further demonstrations this year that would hasten the move toward democracy. It would appear that events are moving in that direction at a faster pace. Hopefully this time, President Obama and Congress will support the effort.
In the meantime I think about the brave words of the Egyptian glass factory worker demonstrating for his political freedom and against political repression at risk of bodily harm or worse and I’m reminded of another freedom seekers words: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me freedom or give me death!” Patrick Henry.
I think we all need to be reminded of their brave words at this critical time….and Walk Like an Egyptian..and a Tunisan and an Iranian! No…better still…we should walk with them!
Peter D Stock
Stock Investment Mgmt
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