In the lap-top of the gods 4

Our view of the upheaval in Egypt, how the new technologies of personal communication have played a vital part in its causes as well as its spontaneous organization, is endorsed by Victor Davis Hanson, who writes in a must-read article at PajamasMedia:

So what’s the matter with Egypt? The same thing that is the matter with most of the modern Middle East: in the post-industrial world, its hundreds of millions now are vicariously exposed to the affluence and freedom of the West via satellite television, cell phones, the Internet, DVDs, and social networks.

And they become angry that, in contrast to what they see and hear from abroad, their own lives are unusually miserable in the most elemental sense. Of course … their corrupt government is in some part a reification of themselves, who in their daily lives see the world in terms of gender apartheid, tribalism, religious intolerance, conspiracies, fundamentalism, and statism that are incompatible with a modern, successful, capitalist democracy.

Instant global communications have brought the reality home to the miserable of the Middle East in a way state-run newspapers and state-censored television never could even had they wished.

In reaction, amid this volatile new communications revolution, the Saddams, the Mubaraks, the Saudi royals, the North African strongmen, and all the other “kings” and “fathers” and “leaders” found an effective enough antidote: The Jews were behind all sorts of plots to emasculate Arab Muslims. And the United States and, to a lesser extent, Great Britain were stealing precious resources that robbed proud Middle Easterners of their heritage and future. Better yet, there was always a Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, or, for the more high-brow, a Jimmy Carter to offer a useful exegesis of American conspiracy, oil-mongery, or Zionist infiltration into the West Wing that “proved” Middle East misery was most certainly not self-induced. … The more we promised to pressure Israel, the more we could ignore the misery of Cairo, and the more a thieving Mubarak could perpetuate it.

He concludes for the moment as we do, though with slightly less optimism:

Watch it play out with encouragement for those who oppose both Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood — hoping for the best, expecting the worst.

Even if the Egyptian revolution is aborted now, how long will the despots be able to resist the transformative power of the new technologies?

It’s in the lap-top of the gods, so to speak.

Hanson does not believe, any more than we do, that if America “lets” Mubarak go, an Islamic fanatic will take his place as happened in Iran when Jimmy Carter abandoned the Shah and welcomed the Ayatollah Khomeini – with what appalling results to this day we know all too well.  True, the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood strains to take power in Egypt, but has no Khomeini-like figure ready to implement instant oppression. Besides which, the causes in Egypt are different. The world has moved on since the Iranian revolution.

It is this new world which is making the prison-walls of the Arab states crack and crumble.

It may burst the Islamic theocracies too.

It may render all religion obsolete.