Saturday, November 26, 2011

Many similarities in Arab Spring, European chaos

The victory of the opposition Popular Party in Spain's general election means that seven leaders or governments around the Mediterranean have been thrown out within the last year, amid an explosion of popular protest. Several more are fighting for their survival. Places often perceived as the cradle of civilization have become bywords for political chaos. The causes are various, but there are common strands that suggest the fallout from 2011 will be with us for many years to come.

In the Arab world, a younger (urban) generation rebelled against authoritarian dynasties and a stifling lack of opportunity. Young Tunisians and Egyptians saw that their contemporaries elsewhere -- in countries like India, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil -- had opportunity, the oxygen of free expression, growing income. Meantime, young Arabs were still trapped under the heel of unresponsive, corrupt regimes in stagnant economies.

In Europe, the consequence of bloated state spending within the straitjacket of the eurozone -- the 17 countries that use the single European currency -- was a contradiction bound to end in tears. Former British Prime Minister John Major wrote in the Financial Times this month, "The root of the present chaos can be traced back to bad politics taking precedence over sensible economics." If the Arab protests were motivated by a "crisis of comparison," Europe's was a "crisis of entitlement" built on false expectations. more