Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Middle East Turmoil?

Public outrage; violent clashes between militaries and citizens; toppled leaders; and, millions of people - young and old - flooding the streets demanding change. What's happening in the Middle East? What could possibly stir such abrupt and unrelenting discontent?

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve absorbed endless amounts of analysis of what’s happening across the Middle East, and why it’s happening. The most common explanations include the obvious (i.e. youthful indignation, the economic downturn, the widespread adoption of Facebook, etc.) as well as the purely speculative (i.e. agitating by the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.). I believe these explanations are partially correct, but I believe to focus on them exclusively is to miss the forest for the trees.

To fully understand what's actually happening, we need to pull the lens back and focus on the big picture: we’re not just witnessing the culmination of thirty years of dictatorship, or three hundred years of dictatorship. People are better connected through technology, but they’re even better connected through shared suffering. Remember: the riots in Tunisia were initially sparked by sharp spikes in grain prices. As such, the Tunisians weren’t just angry citizens, they were starving citizens. And it was precisely this desperation which pushed them over the edge.

The vast majority of people on Earth live well below poverty. According to some statistics, almost half the world lives on less than $2.50/day. An overwhelming majority of the global population is said to live on less than $10/day. Making matters worse, as unemployment increases and as desperation ensues, prices only go further up and resources become even more scarce. Urban slums are growing much faster than urban areas on the whole. Shockingly huge numbers of people live without access to drinking water, sanitation, etc. According to World Bank statistics, the world’s wealthiest consume approximately 76% of resources; and, the world’s vast middle consumes 22% of resources. Thus, the world’s poorest are left to fight over the remaining 2%. Monumental shifts in resource availability owing to dramatic natural disasters, resource exploitation, pollution, etc. push an already dangerous situation into ever more desperate territory.

Population, which hovered near 2 billion people for several thousand years, has sky-rocketed to almost 7 billion currently, with 9 billion predicted in approximately two decades. Population leapt from 3 billion to 7 billion in the last fifty years alone. And these aren’t your average cavemen either, they’re folks like you and I, born in need of nutrition, water, milk, iPods, bicycles and all the rest. They’re born with an enormous debt on their heads, and their traditional livelihoods have been placed under financial duress (or altogether stolen) by massive international conglomerates. They’re flooding already dense population centers searching for work where there simply isn’t any to be found.

And why isn’t there any work to be found? Is it corrupt leadership? A lack of education? Is it systematic repression imposed by wealthy nations in order to exploit the resources of so-called developing nations? Yes! and, No! No! No! It’s resources, plain and simple. It all comes down to resources. Everything you see, touch, hear, and taste comes from natural resources. One way or another, everything comes from the Earth – including the constituent ingredients of all man-made materials. We’ve been pulling on those resources with single-minded determination and industrial strength for more than a century, and they’re gone.

Our oceans are over-fished, poisoned, and polluted. Only the smallest of the super-fish (marlins, sailfish, etc.) remain. Mountains are knocked over weekly, and large swathes of forest disappear overnight. Experts across the globe are reporting declining production, shortages and/or hoarding of essential commodities such as staple grains, oil, phosphorous, and rare earth metals. We’re consuming faster than we replenish. And, while we’ve been warned incessantly against resource deprivation over the last century of industrialization, we’ve largely ignored those warnings (for obvious interests), and we’ve done NOTHING to counteract the most damaging effects. It’s just that simple.

There is no leadership and no economic recovery to eagerly await while there are no viable visions for the future. There will be no new homes when there is no wood to frame with, nor energy to heat with. There will be no new jobs without baseline commodities to exchange. No innovation without materials to innovate with, and energy to drive said innovation. There will be no comfort while so many are uncomfortable.

The system we once knew isn’t collapsing, it’s collapsed. The economic downturn is not a leading indicator, it’s a long-after-the-fact ripple effect exposing the harvesting of all available equity by a knowledgeable few.

Corruption and strategic repression are depressing, but starvation and thirst will make a man do almost anything. In fact, the situation in the Middle East is so obviously bad that average citizens are leaving their jobs in droves to flood the streets demanding change. They’re not responding to Facebook, they’re responding to a deafening call of emergency distress. People are broken and desperate, and they have no choice but to revolt. African and impoverished Latin nations will likely hit the streets next. It’s not going to get better as regimes fall, it’s only going to get worse.

And why should you, dear reader, care about the plight of the suffering? Because you’re a warm-blooded humanitarian? Because seven billion friends are much better than seven billion enemies? No?

Care because nothing will save you other than yourself. Care because we can actually solve our problems by simply working happily together; by walking together, holding hands and hearts. Care because the only things proven to stem population growth and quell unrest are education, empowerment, economic stability, and happiness. And the only way to create education, empowerment, economic stability, and happiness in a world without traditional remedies, is to drop everything and work together in forces of hitherto unforeseen scale to improvise and overcome as this emergency dictates we must.

Make no mistake: this isn’t conspiracy theory. This is plain, carefully reasoned logic; and, I challenge anybody – nay, I beg anybody – to please prove me wrong.

Do you get it? Do you see the big picture? and what does it mean to you? Stay tuned to One World In Concert for more info (and positive solutions) coming soon!

David DavidsonDavid Davidson

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