Monday, January 31, 2011

Cairo & Katrina: A tale of two cities

I just read an article by Chris Hedges, wherein he stated that the revolt in Egypt is a Muslim thing. I usually agree with Prof. Hedges on most things, but in this instance he is wrong. Sorry Chris, but the revolt in Egypt isn't a Muslim issue. It's a Gandhi thing. Yay!

Here's what I'm thinking: In the last several decades the Arab world has witnessed how ineffectual its violent pre-1967 attacks on Israel were, how Arafat's Fatah violence failed to stop the spread of Israel's brutal occupation, how violent insurgency against the American occupation of Iraq turned out to be futile, how the insurgency in Afghanistan is such a bloody mess, and how Pakistan is getting chewed up and spit out by violence. Under these sorry circumstances, the Arab world's violent protest against their Western occupation seems to have lost some of its charm.

And then along came a hopeful example -- set by the obscure little farming villages of Budrus and Bil'lin, on Palestine's West Bank. In these two small and inconsequential villages, poor and simple farmers were being tear-gassed, shot at, imprisoned, tortured and surrounded by a very ugly apartheid Wall. Their olive orchards were being stolen, their children were being injured and killed. "What can we do? What can we do?" the village elders asked themselves.

How could these simple villagers possibly fight back against the sixth-largest standing army in the world? They couldn't. So instead of using stones and pitchforks against the intruders, they simply organized some non-violent protests against the injustice of having their lands and homes stolen by a gang of outlaws and rustlers driving REALLY big tanks.

And the next thing you know, the villagers' plans began working! Whether Israel got tired of being shamed by the sudden negative publicity that it began to receive all over Europe or just finally got tired of tired of shooting at peacefully-protesting women and children,
Israel's occupying armies and tanks and fighter jets and what-have-you actually began backing off!

And the Arab world began taking note of this -- and started to read up on its Yasu, Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Always remember that there are many more people under occupation in the Middle East than there are people doing the occupying. And if you are gonna be nasty about how you occupy countries, then you're gonna build up resentment. "Oh, that's okay. Let them resent us all they want. No problem. We have guns and tanks and knives and torture kits and prisons. We'll keep them in line." However, that attitude only goes so far when you are stealing a whole BUNCH of people's land, water and/or oil.

"Okay, Jane, you've made your point. I can see how non-violence might actually work in the Middle East. But how does Katrina fit into all this?" Well. I was just noticing that there is a similarity between what is happening in Cairo today and what happened in New Orleans back in 2005 -- with regard to the tone and style of American evening news reports concerning both incidents.

When New Orleans first got hit by its disastrous hurricane and flood, American newspapers went out of their way to report NOLA residents as being uncivilized barbarians. Major news media jumped all over themselves talking about all the violent looting and all kinds of horrors going on there. But after the dust had settled a bit, it became clear that most of the victims of Katrina had been peaceful and helpful -- and even that many of the shootings and atrocities there had been actually perpetrated by the police.

According to the New York Times, "The narrative of those early, chaotic days — built largely on rumors and half-baked anecdotes — quickly hardened into a kind of ugly consensus: poor blacks and looters were murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path in the dark, unprotected city. 'As you look back on it, at the time it was being reported, it looked like the city was under siege,' said Russel L. HonorĂ©, the retired Army lieutenant general who led military relief efforts after the storm. Today, a clearer picture is emerging, and it is an equally ugly one, including white vigilante violence, police killings, official cover-ups and a suffering population far more brutalized than many were willing to believe. Several police officers and a white civilian accused of racially motivated violence have recently been indicted in various cases, and more incidents are coming to light as the Justice Department has started several investigations into civil rights violations after the storm."

So my point here is that this kind of reporting based on ugly rumors and "half-baked anecdotes" is apparently happening with regard to Cairo as well as NOLA. Also according to the New York Times, "Looters from Cairo’s vast shantytowns attacked gleaming suburban shopping malls, wild rumors swirled of gunfights at the bridges and gates to the most expensive neighborhoods and some of their residents turned wistful about Mr. Mubarak and his authoritarian rule."

However, eye-witness reports surfacing on the internet reveal a completely different story
. "Most of the thug types who are doing most of the attacks are prisoners who have been released by that bastard Mubarak in return for their services to beat up civilians.... You know about the secret service police guys who were citizen arrested at the museum and handed over to the army? You know so many of the protesters held hands, man, and formed like this long cordon around the museum so that these police pretending to be looters could not go in and destroy our history…and then they found out that these secret police guys were already inside and even damaged some Mummies. I mean people were so furious and they just handed them to the army."

And as the
true story comes out, I think we will find that most Cairenes have been non-violent and peaceful -- and that they are simply peacefully protesting their lot, after having endured over 30 years of indignity and bondage at the hands of a brutal dictatorship financed by the United States.

The spirit of Gandhi truly has arrived in Cairo. And if you believe otherwise, just remember back to how the media happily spurred us on to think the worst of New Orleans residents as well.

Now all we have to do is to try to figure out who is going to benefit from us Americans thinking poorly of Egypt -- as well as who benefited when we were all instructed to think poorly of New Orleans.