Is there life after Facebook? Of the Arab ‘Spring’ and London ‘Summer’

Is there life after the Facebook? Or after the ‘revolution’? Through the pain of sobriety, the Egyptian and Tunisian protesters are learning that neither globalization nor McFB way of life (spent mostly in the air-conditioned large shopping-malls) is a shortcut to development; that free trade is not a virtue, but an instrument; that liberalism is not a state of mind but a well-doctrinated ideology, and finally that the social media networks are only a communication tool, not a replacement for independent critical thinking or for the collapsed cross-generational contract.

Machines run on the binary-coded algorithms can neither compensate for an empathic human touch nor can they replace the wonders of socio-emotional interactions of individuals in a real time-space. Sociableness is more complex than the Running sushi, and is not instant purchasable like the three-size portable Starbucks coffee. Personal relations are lived, not utilized by the mouse click.

Human integrity is self-molested and self-reduced into the lame shop-window commodity which is purchasable 24/7 by ‘poking’ on the photo of someone’s personal profile. The social media networks might end up like a smoking of 21st century. In early 20th century, the very smoking was cool, sexy, brave, rebellious, liberating and most of all; social. As such, it was glorified and promoted by that time Western press, film and other entertainment industry.

However, as soon as the dependency, submissiveness, physical and mental distortion and heavy-addiction have been credibly verified, the smoking was barred from all public places, children and elderly, schools and hospitals. Opposing at first for some decades, eventually, the tobacco industry was forced to visible and clearly state the warnings about all hazards associated with its products.

 Today, smoking in the OECD countries is proscribed, ghettoized, and effectively reduced to the specially designated glass-boxes with the powerful ventilations systems and sensitive fire-alarms. The developing world will maybe follow successfully one day. As for the OECD states and media networks; London/UK’s tweet and loot nights of the early August 2011 is an indication enough.

Misled by the quick triumphalism of the social-media sellers, the international news agencies have definitely confused the two: revolt and revolution (as they now miss to co-relate a massive EU bail-outing and the UK loot-outing). The very precursor of the Arab ‘Spring’ was the winter of the (still unsettled) global financial crisis with its severe impact felt or misused locally. Consequently, the Arab unrests started as a (social, not political) public revolt over high unemployment and soaring costs of living (Tunisia and Egypt), over the inter-tribal inequalities (Libya, Bahrain), or over a combination of all factors (Yemen and Syria).

Besides publicly ‘crucifying’ couple of escape goats, it has than failed to bring about structural change (r/evolution), and is paradoxically ending up with more debts, ever higher living costs and more unemployment than before the real or fabricated austerity measures were imposed in a response to the mounting global financial crisis. Finally, it is not clear whether the popular revolts triggered by the austerity measures and the grave socio-political situation in Tunisia and Egypt has been preempted (or diverted), scrutinized and criminalized.

How could the Arab ‘Spring’ be instructive for the London (looting) summer? Well, the difference between a dialectic and cyclical history is a distance between success and fall: The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 (that interestingly enough also included the non-petrol exporting republics of Egypt, Syria and Tunisia) was an attempt at political emancipation. In the aftermath of the Oil Shock that the Embargo subsequently triggered, the Arab states have found themselves within ever stronger external financial and politico-military dependences.

For almost ten years, the youth in Europe (France, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Norway, Britain) is repeatedly sending us a powerful message on the perceived collapse of the cross-generational social contract. The only consolidated response, so far, was the impressive buildup of the so-called ‘Wing/s front’. These, seemingly rightist political parties, are effectively exploiting mounting frustration of electorate with the main center-left and center-right political parties (far too often co-habituating in a form of grand-coalitions across the EU), and the emotional charges related to “migration question”.

History of Europe is a story about small hysteric nations, traditionally sensitive to the question of otherness (as linguistic, ethnic, religious and behaviorist minorities were far too many times in history misused by the assertive neighbors all over the continent). Presence of Europe is a shadow of the grand fact that Europe can produce everything but its own life. The ‘Old Continent’ is demographically sinking and economically is just keeping afloat. The cross-generational social contract is silently abandoned. European youth feels it correctly (still does not express it right): the escapist, defeatist, confrontational anti-politics is on a rise in lieu of visionary, dynamic far-reaching policies.   

Anis H. Bajrektarevic, Chairman Intl Law & Global Political Studies *

Vienna, 11 AVG 11

Prof. Bajrektarevic is the author of dozens ILAW/JHA– and SD–related presentations, publications, speeches, seminars, research colloquiums as well as of numerous public events (round tables & study trips, etc.). He lives in Vienna, Austria.

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