I have to confess I’m paying minimal attention to technology these last few days. I’ve been watching the goings-on in the Middle East. I saw the headlines that Intel’s newest chipset is buggy, but that won’t go down as the biggest news of 2011. A revolution in Egypt stands a chance. And it could have a domino effect.
My boss, who’s traveled abroad a whole lot more than I ever will, pointed out to me that the western lifestyle is contagious. It’s a virus. U.S. soldiers and/or tourists go abroad for whatever reason, and they have enough money to buy and sell anything they want while they’re there, no matter where they are, and eventually, whatever the citizens of that country think of our culture and our people being there, they want to be able to do that.
Israel would love to see Egypt and the rest of its neighbors become democracies, because, as they say, democracies don’t start wars. But Israel questions, albeit quietly, whether they’re ready. It’s very easy for a democracy just finding its legs to become a dictatorship. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected before he became a dictator. And in modern Russia, if Vladimir Putin wanted to be dictator, it would not be difficult for him to make it happen.
And if the Middle East were suddenly thrown into open elections, certainly the religious extremists would run, and there would be a risk of them winning. In which case it would just be a matter of trading a military dictatorship for a religious one. Military dictatorships are more willing, generally speaking, to work with Israel and the West than religious ones.
But of course, it’s highly hypocritical of us to forcefully install a democracy in Iraq and refuse to help Egypt build one. Especially when everything we’re hearing on CNN is that the citizens don’t want to change foreign policy, they just want free elections, freedom of speech and freedom of the press and free enterprise like we have.
I don’t know how any of this is going to play out. Right now, I’m just watching the revolution on CNN.
The iron curtain fell a generation ago. Enough time has passed that I don’t remember if it happened in a flash, or if it took forever. It seems like it happened quickly, but information traveled much more slowly then.
But I think the two movements are destined to be compared and contrasted for years to come, regardless of what happens tomorrow and the rest of the week.