OPINION

History comes in cycles

No philosopher or sociologist, however knowledgeable they may believe themselves to be, can herald the end of history. Even the Fukuyamas of this world know this, every time an unscheduled uprising or an unexpected revolution breaks out that was not foreseen in print (or by the secret services). And no autocratic regime can, in turn, impose the end of history through manipulation either.

Time may appear to stand still every once in a while, the «subjects» may seem in awe of their leaders or deceived by them, but obedience does have its limits, and this is when the engines of history begin to pick up speed again.

This is the case in Egypt, though somewhat less so in Yemen. It was also the case a couple of weeks ago in Tunisia, when the Jasmine Revolution broke out, setting the example for the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East.

Tunisia’s president, Ben Ali, was in power for 24 years, and in 1994 he even broke the record of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu by becoming re-elected (against himself) with 99.9 percent of the vote and earning the praise of the International Monetary Fund for his economic policy, which was seen as a paradigm.

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak has been in power for 30 years and has spent the last few grooming his son to become his successor. In bankrupt Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh has ruled for 33 years and he too has destined his son to become his heir to power. They all thought at some point that they had managed, decade by decade, to cement their hold over their countries, placing themselves outside the cycle of history. They are not the first to believe this and they will not be the last to be proven wrong either.

Bread and freedom are all that is being demanded by the people in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and anywhere else where corrupt regimes cast the masses into absolute poverty and endow the nomenklatura with immeasurable wealth. The people, in short, are fighting for the fundamental prerequisites of basic human decency. What’s more, they also have to face the sages of the developed world telling them to stay calm or even defending the shaken regimes so that their own interests are not put at stake. They even rush to play down the uprisings and assign them to the very circumstances they had not foreseen and claimed not to tolerate.