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The “Arab Spring”; the U.S. and Europe’s Fall and Winter
Two young men responded correctly that it comes before summer, and then added, “because that is when the leaves fall off the trees.” Another said it came after summer because that is when the trees begin to blossom.
“Spring” is not an important word in Venezuela. Here we have the wet season and the dry season.
I’ve never been to the Far East, Near East, or Middle East, so I don’t know what the people in these areas think about the seasons of the year. What I do feel here is that, in more ways than one, the “Arab Spring” idea is a US-European one, full of US-European concepts and wrapped with designer luggage that the whole world is expected to see as beautiful. It is an excellent example of U.S. and European citizens believing that the whole world thinks in the same way they do—and their way of thinking is not only the only way, but the correct way.
Almost half a century ago the Roman Catholic bishop, Fulton J. Sheen, made constant reference to the people who lived beneath the 30th Parallel. His job was to raise money for an organization called 'The Propagation of the Faith'. But his emphasis was to make people conscious of the poverty that existed south of the 30th Parallel.
Today I think it would be well to reflect again on the people who live beneath the 30th Parallel—not so much because of the poverty that continues to exist here but because of the different ways of thinking that are present. Everyone does not think in the same terms that US and European citizens think.
Looking at the globe, I find it interesting that there is also another dividing line of importance. It is the 30th Meridian. I’ve never been east of that Meridian. As I mentioned, I don’t know if Eastern cultures refer to spring. But I am aware of the fact that if one goes east of the 30th Meridian one is confronted with cultures very different from the western way of thinking.
In other words, I see the United States and Europe boxed in culturally above the 30th Parallel and west of the 30th Meridian. And I also see them reacting as though they were mad dogs trapped in a corner. With their own economic and social problems, their only reaction to their surrounding environment is to attack viciously those they see as threatening their space.
There is an incredible lack of world understanding in the western-northern hemisphere. I was in the US during the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. When I would ask friends if they could name another historic event that happened on a September 11, none could. But on September 11, 1973, the U.S. government, Henry Kissinger, and President Nixon, were supporting the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Chile and putting in power the dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Did any of my friends ever hear of Victor Jara, the Chilean singer whose hands were crushed so that he could never play the guitar again, and who after being tortured was executed and had his body thrown into a street? No. I use Jara as only one example of what happened as a result of September 11, 1973, sponsored by the U.S., but hardly known to U.S. citizens.
A Venezuelan friend showed me some statistics on the Internet that said over 60,000 civilians had died in Iraq since the U.S. started its invasion there. He pointed out that amounted to the same number of deaths as happened in the Twin Towers every four months for the past six years. But there was no minute of silence for them.
A couple of friends, on different occasions said, “That’s war,” but neither recognized that the US started the war. One said that war was part of the nature of human beings. My Venezuela friend reacted by saying, “That’s not part of my human nature. I have no desire to invade other countries to impose my ideas. And if the U.S. ever comes to my country and kills members of my family and my friends, do not just say to me, ‘That’s war.’ We are talking about human beings being needlessly murdered.”
Somehow, I don’t think that type of reasoning is entering the minds of people in the U.S. and Europe. One friend said he felt proud when he saw an Iraqi showing a finger with indelible ink on it and saying that he had voted for the first time in his life. Maybe that Iraqi was happy. But I firmly believe that there are millions in the world who do not share his happiness at what the U.S. and Europe have inflicted on other parts of the world.
I do not believe that an Iraqi who had a child, husband or wife, mother, father, sister, brother, or other relative or friend killed by U.S. troops, would have the same attitude. Nor do I expect a parent of a dead child to be overjoyed when Halliburton or some other foreign contractor builds a new school in their neighborhood.
And now Muammar Gaddafi has been assassinated. The western media and politicians are celebrating the event. Their cameras are able to show people rejoicing around the world and especially in Libya. I could be wrong, but I believe there are many more around the world, and even in Libya, who are looking askance at what the NATO forces have done—bombing innocent people for “humanitarian” reasons in order to achieve their goals. There are people who are not on the streets, quietly pondering what has been done.
It has been said that the failings we see in others are generally a reflection of what is present within ourselves. As the western powers criticize the dictatorships in other countries, it would be well that they look within themselves. There they might be able to see what much of the world sees in them.
What the Western powers do not seem to realize, is that they have planted the seeds of their own destruction. Seeds of discontent with US-European behavior have been planted around the world—below the 30th Parallel and east of the 30th Meridian. Spring is the time for planting. It is now spring in the southern hemisphere. But it is autumn in the north. I could be wrong, but I think a long winter is on its way there.
by Charles Hardy ©
Charles Hardy is author of Cowboy in Caracas: A North American’s Memoir of Venezuela’s Democratic Revolution, available from Amazon. Other essays by Hardy can be found on his personal blog Cowboyincaracas.com. You may write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.