Sorry for that obvious reference to a recent song, and also to the movie Independence Day, but things are happening – right now – that signal the end of “The way things were.” Another play on sentiment there because things are changing rapidly. Looking at things from a Christian world view or any other world view demands that we take stock of what is happening and try to interpret it in terms that we can understand.
First and foremost, let me just say that as a citizen of the largest free country in the world, I support those people everywhere who rise up for freedom against oppressive and authoritarian regimes. Second, let me say that the “Oil Imperialism” that has driven the world for the last 50 or so years, is not good in my opinion and has only served to make the rich richer, and the poor – poorer. The vast majority of the world lives on about $2 / day, and this is true in Saudi Arabia and most of the other oil producing nations of the world. The other night “60 Minutes” had a segment on the fruit vendor in Tunisia who doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire. This event they claim was the “spark” that started the revolution. I choose to look deeper and see that this revolution has been coming for some time.
The newspapers are saying today that Qadafi has used fear to keep power. It also takes a lot of money to keep power, let’s face that fact square on folks. How did he get the money he needed? Simple, sell as much oil as he could for as much money as he could to the oil hungry west, at the same time keeping his own people poor and destitute. One thing especially these authoritarian regimes don’t want, and this is true for Saudi Arabia as well, is an educated population. So how did education play a role in this revolution? I would have to say that as the average technological skill (direct correlation with education) of people has advanced, the probability of those governments being able to keep power from the people has diminished. Facebook is said to have played a role in Tunisia. I would think technology in general has played a huge role.
As in all things, technology is both a blessing and a curse. Now that the rulers are gone in Tunisia, the folks who now – by default – have power (those who just yesterday were revolting) are finding technology to be part of the problem in halting the revolution and getting down to the business of governing. Face it, Government is business – BIG business – and it means not just providing services, security and opportunity for your people, it means a lot of jobs for a lot of folks, and therefore lots of money changing hands, a lot of control is therefore required to enact even a simple government in what we call “Third World” or developing countries. Dictators like Qadafi dealt with the issue by not providing the goods and services for their people, but rather providing opportunity and wealth to a select few who could help the dictator oppress the masses and maintain their stranglehold on power.
I would have to say that Hitler rose to power in a much similar fashion as this, however, he became quite popular for a time in Germany because he did ultimately provide what the people deemed to be “Opportunity” and positive change. I’ve told the story before about how my aunt lived in NAZI Germany during the war, and how she said everybody loved Hitler at first, how he gave folks jobs, and things seemed to get better. What is the difference between perception and reality in that situation? It’s difficult to say for sure, for the average person it certainly amounted to very little. If you put money in folk’s pockets, they are apt to love you no matter what else you do.
Another thing that history has proven though is that if a people taste freedom – real freedom from oppression – they are likely to want little else until they can get it for themselves, and choose their own destiny. Again, as a Christian, I should probably be wary of this “change” but I leave the possibility open that these folks are really seeking democracy for themselves and not another ultra religious authoritarian regime, as in Iran, and that they will desire to become more like the United States, the real United States (us, the people), not large multi-national oil companies that have been raping and pillaging the third world for some time now. We’ve paid a dear price for importing oil from the Third World all these years. I’m afraid we’re finally going to see some payback. Oil prices are already up 10% in the past couple days, and they’re likely to head higher. But at the same time, I think that the current government in Iran is doomed as well. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Iran, maybe even Saudi Arabia. We should think hard about this before we go around supporting the governments of those countries’ using force to “smash” the demonstrations. My support is to the people, not oil, not oppressive governments, and certainly not for bad guys like Qadafi.
After all – this may be appropriate. I hate to pay another nickel to some Saudi Prince who doesn’t share his wealth with his population. I’d rather it get into the hands of the fruit vendors on the streets, those who feel so impoverished and underprivileged that they see no alternative other than to take their own lives as a protest against their harsh reality of life. My hope and my prayer is that this provides some opportunity for them to hear The Gospel, the good news of Jesus’ life and death on the cross, and that they see hope – for all – in that act of obedience to The Heavenly Father.
Jesus’ sacrifice was for those who are rebelling right now folks. Let’s cheer for them and pray they’ll find Jesus’ love in all this. Let’s not begrudge them the opportunity to fight for their freedom and the right to choose their own destiny. It may not turn out as we want it, but we have to realize that God is in control of all this after all.