Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The beginning of the end of tyrany in Syria

My senior research paper predicted the fall of the Soviet Union within 18 months.  I wrote the paper in March of 1990.  In fact, the Soviet Union began collapsing in August of 1990 (the first aborted coup) and finally officially dissolved in December of 1991 (Ukraine voted to secede and took it's nuclear weapons with it.)  I still have the paper.  I got an "A-" because I did not quote enough sources.

I know a lot more now.  I've read a whole lot more.  And with internet news, I can see more of what is actually happening around the world.

Lots of it is just more of the same.  But the game just changed recently in Syria.  This little story clearly marks the beginning of the end of the dictatorship in Syria.  The story involves freedom of speech, the internet, and masturbation.  So decide for yourself if you want to know the details....

The story is here.  The short version is that the ruling elites in Syria have decided to allow a large measure of freedom of speech on the internet.  Basically, so long as you don't criticize the government you can say whatever you would like.  That was a grave tactical mistake (two mistakes, really), if the government's goal is to hold on to power.

Syria is a democracy in name only.  The democratic president declared an emergency in 1963 and suspended most of the constitution.  Elections are now shams.  The president died in 2000 and his son was unanimously elected (only person on the ballot, but he only got 97% of the vote.)  Everything is run exactly like an old eastern bloc communist state.  Quick, what is the big lesson from the fall of the Soviet Union?  If you give an inch of freedom the oppressed people will take a mile, and then you will never catch them again.

The new president and his wife actually seem to have reformer tendencies.  They have made some market reforms.  They have allowed more public debate.  The real power seems to remain in the hands of the religious leaders, but the freedom that is occurring on the internet appears to be due to the president or his wife.

Right now the Syrians are talking about masturbation.  Like all conservative regimes the Syrian ruling class refuses to talk openly and honestly about masturbation.  They instead use fear, lies, and half-truths to try to squash a practice that they dislike.  The populace can see right through it, and they are having a grand old time embarrassing the mullahs and exercising their freedom.

(I may outline my views on masturbation in a later article, tempting as it is to discuss now.)

The ruling class has made two tactical errors here:
1. They are clearly wrong about what they say are the evils of masturbation.  Being clearly wrong in public, like this, is openly inviting people to criticize them.  Openly inviting criticism is a bad policy for a dictatorship wanting to hold on to power.

2. They are giving the public an avenue to discuss the first problem.

The religious elite will not let them change tactics on masturbation and take a more moderate stance.  The only option they have is to crack down on internet communication.  There is no hint of that happening.  Maybe it will when the breach widens, but then it will probably be too late.

The breach will widen.  The masses will find creative ways to criticize the government more openly.  Someone will write a scathing book about some other government that is really a criticism of their government.  Criticism will find a way to the light of day.

It is only a matter of time until that oppressive government falls.  The only questions are how much violence will this entail, and what will come next?

I don't have answers to those questions, unfortunately.

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