Connections between Wisconsin and the Emerging East

Posted on March 8, 2011

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The transcript from the interview that aired March 2, 2011 on Rally for the Republic is below.

The two-part MP3 from the interview on March 8 on KYNT can be heard at the website for the book.

Dr. Redd, Do you claim that there is a connection between the protests in Tunisia and Egypt and in Wisconsin and Ohio?

Even though people also express themselves though digital and remote media, people see on the news or on websites that public demonstrations get results so they get out there and they call for what they want.

When normal methods for differing viewpoints in society break down, people commit civil (and sometimes not so civil) disobedience, such as protesters in Madison, Wisconsin sleeping in the state capitol building hwww.msnbc.msn.com/id/41811389/ns/us_news-life.

Being able to disagree in a nonviolent way that’s integrated into the public discourse is a fundamental need. People must disagree in a normal way – through selection of their representatives in legislative bodies, the equal application of laws in the courts, and through a free and fair press.

When the already voiceless lose the opportunity to speak, literally to express themselves with words, they express themselves through assembly, disobedience and even violence turned on themselves, as was the case with Mohamed Bouazizi, the college-educated Tunisian fruit vendor who had had his little stand and his inventory taken away several times, who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010.

2 am votes held by Republicans in the majority that were cut off before everyone could be included are the identical phenomenon as shame elections in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries in the emerging east where there is a show or a shell of democracy but no real inclusion of the working poor.

The people in Libya today, now, and the protestors who shouted “Shame, shame” at Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman while others shouted “peace.” Let’s remind ourselves that shame is peaceful. I feel it as the skin going up on the back of my neck, or the blood coming into my face, but I can feel it without someone slapping me. I feel it because I know the difference between right and wrong. Pretending to hold a vote or pretending to hear what people have to say, as Muammar Gaddafi has done for nearly 42 years, is wrong. Even he knows its wrong, which is why he pretends to be part of a democratic government in Libya.

Workers who want to retain the right to collective bargaining sent a message to Ohio Governor John Kasich http://theuptake.org/2011/03/02/workers-defend-their-rights-in-wisconsin-ohio/. In Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and elsewhere, workers know that they are going to have to tighten their belts a little. There are certainly limits to state budgets. Everybody can’t just have everything they want in terms of governmental services and have the cost be unlimited. However, skilled, semi-skilled and other workers need to be able to have the prerogative to negotiate together for safety, workers’ compensation, and other aspects of their employment. This is not about money. It’s about the right to have a say in what you do for more than half of your waking time alive and how you do it.

Are Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq and other countries in the Middle East and east and north Africa ready for democracy?

AR: Great Britain made an argument that predominantly Catholic Irishmen and women were not “ready” for self-rule and democracy. In fact, the English were the first people to make an argument about the “natural” inferiority of the “Irish race.” A question about whether Egyptians, Iranians, Tunisians, etc. are smart enough, or lawful enough, or educated enough to rule themselves is a secret question about the superiority of Western, English-speaking civilization. Of course Middle Easterners are smart, educated and empowered enough to rule themselves. If they are human, they can do it.

How can countries of the Middle East and African encourage development so as to be part of the global economy?

It’s true that there is a rule against charging interest on loans in several Islamic traditions. This rule against what is sometimes called usury was part of Christian medieval culture as well. Christians in Europe found ways to build their financial institutions, just as observant Jews find a way to switch on the lights on Saturday, which is the Jewish Sabbath and a day of rest on which no work is to be done and no “fire” is to be made. Investments for which interest is charged for loans are already being made in many majority Muslim countries. It simply requires the creation of a second layer of financial organizations. Where there is a will for development and investment, we will find a way.

How will the protests and calls for democracy in Middle Eastern countries affect the relationship between the United States and those countries?

The United States has full diplomatic relations with a number of Middle Eastern and north African countries: Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, etc. Of course, the U.S. tends to be more deeply involved and more willing to be friendly the more valuable a given country is, either in terms of its oil reserves (as in the case of Saudi Arabia) or its military value in terms of location (as in the case of Bahrain, the tiny island country which is the base of operations for the fifth fleet in Manama of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. Of course, the U.S. and the rest of the wealthy world need to get off their oil addiction. Let me concentrate on saying that peace, stability, justice and cooperation in the interests of everyone, even members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The way for the U.S. To continue mutually beneficial relations with countries (on a case by case basis) of the Middle East and Africa is to look for the win-win-win conditions for each one. The United States would like to avoid armed uprisings anywhere. We want to make sure that civilians are protected. If we make a sweeping generalization, we can probably still say that countries of the Africa and the Middle East don’t want to be pressured into austerity programs by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that they would like to receive aid that is neither simply a Band-Aid on a cut to the jugular vein of their economies, that they don’t want to be militarily occupied by countries of the wealthy world, but that they don’t mind some help in writing new constitutions after the dictators and other strong men have been thrown out of office.

Adrienne Redd has taught Understanding Global News at Arcadia University in Philadelphia, as well as Contemporary Social Problems and other courses in sociology and political science. She is the author of Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers: The Fate of the Nation in a Global World. Visit the website for the book to read content from Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers, as well as to order the hard cover from Amazon.

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