Friday, February 4, 2011

Challenging Moral Dilemmas

I suggest you read The New Science of Morality by Joshua D. Greene for the weekend:

[...] a lot of our problems, moral dilemmas, are the result of modern technology. For example, we have the ability to bomb people on the other side of the world. Or we have the ability to help people on the other side of the world. We have the ability to safely terminate the life of a fetus. We have the ability to do a lot of things that our ancestors were never able to do, and that our cultures may not have had a lot of trial-and-error experience with. How many cultures have had trial-and-error experience with saving the world from global warming?  None. Because we're on trial number one, and we're not even through it yet.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Concepts and Expectations

There is a lot of confusion as disturbances and unrest spread across the Middle East. Often, concepts and ideas are bended and twisted to cater to the events. One such concept is freedom, living your life the way you like it, expressing your thoughts without fear of discrimination and unfair and/or occasional violent reaction. The recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have reminded me this once again.

I am an atheist. Carelessly disclosing this fact would cost me a head in Afghanistan, in Saudi Arabia I would probably rot in a prison, it would get me some number of kicks and stones in Iran, I would be cast out in Egypt and I'd manage in Turkey but there will be a price to pay. When people say and hope for freedom if and when those dictators flee, I beg to differ. I do not expect freedom. True, life will be much better, less restrictions, a popular government but that is all. Is it bad? Of course not! Should we call it a democracy? No!

Do not get me wrong. I do not have the slightest intention to despise those revolutions. It is a big step towards the right direction. And unlike many, I do not have a baseless fear that religious zealots will take over and nuke the world. Yes, Islam will be a dominant factor shaping the society and politics, and we shall have to wait and see if those countries will evolve to free and democratic nations in the not so near future.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oil-rich vs. Poor Countries in Middle East

Corruption and inequality are shaking the relatively poor (read not oil-rich) countries of the region. Unlike many, I do not see the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and who knows next as revolts against oppression directly. Rather, they are the result of oppression being used as a tool for exploitation by the few who got richer while the masses stuck in poverty and unemployment. The driving force for the revolutions (I do not favor that term either) is hatred towards those people occupying governmental positions and businesses aligned with them.

As far as pure liberties are concerned, like freedom of expression, women's rights and suffrage, criminal and justice system, the oil-rich countries are as bad as the poor ones. The press is under control, communication is troublesome and often censored (plus monitored), individuals are severely restricted from what they eat and drink to what they wear. In most, one-man rule has been and still is the common denominator.

Taking into account their common cultural heritage, the acid test for me is if there will be any demand for enhancing liberties in the richer states. Any sign of disturbance there, though not necesarily similar in size and progress, will imply that a consensus for a more liberal and free society is growing.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fat Lady: Muslim Brotherhood

Having read some number analyses if the Mubarak regime will hold or what will happen next so and so forth, I can not help but notice most have ignored a key actor in the Egyptian political arena, the Muslim Brotherhood. Opera does not end until fat lady sings and the Brotherhood is Egypt's fat lady despite its activities have been banned for a long time.

Although most on-line figures celebrate joyfully in the name of freedom, I consider them as naively romantic. One should not forget that Brotherhood's ideology is at least partly appealing to a considerable portion of Egyptians as previous Pew research found out, and that ideology is as remote as the South Pole to democracy, human rights and freedom in general.

If Mubarak is overthrown, I predict an authoritarian government in medium term; i.e. an interim government enhancing liberties until elections and Brotherhood rule after the second if not the first election. In any case, I will be glad to see Mubarak go. One less one-man, game has to be played regardless of the cards held.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Word of Mouth or Twitter

Word of mouth or Twitter? Which do you think is worse during a commotion and unrest? Apparently Egyptian government is for the latter, as in order to block access to many social networks they have shut down entire Internet connectivity. I humbly disagree with them and their Internet blackout strategy.

Once being an involuntary element in a few riots, protests etc when I wore a younger man's shoes, I can definitely certify that word of mouth is a terrible thing. Several times, I witnessed a phrase reaching to the tail of a convoy (if I may say so) from its head and the change was beyond recognition. A simple sentence like "Police detained X and released an hour later" turned into a "Police has taken in X and been torturing him for hours." It led to unexpected events.

So, I stand firm. Spoken words vaporize, are taken out of context, are modified and reshaped to no end while the written, in whichever form, even a retweet retain its original value. Mubarak is very likely to regret his decision but unfortunately he does not read my blog. Pity!