Beware the Mideast's Falling Pillars 中東政治變貌 五大支柱傾倒
文/Thomas L. Friedman
For the last half-century the politics of the Middle East has been shaped by five key pillars, but all five are now crumbling. A new Middle East is aborning — but not necessarily the flourishing one that people imagined in the 1990s.
This one is being shaped more by Twitter memes than by U.S. diplomats, more by unemployment than by terrorism, more by upheavals on the streets than by leaders in palaces, more by women than by men. Can't say where it will all settle out, but for now, beware falling pillars.
How so? For starters, there was always a deep U.S. involvement in shaping the future of this region. But just look around today: The U.S. doesn't even have ambassadors in Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, a former Trump bankruptcy lawyer, is so enthralled with the right-wing Jewish settler movement that he is more a propagandist than a diplomat. Bye-bye American pie.
Second, there has always been some kind of Israeli-Palestinian peace process pushing for the best two-state solution. Again, bye-bye. Today, in truth, the U.S. and Israel seem to be engaged in a search for the best one-state solution, meaning permanent Israeli security control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with some form of deep Palestinian autonomy.
Third, Arab governments could always guarantee jobs for their populations in their bureaucracies or security services — jobs where you could come late, leave early and work another job on the side. Also, bye-bye. With falling oil prices and rising populations, virtually every Arab state today is trying to figure out how to shed government workers and outsource services.
The fourth crumbling pillar: The days when information flowed only from the top down, and Arab governments could control the voices in their countries, are long gone. With Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp widely diffused in the Arab world, information now moves horizontally and people — using their real names — now tweet the most insulting things at their leaders.
Finally, men could dominate women through formal and informal religious, cultural and legal norms. But the recent high-profile cases of young women fleeing male control in Saudi Arabia and the UAE spoke for many Arab women who are no longer so willing to submit to male guardianship. This is especially true because women in many countries, Jordan, for instance, are now out-graduating men in both high school and universities.
"Replacement Theory," a Racist, Sexist Doctrine, Spreads in Far-Right Circles 「取代理論」 世界各地極右派同溫層蔓延
Before the massacre of 50 people in New Zealand mosques last month, the suspect released a document called "The Great Replacement." The first sentence was: "It's the birthrates." He repeated it three times.
If the phrase about replacement sounded familiar, perhaps that was because it echoed what white supremacists bearing tiki torches shouted in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017: "You will not replace us." It is also the slogan of the neo-Nazi group Identity Europa.
Behind the idea is a racist conspiracy theory known as "the replacement theory," which was popularized by a right-wing French philosopher. An extension of colonialist theory, it is predicated on the notion that white women are not having enough children and that falling birthrates will lead to white people around the world being replaced by nonwhite people.
As far-right groups have grown across the world, many of their members have insisted that the most pressing concern is falling birthrates. That concern, which they see as an existential threat, has led to arguments about how women are working instead of raising families. The groups blame feminism, giving rise to questions that were unheard-of a decade ago — like, whether women should have the right to work and vote at all.
The obsession with birthrates is both shaping policy goals within the far right and serving as a rallying cry for recruitment. Experts tracking these movements say they are alarmed by the speed and strength with which the idea is spreading, especially among young radicals.
"In their minds, in this clash of civilization, white men are in a weaker position because their women are not doing the work of reproducing," said Arun Kundnani, a professor at New York University and author of "The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror." "They are saying, 'Look, Muslims have got their women where they need to be, and we're not doing a good job at that.'"
The concern over birthrates has hit a fever pitch in part because of recent studies showing sperm counts and testosterone declining. Some men are buying sperm counters to use at home, and some are turning to testosterone replacement therapy, convinced that modernity has feminized them. These have given old fears a new scientific sheen and led many in these communities to more apocalyptic, violent politics.