The Third Beast
Vol: 113 Issue: 26 Saturday, February 26, 2011
At least thirteen of the twenty-two states that make up the Arab League have been affected by the unrest in the Middle East: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.
And while every factor driving the populations to revolution in countries like Bahrain, Tunisia and Egypt is in play in the rest of the Arab League states, no state is more primed for revolution than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Like Egypt’s Mubarak, King Abdullah has amassed a personal fortune in the billions while his country stagnates under pervasive under-employment. Forty percent of workers between 20 and 24 are unemployed.
The gap between rich and poor is enormous now — and growing.
One in seven Saudis are illiterate – women are neither allowed to work or drive a car. Personal incomes are stagnant while the Saudi population continues to expand.
Society is tightly controlled and heavily censored. Police have absolute power. The monarchy is absolute; officials are neither elected nor accountable to anyone except the King and corruption is rampant.
Saudi universities graduate 6,000 students a year with degrees in education to compete for 650 teaching jobs.
In Saudi Arabia, there is no home team advantage. Although a half million Saudis remain unemployed, some six million private sector jobs are held by foreigners.
King Abdullah recently returned from a three month hospital stay abroad specifically so that he could announce a $37 billion social welfare package aimed at staving off unrest.
Noted one analysis of the Saudi powderkeg:
Sadek al-Ramadan, a human rights activist in al-Asha, Eastern Province, said: “People here are watching closely the protest movements across the region, which are tapping into long-held demands for reforms in Saudi Arabia.” Al-Ramadan said that there are “deep frustrations” in Saudi society over high levels of poverty, unemployment, poor housing and perceived widespread corruption among the rulers of the world’s top oil exporter whose gross domestic product last year is estimated at $622 billion.
In the coming weeks, the Saudi rulers face a difficult balancing act. Too little reform or too much repression could set off the kind of full-blown uprisings sweeping the Middle East. And there is a lot at stake for the kingdom’s rulers.
Up to 90 of the country’s oil production and processing is located in its restive Eastern Province, where the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco has its headquarters in Dhahran.
If the House of Saud falls, what happens to all that oil?
Much has been written about repressive governments and corrupt rulers and religious fanaticism and other social conditions that analysts say are driving the unrest.
But Hosni Mubarak was in power for thirty-three years – he didn’t just get there. Tunisia’s Ben Ali ruled for twenty three years before popular unrest forced him from office.
Gadhaffi has ruled Libya since 1969. The House of Saud has ruled the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since it was declared in 1932.
All of these governments richly deserved overthrow. But none of them deserve it any more now than they did ten years ago. They didn’t just start repressing their populations.
If anything (with the exception of Libya) they had relaxed a bit.
They were all on the brink, but they had been for years. What pushed them over?
Two words. Food security. It all began with a street vendor selling vegetables without a license who set himself afire after his produce was confiscated by Tunisian police.
What seems clear is that surging food prices helped trigger both uprisings and protests elsewhere in North Africa.
Food security is the new buzzword used to describe the looming global famine, brought on at least in part by the practice of converting food grains into auto fuel.
“It’s not a problem of supply and demand. If you look at FAO’s figures over the past 10 years you can see there is absolutely no relationship between the supply and demand prices. And we get very high prices sometimes when we have more than enough supply.”
With poverty and food prices among the key drivers of protests erupting across the Middle East and northern Africa, the issue of food security continues to pose serious challenges for both developed and developing nations.
Highlighting the recent revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, Holt-Gimenez said we could expect to see more political unrest if the hunger crisis was not addressed properly.
“This is global struggle for food sovereignty against the monopolization of our food system and it’s going to be very painful and probably going to be an extended struggle with very uneven results worldwide,” he told IPS.
“What we’re already seeing is profound political consequences for governments around the world, including in the global north.”
Especially in the north. The north is where we turn food into gasoline to prevent global warming. (All you have to do to recognize the absurdity is just say it out loud.)
Food and economic analysts are warning that these governments are only first victims of the global food crisis. How far could it reach?
I noted on today’s Drudge Report that gas prices in London, England are over nine dollars a gallon! Nine dollars a gallon!
Everything not grown, manufactured or distributed within walking distance of your house required gasoline to get it there — especially food.
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. (Matthew 24:7)
“And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” (Revelation 6:5-6)
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
Tick . . tick . . tick