Thursday, December 29, 2011

Angels Crest

Leslie Schwartz
Nestled at an altitude of approximately eight thousand feet, Angels Crest is more than a small, snowy town hidden on a mountainside only noticed by the outside world during tragedy; it is a place filled with real people with strong ties to their past despite struggling to manage not-so-perfect-lives. The town is mainly inhabited by working class citizens rooted in the pioneering and resilient spirit of their ancestors, who have resisted severe climatic hardship to settle at the location they call Angels Crest.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Crouch End

Crouch End, a District on the outskirts of London is the center stage of a horror story by Stephen King. It is located in a Valley in the North part of London near Finsbury and Archway. The town name comes from Latin “Crux” which means cross or crossroads. Crouch End is portrayed in the story as a surreal place. Its deserted streets combined with the fact that the narrator is superstitious and very unfamiliar with the surroundings enhance the impression of a mysterious place.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

“My Papa’s Waltz”

Theodore Roethke
   Roethke's "My Papa’s Waltz” is an intriguing poem which leads people into two distinct lines of thoughts. Despite some may think that there is some kind of abuse going on, others are led to believe that the poem is purely an expression of affection between the son and his father.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken” is one of Robert Frost’s most popular poems in which he metaphorically compares the journey that an individual makes through life with that a traveler makes on a road. In this beautifully written poem, Frost, speaking through the voice of a narrator, captures the reader’s imagination and leads him through some moments of reflection as he is faced with a difficult choice which will significantly impact his life and mold his future.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Intriguing and Insightful

Image of PIA13845 North America Nebula in Different Lights taken by Spitzer
Space Telescope - Courtesy of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Photojournal
 Throughout the history of mankind, people have debated whether the universe is the product of random chance and time or the executed work of a higher entity. Despite that, the idea of creationism has prevailed for centuries. However, for the past hundred fifty years the scientific community has pushed to find evidences that the origin of such a complex design has nothing to do with a supreme being contradicting the core value of most religions of the world.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Palm Oil - A Symbol of Pride or an Instrument of Greed?

Courtesy of Justin Mott, The New York Times
"A worker collects Palm Oil fruit in a Malaysian plantation".

Igbo people considered palm oil one of their finest commodities according to Chinua Achebe’s fictional work “Things Fall Apart”. “Things Fall Apart” was published for the first time in nineteen fifty eight and portrays the conflict between European colonialists and the indigenous people of Igboland just before the colonization was officially declared. According to Achebe’s narrative palm oil was commonly used by the Igbo villagers. In addition to serving as an important food ingredient it was used to pay respect to each other and also to reverence their gods during some religious ceremonies. The passage “proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten” really entices one to reflect on the importance of the cherished oil in the lives of Igbo people. In trying to understand the meaning of the metaphor I imagine that palm oil, utilized in this context to symbolize all foods, was as vital to them as the eloquence of words which should be used as an instrument of interaction among the Igbo communities.

It appears that outstanding agricultural harvesting and a sound verbal communication were two important factors which could lead one to reach success and ascend on the Igbo social ladder. Despite the fact that the yam was highly regarded as one of the most important cash crops for the Igbo farmers, palm oil always held a place of importance for that society as well. In fact, for the longest time, it has taken the lead as a symbol of prosperity not just for that particular region of West Africa but also for other countries which had favorable climates. Palm oil used to be transported in the slave merchant ships both as a valuable trade commodity and also as an essential part of the slave’s diet. Throughout the history of mankind, palm oil’s role has changed from simply being considered as an eatable ingredient or as an object used to show respect and friendship. It has become a highly regarded component used in industrialized foods and as a raw material for other industries such as cosmetics and bio fuel which millions of people around the world are becoming increasingly dependent.

Historically, societies are inclined to look for resources elsewhere if there are shortages at home or with the intent of increasing their economical power. Achebe highlights the effects of colonization of Nigeria by the British in the 1900’s through his literary work. When the imperialists first established themselves in Igboland many local communities did not accept what they considered an invasion of their sovereignty. Some communities fiercely resisted the colonial rulers under the leadership of a movement called Ekumeku. This movement was formed in 1898 to fight against the collapse of Igbo customs and traditions and against the imperialists who were causing such harm by advancing to the interior of Nigeria to explore their resources. The Anglican missionaries had an important role in paving the way for the British as they were the first ones who took the challenge to venture inland. Based on what they witnessed the imperialists took the necessary steps to consolidate the British domination of the land. Some of the main factors that prompted the British to colonize the country were marked by the end of the slave trade in the early 1800’s, the desire to expand its commerce of manufactured goods in Africa and other parts of the world and also to boost palm oil production which was already a highly attractive commodity at the time and especially needed to attend the requirements of industrial processes back home (Metz).

The exploration of palm oil was in fact a strong subject of interest of British imperialists who long had knowledge of tales from people who had sporadically visited the West Africa tropical region since the 1500’s. They decided to take action and push colonization of the land, which would eventually be called Nigeria, as the British saw the potential for West Africa to become one of the biggest oil suppliers of the newly established markets created by the British Industrial revolution. Despite their ambitious plans, the oil market did not show any significant improvement for quite some time as they had to overcome a number of adversities during the implementation of experimental plantation projects. One of the drawbacks was a low competitiveness of the West Africa product compared to the high quality oil which started being produced in Malaysia. British colonialists decided to provide logistics and training support to local farmers in order to boost the quality and make the product become more competitive internationally. Eventually, the imperialists started investing more resources and British-run plantations were established in Central Africa, and also in Southeast Asia, and slowly the investment started to pay off and show more significant results. Palm oil was considered a very important raw material used to make lubricants for machinery, candles, and for food components in Europe at the time (Berger).

West Africans had been familiar with oil palm for thousands of years as the plant was native to those regions closest to the tropics, especially in humid forest areas along river banks. Long before the British colonialists came to Igboland, many farmers were producing oil from palm but their methods were laborious and counterproductive and most of its production was either meant for internal consumption or exchanged with other necessary merchandise in neighboring villages. Only a small portion was exported outside the country through merchant slave ships. The European-run plantations established in Central Africa after the 1900’s eventually presented better quality oil compared to other local plantations which were not well structured. Another factor is that the workforce that headed the plantation projects was better trained and used better equipment. Palm oil plantation initiative was a prominent business and despite it having some up and downs in the beginning, eventually rendered significant gains for companies established in Africa. Despite that, symbols periodically change its meanings according to society needs. As societies are constantly changing their values and patterns of behavior, one would expect that certain symbols would eventually die out and become irrelevant. However, this has not been the case with palm oil which has been around for hundreds of years and represents today one of Nigeria’s main sources of economics. Palm oil can be used for a number of applications in different industries such as food, cosmetics and bio fuel. These factors alone may not have been the only reason that the European decided to colonize Nigeria but they are certainly some of the most important factors. (Berger)

Even though oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is native to West Africa it has spread to different areas such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Colombia where the environment was considered favorable. Palm oil has also been produced in Brazil obviously at a considerably lower scale compared to countries considered major players such as Indonesia and Malaysia which are known to produce about 90% of the world production. In Brazil palm oil was initially produced in the state of Bahia and most recently plantation projects have expanded to other areas such as the state of Para in the Amazon region (Fisher). However, Bahia has been known to cultivate palm oil since the times of colonization. It is a place where the African culture is remarkably alive due to three hundred years of slave trade activities during the colonization of Brazil by the Portuguese. Bahia is located in the northeastern region of Brazil, right on the Atlantic coast, and its population is predominantly black as it was a “second home” to millions of Africans who were traded as slaves and transported across the Atlantic Ocean.

 Most of these slaves came from the West Africa coast starting around the 1550’s which was right after Portugal established its colony in Brazil. It is estimated that more than three million slaves made their way into the country from the 1600’s to 1900’s (Wikipedia, Slavery in Brazil) Their final destination was to work in the sugar cane mills and coffee plantations and also in gold mining activities in the provinces of Bahia, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro. The main port of entrance of these people from Africa was Porto Seguro in the Province of Bahia which was considered a strategic geographic point between West Africa and Brazil. From there they were relocated to farmers from other inland provinces. Obviously, the Portuguese carried Palm oil and other supplies such as the yam and taro as these items were considered essential to the African diet. Palm oil plantations are known to be introduced to Brazil in the early 1700’s (Brazil: A culinary journey, by Cherie Hamilton) as the slave trade was expanding and slave carriers criss-crossed the Atlantic from the east coast of Africa to either Brazil or America.

Interestingly, the influence of the African culture in Brazil was a lot stronger compared to that of the United States. In an attempt to gain a better perspective on how palm oil and other cultural elements became so unique in the lives of northern Brazilians and not so much in America, I continued reading a little more about the dynamics of the adaptation of the African element in both Brazil and the United States. Historians claim that the number of people traded as slaves in Brazil reached 38% of the total number of slaves acquired on the West coast of Africa while the number of people who came to the United States was close to 6%. The considerable higher amount of slaves transported to the northern region of Brazil may explain why the African culture is thriving there and more specifically in the state of Bahia. On the other hand, authorities in the US had much tighter control on the amount of slaves traded on American soil to work in the southern States plantations. The black population in the United States does not appear to have memories of the cultural identity of their ancestors. This is mainly because they were in significant smaller numbers compared to the contingent sent to Brazil.

Another factor is that in Brazil there were laws which prohibited family members to be separated while this did not exist in the US. Also, slaves were kept from expressing any aspect of their culture. The Portuguese also prohibited slaves to speak in their tongue and express their culture as they were primarily concerned with productivity. Apparently they were unable to control the slaves behavior at its fullest especially when they were gathered at the Senzalas (slave quarters) during off hours. The fact that the law allowed family members to remain together contributed enormously to the retention of their memories. Under such circumstances it was inevitable that many aspects of the West African culture such as; religion, art, music, dance and culinary had better chances to survive in Brazil, despite the fact that in the early years they could only express themselves hidden in the woods as it was considered illegal to have such manifestation publicly. Brazilians owe a lot to West Africans for contributing enormously to the formation of their cultural identity. Some of the most expressive elements which have strong African influence are, Carnival (samba), Capoeira (a mixture of fight camouflaged as dance from Angola), Camdomble (Religion from Yoruba African tribe), and the inevitable role of palm oil in a wide variety of foods which helped to preserve the memories of the African culture so remarkably well (
Muqueca Baiana - Courtesy of AnaToscano
 "A traditional Bahia's seafood stew made with plenty of palm oil and coconut milk".

When palm oil was first introduced in Brazil, as a result of the slave trade, there were no great expectations in terms of making it a highly profitable crop. The main purpose of it was to use it as a food commodity to those populations which arrived from Africa. Since then oil palm had been cultivated in Bahia but such activity has always maintained a low profile in terms of international market competitiveness. Today the production of palm oil has not reached impressive numbers in that country and it still imports half of the oil it utilizes for bio fuel purposes. For many decades soy bean has been the most representative oilseed crop produced in the country and its production has ranked second largest in the world market with the United States ranking first. Another focus of Brazilian economy is bio-fuels. The country started producing ethanol from sugar cane in result of laborious research done in the 70s as an alternative to fossil fuel.

Thanks to the Brazilian government, who had the vision of developing bio fuel technology at a time fossil fuel prices were relatively low, Brazil has become the leading force in renewable crop energy. Now both the private sector and the government are focusing more closely on the production of bio fuel from Palm oil as well. Many of the lessons learned from the challenges faced by cultures of soybean, sugar cane and the experience of the large palm oil producers from Indonesia and Malaysia have taught entrepreneurial groups that the best way to go is to be positioned according to increasingly consumer demand and be focused in producing according to environmentally sustainable guidelines (Payne). The baseline of a sustainable development approach of agriculture is to respect the environment and manage to address social issues accordingly.

In an era where the world has become exceedingly dependent on renewable energy there have been claims that cultivation of palm oil has caused great ecological impact, especially in Asian countries. For a long time the world has heard the outcry of environmentalists who claim that industrial scale grown oil palm is largely responsible for destruction of enormous areas of forests and such activities have cascaded into greater environmental and social problems. It appears that countries in Latin America such as Columbia and Brazil are doing their homework and exercising caution so that the mistakes made by Asian countries are not repeated in Latin America. Despite that, there is always room for abusive behavior on the part of producers who would use palm oil as an instrument of greed and not refrain from taking short cuts in order to make substantial investment returns. Despite the fact that Brazil has a history of deforestation in parts of the Amazon area, there are still millions of hectares untouched which must be preserved at any cost. Industrial cash crop plantations tend to be more closely controlled especially if there is an enormous financial risk and credibility is involved.

Since 2004 sustainable practices have been reinforced by an international organization called The Round Table on Sustainable Palm (RSPO). RSPO’s body was formed by a number of stakeholders with expertise in many different areas and although they may also be part of different industries, they all have one thing in common, which is the concern for social and environmental aspects in dealing with palm oil. In order for products to be commercialized abroad they need to be certified by RSPO as environmentally and socially sustainable (Osava). Even though it will take many years before Brazil makes headway into the international marketplace, both the government and interested groups have implemented very tight guidelines to ensure that growers follow the rules in order to avoid roadblocks as a result of environmental and social concerns of violations. Planters need to comply with such laws in order to meet high international standards as this will be the only way to make the product appealing to customers abroad. Many interested stakeholders are on the move and taking aggressive steps to make Brazil one of the major palm oil suppliers in the next few decades (Osava).

Even though consumers are more aware of the implications of how the environment responds to the way humans behave, there are certain things we cannot control. The world population has expanded a great deal over time and all of the decisions we have made in the course of history have significantly impacted the environment and therefore, our quality of life. Human activities have depleted a great deal of the natural resources in the course of time and the prospect of the future is not very positive. Societies have to rethink the condition of humans, reassess their interests and accept that they live on a vulnerable planet. With the growing demand of food the forest areas have slowly been replaced by cash crop plantations and livestock fields in order to attend the needs of highly populated urban areas. Palm oil, regarded as one of the greatest commodities of mankind highlights this situation quite well as more than 50% of all manufactured goods we consume on a daily basis is known to be made with it. In an era in which we recognize that the planet is suffering enormously from environmental imbalances it is important to treat it with respect and preserve its integrity so that future generations will have the ability to enjoy it the way we did.

Metz, Helen Chapin,”Figure1.Administrative Divisions of Nigeria as of August 1991” April 1992
Nigeria Introduction – Flags, Maps, Economy, Geography, Climate, Natural Resources, Current ISS

Berger, K. G., Martin, S. M. “II.E.3. - Palm Oil”
The Cambridge World History of Foods, published by Cambridge University Press

Nigeria Commodity trades
Igbo people – the Portuguese were the first to have contact with Igbo people

Osava, Maria, “Brazil to expand palm oil plantations on 32 million acres of degraded land”
Deforestation Watch, 2011

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Knopf, 1995.

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Things Fall Apart.” SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 17 May 2011

Countries and Their Cultures, “Igbo”


Historical Geography of Nigeria, “A Basic Chronology for Nigeria’s Historical Geography”

Nigeria, the Colonial Economic Legacy, Early British Colonialism
Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Nigeria: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of
Congress, 1991.

Fischer, Rosa Maria; Bose, Monica; Borba, Paulo da, “A quest for sustainable economic and social
Brazilian Agropalma Family Agriculture Project

The Afro-Brazil
Africans in Brazil: Some highlights

Wikipedia, “Slavery in Brazil”
“History of Carnival in Brazil”

Payne, Nathaniel
“Brazil Is Poised to Become the Global Leader in Sustainable Palm Oil Production”, Finance & Investment,, Nov 2010.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Enemy Forces

According to Karl Marx, one of the greatest modern thinkers, Bourgeoisie and Proletariat are two major enemy forces which have greatly influenced the history of mankind. Marx believed in the overthrow of capitalists by workers whom he referred to as the proletariat. Such forces represented a major class conflict as the Bourgeoisie, or capitalists, are driven into building a disproportional wealth at the cost of exploiting cheap labor and subjecting the workers to such extreme conditions that they resembled slavery.

Marx believed that the only way for equilibrium between these two forces would be through a revolution. The Bourgeoisie were mainly represented by a group of people that owned the means for production including; factories, machines, land and capital. They basically held the power and dictated the rules of society at according to their will and their needs. The proletariat on the other hand was the exploited worker who struggled through harsh conditions in order to survive. Marx believed that at some point the workers would get themselves organized and stand up against the oppressors in a bloody revolution. The consequence of such an uprising would be a classless society free of exploitation and people’s talents would be utilized and compensated fairly. They also would receive services and goods according to their needs.

Such concepts were mainly advocated by Anarchists and Communists and can be seen through developments made during the Industrial revolution which took place between the 1800s and 1900s. This revolution started in England and spread throughout other western nations, including the United States. Obviously, during that time, many new opportunities spread throughout society and capital started to flow down to the continuously growing middle class. However, the capitalists had a much better prospect of doubling their investment at a faster rate while most of those who worked in industrial process, in urban areas, struggled very hard to make a living. During that time there was a huge gap between capitalists and the workers who were treated inhumanly. They worked many hours in the factory production lines for considerably low pay and little or no benefits. They also struggled in rural areas. The capitalists would quickly build their empire and distance themselves from the working class who lived almost like slaves.

Many things have changed throughout the history of mankind; however, regardless of government systems, there has always been inequality and a certain level of dissatisfaction for the people of society. Economic inequality has always existed and will likely never be rectified. The reason for that is because people are different. Some people have resources and others do not. Some develop an intellectual ability and are actively engaged in a process of growth. Others may not have such ability or the will to compete. Under such circumstances it becomes extremely hard for the latter to ascend on the social ladder. Despite this, people in this society have unique opportunities today to develop themselves and reach their highest aspirations provided they have the willingness to cope with adverse circumstances. In this country, people are encouraged to grow and prosper and the middle class is quite robust. This is no comparison with the newly born capitalism of the early years of the industrial revolution. We live a much better life today as society has grown dramatically; however, class conflict is always going to be present no matter how developed a society is.

Karl Marx stated that class conflict is the key to human history. He arrived at that conclusion after doing a study on society throughout history during the industrial revolution. When Marx made such observations, capitalism was only in its beginning and he was moved by the way workers were so mistreated by employers and how they lived in such precarious conditions. People’s wages were barely enough to eat and life expectancy was about thirty to thirty five years. Society has changed dramatically since then and now we live in a different capitalism age. As part of a developed nation we are privileged in many respects but the conflicts are always going to be there. As society has continuously changed and become more dependent on technology over the years, people’s expectations and needs have also changed overtime. Labor has become more specialized and capital has been distributed throughout the whole society. In a highly competitive environment there is constant struggle for the survival of the fittest.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Look at More’s Utopia

Thomas More’s Utopia work published in 1516 describes an imaginary place in some Atlantic Island in which the people live under some sort of ideal socialist structured regime. Such society is organized in a way that everything is arranged as uniformly and predictable as possible. Its residents are hard working and everyone produces for the common good of the whole community. All the goods and services produced are distributed evenly and fairly among its people. The land has no currency and its residents have no desire or the need to accumulate wealth.

In Utopia there is no crime, no robberies, no competition and everyone is a winner. They have at hand just about anything they need in order to have a decent life. They wear basically the same style clothes and their houses are constructed the same way. In Utopia there is no such a thing as privately owned property and everything belongs to the state. They share everything they produce and are happy with the system and the way it works. All activities there are monitored to ensure that every single resident is a contributor but also to ensure that people get their fair share of whatever they produce.

Utopia is portrayed as some sort of paradisiacal place or a heaven on earth. It is a society which everyone is happy because there are no social conflicts as one helps each other out. At first sight, this concept sounds like the kind of scenario many of us would envision ourselves in and a solution for the world problems. No corruption, no poverty, no crime, no hanger and a safe haven for the children who would grow without the influence of drugs or crime. I can also see why people would not be under stress in such lifestyle. All of that sounds fantastic and may falsely lead us to believe that it is a perfect scenario which would be beneficial to all people.

In a way I believe it is, however, that system also presents some imperfections which could pose a threat to mankind. It would basically make us alienated and locked inside a box. First of all, it inhibits imagination and creativity, as people would just accept the ordinary as normal and act mostly like robots in a production line. They would not have any motivation to grow and become outstanding in something. There would be no competition and people would not be tempted to try doing things differently because they would not have any advantages and the motivation for doing so.

I can imagine that the only factor which make Utopian resident happy and satisfied is the fact that they have never being in a position of making comparisons. This is all they have experienced in life and it works for them not just because this is a great system but because one becomes alienated and do not think that there is any other way of doing things.

I can see how such a scenario would fulfill some kind of higher purpose for certain individuals. That may be a place in which they would have the chance to detach themselves from the reality of this world and from the earthly influences and invest part of their time into some divine objective. I think of Utopia as being a very restricted religious community of some sort.

I do not think that the Utopia concept would be achievable by any means just because we operate differently as human beings. Some people are inevitably more productive than others and we work in different pace. Consequently results are going to be impacted.

Apparently there is no such a thing as conflict in Utopia. However that is one of the most important aspects of a free society. It has been that way from beginning of times and nothing will change that. In a free society like ours we encourage creativity. And that is the water divider between the rich and the poor. It makes us excel in the arts and incite us to solve problems in many different ways.

Paradoxically, as some humans develop themselves and build a higher life they naturally distance themselves from the least privileged ones. Such separation is inevitable but it compounds into a chain reaction of social problems. Despite of certain inconveniences of living in a free society I would not change for the idea of a perfect place such as Utopia. It sounds like an extremely boring place to be at even though it could present certain advantages.


Friday, February 25, 2011

The Arab Revolution – A Sleeping Giant Awakens

Egypt's revolution
 Most of us have witnessed reports of political turmoil in the Arab world which started in Tunisia with the Jasmine revolution and caused the ousting of long-time Tunisian ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. This unrest advanced to Egypt in much greater dimension eventually causing its ruler, Hosni Mubarak, to step down in recent weeks and surrender his power to the military until an election can be held and another leader can be chosen by the people of Egypt as a first step in the transition from a totalitarian system into democracy.

Opposing groups from other countries of North Africa and the Middle East such as Yemen, Jordan, Libya and Bahrain have understood that this is a unique moment in history for them to make a move and do all kinds of demonstrations to try to oust their governments and push for a better quality of life and a more open and fair society.

What these societies are echoing in one voice in the Arab world and Africa is that there is distrust in their governmental institutions. One may think that such institutions were established with the sole purpose of protecting the interests of all citizens, when in fact they are not suitably structured to fulfill such expectation.

Due to an overspread state of corruption, these states are basically unable to provide their people with the basic freedoms necessary for them to grow as individuals and help them to reach their aspirations to produce better and higher lives for themselves and their families.

For very long, the people have realized that these totalitarian government systems are flawed. These opposition groups representing populations of those countries are simply demanding what they believe they deserve by right: a more respectful life for all citizens, institutions which are not corrupted, and more focused on the interests and priorities of their citizens than those of themselves.

All of the anti-government demonstrations of these few past days in North of Africa and Arab countries are an indication that people are fed up with the status quo and they are willing to fight and to do whatever it takes to promote changes in government system.

These ongoing developments are reminders that the political scenarios of the world are constantly evolving as people from distant cultures become more integrated and more aware of their rights. The internet has created a major impact in these events and it has been used as one of the most important tools to disseminate information among the people; to organize themselves and call for demonstration acts. People have also been able to watch pro-democracy uprisings events on satellite television and communicate with other activists through internet social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Individuals from every corner of the globe have a much better understanding of their government’s policies and how these policies have affected them overtime. They are also aware of what is going on in different countries and they cannot help making comparisons to their own. All of this is possible because technology has shortened the distances significantly and people are getting more educated on events at a very fast pace as they can access news media in real time from just about any place on the globe very quickly.

The events occurring in the Arab world are indications that people cannot be fooled for too long anymore in this information era. People know what is going on, what works for them and what does not. All the chain reaction manifestations occurring in that part of the world lead us to believe that the people decided to face the fear which has inhibited them for so long and they finally vowed to fight for their rights. Obviously whatever result from those uprising actions will come at a price. It is certain that many lives will be lost as it has happened over these past few weeks. It is expected that government security forces will keep on trying to obstruct any kind of anti-government demonstrations.

With the world watching all the action in the Arab world up close, it seems that some of these governments are still inflexible and all of these developments are making them very nervous about the possibility of losing the power which they held for so long. Despite that, many hope that some of those governments will follow the path that Tunisia and Egypt took and be willing to compromise and maybe give democracy a chance. One of the low sides when dealing with totalitarian government is that such systems are usually corrupted at all levels and the taxpayers do not usually see their resources being utilized on projects which would benefit them and in a way to promote the well being of the country’s population.

For the most part, large amounts of such resources end up in the pockets of officials who occupy privileged positions with the government or of companies which interests are directly lined up with those who represent the government body. Such a vicious cycle results in a very disproportionate build-up of wealth by those privileged individuals while the common citizen, the majority, struggles usually in conditions of extreme poverty.

In order to be in control, such systems always base themselves on force, sometimes with acts of violence. In addition to this, fraud is always present in their tactics to maintain their power. A very clear example of this is how the Libyan government has reacted in the past few days in the face of the huge anti-government acts by demonstrators in Tripoli and other cities in an attempt to overthrow President Moammar Gadhafi who has been in power for the past 41 years. There have been reports of disproportionate power been used against the demonstrators by that government in order to contain the acts against the interests of the state.

In the face of what is going on in the Arab world these days I draw a few comparisons with the Antigone drama written in 442 B.C by Sophocles. One can easily detect the insecurities reveled by King Creon when his authority is questioned or challenged by Antigone who acts against the established order, but for a cause which is greater than herself. In this case, King Creon is represented here by those rulers who, not surprisingly, are very uneasy about the actions of a population which publicly challenges the sense of order imposed by them. Antigone is the personification of the anti-government demonstrators, who for the safeguarding of human rights and restoration of civil liberties which are considered noble causes and much like what Antigone wanted to attain.In the play.

Antigone is found guilty and dies as a winner for sticking with her convictions. Creon is a proud man and goes ahead with the plan of punishing Antigone.In the end Antigone comes out stronger even though she lost her life but Creon is disgraced by his own arrogance and inflexible views. Since those pro-democracy demonstrations have erupted weeks ago in the North Africa and Arab world, hundreds of people have lost their lives fighting for something which certainly will impact the lives of the future generations.

Roughly, once this whole thing settles it is possible that it will bring a sentiment of stability for the region and better conditions for those populations. The only way to attain this is by the realization that the status quo is not working for the people and something must be done about it to correct what is not functioning properly. In light of the facts, one hopes that the events which unfold right now will have a happy ending and will go into the history books as one of the greatest developments in history for the Arab world.


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