Then the wheel started to turn. Commodities became more expensive, life was harder for the poor, brighter for the rich, and unemployment was at its worst in decades. But money, for investors and stock market gamblers, was aplenty!
Few months later, the global economy suffered a downturn. The Arab world, which had just started to breathe hope of a better day, looked like a balloon punctured once more. The youth, who made more than half the population, were the worst affected. But few paid heed.
Less than five years later, business, at the top, was normal ... or so it seemed. The aging dictatorial regimes were still screwing the lid on the pressure-resistant pot. The noise of the steam was not loud enough for the heavy old ears of Arab dictators. The clock-ticking became familiar and part of the noise pollution. It seemed so normal that Ben Ali of Tunisia was on a family vacation, Mubarak was relaxing in his permanent vacation retreat, and Ali Abdullah Saleh was busy ‘preparing’ his son to become the next “revolutionary” president when Arab streets revolted.
The “three musketeers,” Ahmad Ali, Jamal Mubarak and Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, were rehearsing their future cooperation. In Aden, for example, they were building a huge hotel compound, among other mega luxury and profitable projects planned in their fiefdoms. So was the picture in these countries before Bouazizi decided to take his life in protest for his diminishing hopes of a decent life in Tunisia.
The economic time bomb finally exploded. The sleeping dictators were taken by awakening and annoying surprise. Their response was typical: Fast and strong in punishment, slow and weak in reforms. They treated the Facebook and Twitter generation the same way the pre-net and satellite generations were subjected to.
Between denial mode and panic attack, reactions were just “reactions”. The similarities were astounding. The Arab dictators showed no creativity and brilliance even in deception.
Except in Syria, Arab streets now rule. The scenes are not rosy, yet. Sometimes you may be tempted to be nostalgic. Egypt, for example, behaves like a genie out of a box. The masses, which only demonstrated in celebration of dictators for 60 years, are going out for any and every cause one may imagine. The attack on the Saudi Embassy and consulates in support of an Egyptian lawyer accused of drug trafficking, was a vivid example. It showed the extent an agitated street could go, shooting themselves in the feet, hurting their country’s relations with its biggest Arab ally and strategic partner. I am so glad we are back on track.
Five years later, we still don’t have a Spring, except in Tunisia where it all started. The search for freedom that began, since the European colonists left, continues. However, light shines brighter now at the end of the confused and noisy tunnel. Let’s keep praying and working .. That’s how dreams are realized.