Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Around the World: Zimbabwe, Belarus, Greece, Russia, and Turkey

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This, apparently, is Post #6,000 at The Reaction. I suppose that's a milestone of sorts. Let's use the occasion to do another installment of our Around the World series (which we haven't done in some time):

1) Zimbabwe: "A cholera epidemic is sweeping across Zimbabwe, causing further suffering to millions of people already struggling to survive in a country close to systemic collapse as food shortages and hyperinflation continue to take their toll." It's pretty grim, to say the least -- and, as the BBC notes, it does not even have permission to report from Zimbabwe.

2) Belarus: "Police have arrested dozens of opposition activists across Belarus after a series of protests marking international Human Rights Day." Oh, what a lovely dictatorship. (And such irony: human rights abuses on Human Rights Day.)

3) Greece: "Riot police battled protesters outside Greece's parliament and in Athens suburbs yesterday while opposition socialists called for the conservative government to step down to end the worst civil unrest in decades." It's a complicated situation, but, essentially, students have risen up against the government of conservative Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis in the wake of the killing of a 15-year old boy by police. As the editor of one of the country's leading newspapers put it, the killing "It will quickly become a flag of convenience for anyone who has a grudge against the state, the government, the economic system, foreign powers, capitalism and so on." More here.

4) Russia: "[T]he Kremlin seems to be capitalizing on the economic crisis, exploiting the opportunity to establish more control over financially weakened industries that it has long coveted, particularly those in natural resources." Putin's authoritarian centralization -- and, make no mistake, he's still in charge -- is disturbing, but it's not like the alternative, the rule of the oligarchs and the various other corrupt and criminal elements that dominate Russian society, is terribly appealing either.

5) Turkey: "Amid corruption scandals and stagnating reform, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, praised in Europe as a modernizer, is seeking refuge in nationalist rhetoric, adopting a tougher stance on the Kurds and moving closer to the country's military leaders." It is nationalism, and not so much patriotism, that is the last refuge of the scoundrel, and certainly of the desperate politician seeking to distract public attention away from what really matters. Yet again, and so predictably, it's the glorification of the Self (us) and the vilification of the Other (them). And, in this case, it could put a halt to Turkey's pro-European modernization efforts and lead to further destabilization in northern Iraq (Kurdistan).

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