It is important to realize that the coverage of the current Oriental Revolt only shows very little of the ‘real’ Middle Eastern reality and that it particularly neglects the differences between the societies that make up this region. Although the disgruntlement of today’s protesters and revolutionaries seems completely justified, one cannot assume, as western media tends to, that all protests are “good” or that the public uprisings are all similar in kind. The politics behind the current developments in the Middle East is far too complicated to generalize events into an ‘Arab’ or ‘Oriental’ Revolt. An understanding of the social structures and subtle particularities of the different societies is necessary to make a good judgment. It is exactly this balanced understanding that is lost in western coverage of the recent developments in the Middle East.
The idea of an ‘Oriental Revolt’ therefore stems not only from the changing political equilibrium of the localities that form ‘the Middle East’, but more from the misconception that these belong to a modern age in which thought, identity and action are supposedly aligned according to strict western dogma. After communism collapsed with the Berlin Wall in 1989 and capitalism stopped working as smoothly as it should have during the recent global economic crisis, the western orientalist image of the Middle East now finds its Waterloo at Tahrir Square in Cairo, the souq of Tunis, the desert of Libya, on a roundabout in Bahrain and all those other places where Arabs live their lives away from the spotlight.
The explosions on the surface of the Middle East are merely warning signs of the new power equilibriums that are yet to be formed in times to come. In terms of wellbeing, freedom and prosperity these are difficult times to predict anything, anywhere. Therefore the dream of a bright future that is fuelling the revolts of today is far from a reality for the majority of the Middle Easterners of tomorrow. Nonetheless, it seems likely that these revolts have started a new period of independence, maybe more from the West, than from the leaders the people are fighting to topple.
Ruben Elsinga took his MSc. in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He has lived in Damascus, Syria for one and a half years, where he worked at the Netherlands Institute of Academic Studies.