Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's Snowing Upwards!

It has been snowing ceaselessly for almost a day now.  When I am looking out of my window, it appears as though it is snowing upwards!

No, I am not insane. I live in one of those tall, modern condominium buildings and there is a current of warm air emanating from the large vents some 30 floors down from where I am. This current is making the snow flakes travel upwards right in front of my window.

Let's assume for a second that I have never seen snow in my life. Let's assume that I do not understand the elementary physical principles involved. Let's pretend that my entire understanding of the situation comes from what I see right now going on outside my window. I may conclude that these piles of cold white stuff that is covering the streets is going to disappear shortly! I will however, get a nasty shock when I find myself stuck in 3 feet of snow a little later.

It is a little bit like what I see when I follow events in the Middle East unfold through the eyes of the mainstream media. They are looking at Egypt at a moment when it appears to be snowing upwards and they are optimistically relaying to us that 'soon a democratic consensual government will rise in Egypt!', 'soon all the snow will disappear!'.

But unfortunately, the situation is a lot more complex than that. While the snow might be gone if we wait a few days, and Egypt might stabilize within a few years, it is extremely dangerous to act prematurely based on a very narrow and limited vantage point.

It is, for example, extremely possible that the chaos Egypt is undergoing will lead to a radically anti-Western Islamic dictatorship lead by the Muslim Brotherhood. It is also possible that Mubarak's rule will decide to go out with a blast after realizing it has nothing to lose. Both outcomes seem very real if you consider the history and culture of the Middle East. A western like democracy, however, will be a pleasant change, but a rare precedent none the less.

For the time being, I will relay the advice of the radio talk show host from this morning: 'If you have to drive, proceed with caution and don't trust anyone. Even the guy driving next to you could potentially ruin your day, because chances are, he has no clue what he is doing'.


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