Monday, 8 July 2013

Achievable Goals

What are we to make of Mohamed Morsi's ouster as President in Egypt last week? A country which went through a messy but fair democratic election to elect this man one year ago, after a year and a half of turmoil following its hard-fought deposing of its long-time dictator, tosses him aside and FUBARs his political career in less than a week.  As a westerner getting your info from CNN, BBC, and the like, you remember the high expectations and high ambitions of Mr. Morsi - securing that loan, drafting that constitution - and watching the country rip itself to shreds seems like a lousy alternative and not really a signal that things are going to improve.  The gunning down of 19 Morsi supporters by police today could be just the beginning.

Is it a fair outcome for Morsi? Could he really be expected to lift 80 million people out of poverty in less than a year? Of course not, but his fall reminds us of something that we have yet to live with in post-colonial North America: electoral results, even perfectly democratic, legitimate electoral results are worthless when you have millions of unemployed youth in the streets.

You can do an accounting of a politician's strategic errors and ask what might have been (Too hard line? Not tough enough? Should have compromised? Shouldn't have compromised because it made him look weak) but in cases like this revolution its splitting hairs.  The Egyptian spring ended as many a third world revolution has had to - in violence, disillusionment, disappointment, and failure.

North American and European politicians do not face such threats because their societies continue to  function on a basic level in the face of mismanagement, corruption, and economic stagnation.  These economies have the ability to basically borrow/financially engineer prosperity.  A third world country like Egypt does not.

Even if our politicians are held less accountable for failing to achieve goals or, for that matter, failing to set any goals at all, it comes down to a critical mass of people being more or less comfortable, having their needs met, and most importantly holding out some vague unrelenting optimism in the promise of the future.  Any politician in a country where these sentiments have some traction is probably okay.

And any politician in a place where people have lost hope cannot totally exclude the possibility of ending up like Morsi.  Is that right? Do singular humans, politicians and bureaucrats, really control the evolution of our societies and account forall of the effects being felt by the population at any given time?  Or, do we actually elect them to act as a conduit for our emotions and as the best expression of where we feel we are at as nations at a particular point in time?

I suspect the latter is true.  And it is because of this that any politician in a "prosperous" nation has no need to set any achievable goals, and any politician in a poor one who works to achieve any goals is still in danger, because it is unlikely any human could carry out the herculean work of reversing circumstances to the point of allowing a literal ocean of complacency to flood in and allow citizens to live the only life western citizens have ever known, the hardships endured by my compatriots in Calgary and Lac-M├ęgantic this last week notwithstanding (Sorry for your losses. Just awful).