“Call Homeland Security, that's the one!”
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In the last named of these countries, we have seen all too clearly how easily emergency powers can be abused by a hubristic or malevolent government, with former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s regime charged with a catalog of injustice, repression and torture aimed at retaining absolute power and absolute economic control, which enabled Mubarak to steal during three decades of rule some $70 billion from his countrymen.
But citizens' patience, as the revolt of khamis wa-3ashrun yanayir (25 January) demonstrates, is not unlimited. Humanity was never meant for subjection and slavery; our nature revolts at it.
When the many have few or no rights but the few do as they wish; when millions strive amain for mere subsistence but the elite lives in opulence and yet is still not satisfied; when the children of fortune pervert the law to arrogate daily more and more of the substance of their poorer countrymen; when scorn, incredulity and humiliation await those commoners who must face their despoilers before a judge appointed from the social class of the despoilers; when a nation’s institutions — legal, political, journalistic and cultural — are comprehensively prejudiced to celebrate the greed-possessed and crush the dispossessed: When all these conditions are present, as Egypt’s recent history shows us, revolution cannot be far off.
Not only is every one of these conditions present in the United States at this moment, but the disparity between the ruling elite and the rest of us is actually greater here than it was in Mubarak’s Egypt or Ben Ali’s Tunisia. In fact, U.S. economic inequality rates, as measured by Gini Coefficient, were the 42nd-worst in the world as of their most recent tabulation, and there is reason to believe that the problem has become significantly worse since then.
Perhaps Americans will now find inspiration in the peaceful revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt, not merely in rhetoric, but in action. We, too, have the right to live free of oppression, injustice and contempt, and we are long overdue in demanding it.