Archive for February 27th, 2005

Prozac for the Middle East

1

Just
when we thought it was safe to come outside, George Bush seems to have
solved the mystery of the "vision thing".  After
40 months of wandering the globe like a wounded hyena reeling from
the nightmare of 9/11 and lashing out in opportunistic anger at friend
and foe alike, the Bush Junta has finally had an authentic, collective
vision, and its a doozy.

Believe what you will about their methods and their motives, but who
can doubt the audacity of this vision. The Neo Cons aspire to untangle
the thorniest problem afflicting humanity during the entire past 2,000
years. They have opted to tackle the Gordian Knot of International Relations
– Peace in the Middle East. And their announced plan to achieve that
goal is through the Power of Democracy, unleashed upon totalitarian and
despotic republics across the region. A bold ploy, indeed.

Clearly, Bush has balls, if not brains. Democracy is a dangerous and
potentially explosive policy anywhere, let alone in a region we absolutely
must have on our side, or
at least within
our
trading
sphere,
if we hope
to maintain our present privileged position atop the fellowship of nations.
Democracy is a powerful, revolutionary ideology, especially in societies
long steeped in repression and lack of political choice or organization.
The simple fact is, if by some miracle we were able to hold fair,
open and equitable elections tomorrow in Egypt, in Iraq, in Lebanon,
in Saudi Arabia, in Chad, in Iran, in Pakistan, in Jordan, in Palestine,
in Libya
or in Algeria, they would elect governments which did NOT like America, and which America liked even less. In many cases these freely elected governments would turn out to be more problematic and confrontationalist
than the presently installed regimes they replace. 

In most cases, democratically
elected representative governments would be even less stable than
the dictatorships there now, which is not to be taken as an endorsement
of dictatorship in any way, shape or form. However, as the legitimate
aspirations of minority or plurality ethnic groups thrown
together in
these modern
artificial
states come to the fore, as they inevitably would, in national assemblies
and cabinets, deadly conflicts would result. In many cases these aspirations,
repressed for generations and leavened unevenly with lust for revenge
will form
the
shoals on which
these incipient democracies will flounder.

Eventually, these artificial nation states formed by the fancy of a
handful of power-drunk European political hacks at the time of the dissolution
of the Ottoman Empire, a mere 80 years ago, are doomed to fail and disappear
from the map.  Whether
they will be replaced by a region-wide fundamentalist Islamic state based
on a 14th century interpretation of the Koran or a series of modern
techno-Petro states based on economic and historical imperatives and
emphasizing existing cultural and religious cohesion is the key geopolitical
question looming over the region and the next piece of planetary history.

Perhaps as a result of the Bush Democracy Doctrine or
pre-existing pressures in the nations affected, we can see the first
tenuous steps being taken in a democratic direction.  Although
deeply flawed, the fact that ANYONE in Iraq would risk life and limb
to actually
go to the polls was astounding in itself. President
Hosni Mubarak
is
proposing real (i.e. more than one party) elections in Egypt in the near
future. Lebanon is on the point of ending
25 years of Syrian occupation
,
and all plans we have seen or heard about so far involve post-withdrawal
elections to create a new government.  Of course, Lebanon is a country
with a long history of open, if rigged, elections. Even bosom Bush buddies
the
Saudis
have recently held elections, although their validity is in
questions since only bearded males able to pay a 25-goat poll tax were
allowed
to vote. Will these feeble first steps lead to the dream of a free, peaceful,
democratic Middle East?

Unfortunately, between here and there
lies many more chapters of the long-running human tragedy that passes
for political progress in the
middle east. The Bush Administration should be very careful what they
ask for, especially when they are throwing around charged terms like
Democracy, self-determination, and inalienable rights. But if the goal
is a series of self-determining independent states insuring representation
of ALL
of
the cultural, religions
and
political persuasions in the region, how can the spread of Democracy
in a totalitarian cesspool be dangerous?

The Dowbrigade sees parallels between the breakup of the totalitarian
logjam which has frozen progress towards peace and development in the
Middle East and the perplexing phenomena of the rash of suicides among
depressed teens on the anti-psychotic drug Prozac.

The human mind is like a powerful motor, running 24/7 to monitor and
control our behavior and cognition. When something breaks and it starts
to gyrate seriously off-balance it has but one mechanism to protect itself.  It
shuts down, and the affected person drops into depression, inaction,
inertia and sometimes autism or insensibility. It is as though the mind
recognized that should it continue to try to operate with a thrown rod
or a busted cam, so to speak, it would probably do serious, perhaps
permanent damage to the mind itself or the body that housed it.

The theory is that when Prozac is administered in cases like this,
it does indeed melt the frozen pressure points and breaks up the mental
and emotional logjams which prevent the person from participating in normal human interaction.  The problem is that the first thing that some of
these people want to do, freed of the chains and weights which stopped
them from doing ANYTHING during their crisis, is to kill themselves.

This is not excusive a Dowbrigade theory.  From US
News and World Report

Psychiatrists have long known that some people become agitated, anxious,
and have trouble sleeping when they start taking SSRI s. The speculation
is that this "activation" may make patients more apt to injure
themselves or others, because the drug has lessened the despair and
lassitude typical of depression. But there are no reliable data available
to support
this theory. And because suicide is an outcome of the condition that
the drugs are supposed to treat, it’s difficult to sort out whether
the disease or the treatment is at fault.

So the "unfreezing" of a teenaged mind must be done under the careful
supervision of an experienced professional, and should involve both drugs
and intensive face-to-face, "talking" therapy.  And the
"unfreezing" of political freedom in the Middle Ease must be done VERY
CAREFULLY. Although we believe strongly in the justness of the ultimate
goal, it gives us no pleasure to report we see things getting considerably
worse before they start getting better.

Egypt article from the New York Times

Lebanon story from CNN

Prince Saud interview in Newsweek ("Democracy is a Virus")