Egypt: The 18-Day Revolution.

•March 9, 2011 • 2 Comments

18 Day Header

I had just written a recent entry sharing the work of a talented Egyptian photographer and civilian, Mahmoud Yakut, who witnessed, and discernibly is still being affected, by the dramatic events of Egypt’s revolution. I had a succinct correspondence with Mahmoud and he expressed his sincere gratitude that he could share his first hand perspective through his camera. Additionally, he expressed that he was intrigued to perceive an individual western perspective.

Humbly, of course, I cannot speak for everyone in America, but generally I believe there is an agreed consensus among westerners that the Egyptian people deserve an egalitarian state. Fighting for equality and freedom is never an easy ideology to obtain; in fact, I feel that the United States, in many regards, is still struggling with such principles. And historically speaking, the United States understands what it means to struggle for equality and freedom. Without a doubt, the U.S. supports the Egyptian people.

What really impressed me the most about approach of Egyptian protests is they were in fact, secular movements. You saw Muslims and Christians standing together without prejudice. Furthermore, I even observed a large number of children and young adults getting so attached and attuned to the revolutionary desire for freedom and I can only imagine how much this will eternally reverberate in their hearts as they become the future of Egypt.

I praise Egypt for single-handedly, without external intervention, coercing Mubarak to resign and I could only wish that other Arab countries that desire the same consequence could be just as swift.

I am optimistic about Egypt’s progress and I believe it is crucial the government makes it a priority to empower its citizens. Much of the Arab world has been plagued with religious obscurantism, evidently however, with the global democratization of information, courtesy of the Internet, intellectual obstruction will inevitably disappear.

A picture is worth “countless” words!

•March 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Mahmoud Photography Header

I have always been an enormous appreciator of photographic art and I happened to stumble upon an Egyptian’s photography work the other day with much coverage in recent events in Egypt. His name is Mahmoud Yakut, a clinical radiologist as well as a talented photographer, who has been affected by the dramatic revolution in Egypt. Mahmoud was able to capture the powerful turmoil and emotion of this time in his photographic work and I was so captivated by the feeling of his photos that I just wanted to share them.

There is something art, whether it is music, performance, or photography, that can really touch people so emotively that sometimes words cannot explain it, and I desire that all people can experience this sentiment.

We are seeing his perspective through his camera so I will borrow Mahmoud’s captions for these photos.

Mahmoud Photo 1

“The most organized and peaceful protests I saw so far, very funny and cheerful slogans, not a single religious or hatred word… it was all about getting rid of the current temporary government which was formed by the old regime and getting rid of the secret police or national security police… after seeing these protests all my fears about the future of this country are gone.”

Mahmoud Photo 2

“A poor homeless man who turned to be a great poet, one of the victims of the tyrant Mubarak, after hearing he news of the millions all around Egypt marching, he broke into tears and kept saying ‘the day has come, he will finally go’…”

Mahmoud Photo 5

“Anger day in Alexandria, Egypt. My city Alexandria burning and smoke covering its skies that were once blue… a price for freedom.”

Mahmoud Photo 3

Mahmoud Photo 4

“A group of young Egyptians watching the buildings set on fire beside the statue of Alexander the great founder of Alexandria 331 BC.”

Mahmoud Photo 6

“In Alexandria, Egypt, a protest near one of the buildings of the national security police. This is a girl who knew no presidents of her country except Mubarak, since the day she was borne. The slogan says it all…”

Mahmoud Photo 7

“Despite the fierce battles with the police forces, the chaotic situation and the teargas that filled the air and me being an Egyptian who spent most of his life in Egypt, it was the first time for me to see normal simple Egyptian people really happy and smiling to each others. It’s the taste of freedom, that they tried for the first time, thats my only explanation…”

I hope to be able to share more of Mahmoud’s work in the future. Thank you again Mahmoud for getting back in touch with me and giving me the opportunity to share your photos.

You can find more of his work and see his portfolio at http://cyg-x-1.deviantart.com/

Alternative energy, now, cannot be any more obvious.

•March 6, 2011 • 1 Comment

Jumping oil costs, the global struggle out the Great Recession, and the wake of unrest in the Middle East has presented a swift reality slap, and hopefully the last one, that the United States should pursue alternative, clean, and renewable energy with a sense of urgency. Not just for the sake of U.S. energy independence, but also to anticipate the long-term trend of U.S. competitiveness.

Cornfield

Globally, people need to realize that oil prices are going nowhere but up. Unfortunately, I feel that a majority solutions here in U.S. are so short sighted that people are only looking for ways to lower gasoline prices or make gasoline more affordable. What’s the best way to lower gasoline prices? Should we tap into national reserves? Should I buy a car 10 MPG more efficient? Answering these questions is not critical, but rather our inquiries are more relevant regarding the long-term.

Green energy proposals and technology have been around for years and the entire world knows that the green energy industry will supersede current fossil fuel standards, but why hasn’t the U.S. taken any initiative to really incite this industry? Gasoline has just been too “affordable” across the U.S. too put any sort of demand for anything else. In fact, in my opinion and I digress, this a contributor to why the U.S. has neglected its overall infrastructure.

Nonetheless, I do not want to discredit the U.S. completely and suggest the U.S. hasn’t at all invested in alternative energy, but certainly not as much as the U.S. should be. Many countries took the oil crisis of the 1970s as a signal to make alternative energy a priority. Denmark, for example, in 1979 began to take an active role in developing it nascent wind industry. In 1973, 90% of the energy in Denmark was generated from imported petroleum. The Danish government implemented a wide range of programs and subsidies to nurture its wind industry and up until now, one out of every three wind turbine is made and sold in Denmark generating billions of dollars in exports and has become the world leader in wind power.

Additionally, Japan is one of the leaders in implemented energy efficiency. Also, Pew Environment Group reports that China has surpassed the United States in green energy investments. Chinese private investments stated at $34.6 billion in 2009, which is double what U.S.’s investments are in green energy. Regrettably, this doesn’t put the U.S. leadership position.

The debate into tapping national oil reserves and drilling for more oil in the U.S. to ease oil prices is just not the answer. Again, this focuses too much effort in keeping prices low. Granted, Americans are experiencing much discontent in paying a high price for gasoline, but the real engine for this industry is consumer demand. It is the price signal in the price for gasoline that will drive the demand for alternative energy. Even from a neoliberalist perspective, they would recommend a tax on gasoline to accentuate this price signal. If the U.S. were to tap oil reserves and drill domestically for oil, this would only undermine prices signals and the progress towards alternative energy. Consequently, this would only put the U.S. further behind as far as competition goes in the long-run while other countries will continue to grow their market share in the green energy industry.

The answer lies in nurturing the alternative and renewable energy industry now, not just for the sake our economy’s future but our planet’s as well.

China: The smell of Jasmine in the air.

•March 4, 2011 • 2 Comments

There is not a drop of doubt, with the unprecedented events occurring in the Middle East, that we are witnessing what will be documented in history books indelibly. What many would consider the milestone of the Information Age, the Internet, has been the defining catalyst to the dramatic spread of this pro-democratic virus. We are seeing this epidemic not just as a regional phenomenon, but it distantly reaching the growing economic giant, China. Subsequently, putting the Chinese government even more on edge in light of results stemming from the Arab world.

Chinese Lion

Just the tail end of 2010, the Norwegian Nobel committee honored a jailed Chinese democratic activist, Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize. Essentially enhancing the flavor of China’s already controversial approaches in their repressive handling of political issues. A New York Times (NYT) editorial describes, “Mr. Liu represents China’s best potential future.”

Thus far, China has gone great lengths in economic reform, currently trending double-digit GDP growth and recently surpassing Japan as the second largest economy in the world. Awhile keeping a sturdy vice on political freedoms. Thomas L. Friedman so eloquently asks in his Going Long Liberty in China (NYT) editorial, “Can China continue to prosper, while censoring the Internet, controlling its news media and insisting on a monopoly of political power by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?”

In recent weeks there have been several anonymous organizers over the Internet in hopes to call for Middle-East style demonstrations in Beijing. Though, due to China’s “iron-grip” in media surveillance and control, China has been able to subdue such demonstrations before they even begin. The Chinese government has made the word “jasmine” unsearchable and still continues to block social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter. According to a Tsinghua University study that was based on official police budgets, it is estimated that in 2010 China spends as high as $77 billion for public security alone, roughly equaling to China’s national defense spending. As increasing Internet prevalence spreading along with the modernization of China, as well as globally, we see a positive relationship in spending required to upkeep what Chinese officials call “stability maintenance”. China has had a long history of persistent calls for political reform from activists, but because of vigorous improvements in economic growth and standard of living in mostly urban populations, focus has been temporarily diverted.

However, to sustain such growth is very unrealistic, because now it has become a balancing act in adjusting for all that is inherited with such explosive growth. In China, what we have come to see laterally with increased standard of living and greater capitalistic influence in all metropolitan cities, an enormous portion of the Chinese population have begun adopting western-style consumerism skyrocketing demand in commodities and energy. Resulting in high inflation rates, particularly in food commodities, and prices that large majorities of Chinese are sensitive to and worried about.

The CCP came into power after World War II due to hyperinflation. Therefore, CPP officials are concerned that elevated costs will trigger social instability. China has modestly slowed inflation for the short-term but will still remain a hot issue for years to come in conjunction with its high GDP growth. Alongside contracting the “web-borne” Jasmine virus, and decades of chronic pressure for political freedom, fundamentally, China is fighting a political stability war on multiple fronts.

To answer the question, expressed by Friedman, no. China eventually will need to address the source of its own social injustice, because controls on high-level social pressure will inevitability become a mere fantasy. China’s clampdown on Jasmine uprisings will only give rise to more reasons of discontent. Economic freedom beside the absence of political liberty may function now, nonetheless the CPP is approaching the threshold where economic and political liberties need to come hand-in-hand or the “harmonious balance” that the Chinese government has so hard tried to balance will eventually topple.