Monday, April 07, 2003

This is how things work: If you have a business, you have to share your income with the neighborhood tough guys. If you don’t, you no longer have a business, if you’re lucky. If you try to resist or to get outside help, you no longer have a life or, at least, not one worth living. Call it income tax if you will, only you don’t get it back by way of education, sewage or roads. You do get to see it driving around the neighborhood as a flashy new car. Often you find that your business is no longer your business. You have become the employee of the neighborhood tough guys. Lucky you. Only now, when they go down, you go down.

This is life.

Those few of us who were born incredibly fortunate and happen to live in a nice neighborhood, in a nice orderly western democracy, with law abiding neighbors and a powerful and independent judicial system, don’t know about this. We are so used to power being used moderately that we have come to believe that our safety and well-being are something we deserve, something we have coming to us. We don’t know we are just plain lucky. We don’t realize we were dealt an unbelievably good hand.

And so, in our ignorance, we get really upset when we discover that some people don’t get to live as we do. We get upset and we feel guilty. We don’t really know why this has happened and we tend to blame the wrong people. We completely misread the circumstances.

When a neighborhood tough guy is finally caught and removed, this way or the other, the neighborhood doesn’t sigh with relief. People know from bitter experience and plain common sense that the uncertainty that follows is just as dangerous, if not far more, than the reign of the deposed bully. Now there is likely to be a very violent period while the scramble is on to fill the void. If you just want a quiet life, this is a time for vigilance and caution. This is the time to stay down. On the other hand, if it’s power you want, if you see yourself as a possible heir, as the next tough guy, and you have reason to believe you might be successful in achieving this goal, now is the time for you to build your power base. And, of course, rid the neighborhood of your enemies or potential enemies.

Whoever you are and whatever your intentions, this is not a time for dancing in the streets. This is a time for warily and carefully evaluating the situation.

Show me people dancing in the streets of Iraq and I will show you people who, if they lived in any western country, would be riding the bus, right now, on their way to their Psychiatric day wards, their faces and bodies bloated from the medicines they take to alleviate their psychoses.

Because any sane Iraqi, or at least, not a very stupid Iraqi, knows that the Americans won’t be staying. Democracy? Why that’s just the void until another strongman takes over (maybe with the help of the Americans). Ask anyone.

[I hope I’m wrong, but this is how things work]