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Monday, 21 February 2011

The revolt of youth

Take a look at the median ages of the populations of the Mahgreb and Arab nations now in turmoil; most are in the 20s. The median, for any non-statistically minded readers, is the most common value; on a chart of a bell-curve or 'normal' distribution, it's the value of the top of the bell. This is a generation that has grown up with Nilesat and Arabsat, direct-to-home broadcasting, the satellite tuner being as familiar to them as couscous. They have also gone straight from passing news and comment gathered over glasses of tea to extensive mobile phone networks, without the intervening copper cages of the West. And the internet, designed to defeat the 'taking out' of its routing nodes, means they can communicate without borders and largely without restriction. These savvy, urban young people are also more highly educated than their agrarian fathers and grandfathers. And they have expectations. 

What they have in common in their demands is not ideological; this isn't a war of competing ideas. What they want is a bigger say in their nation's conduct, an end to nepotism and corruption and a fairer go at prosperity. Much like our own young people, really. They want the rewards of a globalisation process that depends on the expansion of a global middle-class for economic growth; jobs and salaries, secure homes and consumer goods. The great sadness, and the great threat, is that they've probably missed the boat. 

The twenty-first century will be utterly different from the post-war bureaucratic age we've known in the West;  what it will bring we simply don't know - there are just too many variables, one can't model chaos. We can be sure that we can't stand immune from the tectonic shifts now in motion, and with no assurance that the tensions now manifest in the Mahgreb won't play themselves out here in the UK. All of which makes it even more urgent that we deal once and for all with the corruption of the political class, the denial of popular democracy by a repressive European Union and its domestic dags, and the growth of a fair and equitable society free of Socialist inequalities, distortions and jobbery. 


johnse18 said...

A pedant writes:

Not quite. What you have described - the most common value -is called the mode.

The median is the age such that half the population was older and half younger.

Don Cox said...

I think this age distribution was also prevalent in Europe in 1848, when there was a very similar wave of revolutions.

They want jobs. The Director of Egyptian antiquities was besieged by graduates with degrees in archaeology demanding jobs. They seem to think that the revolution will bring instant full employment.

SimonF said...

The Yorkshire Ranter has a good, but techy, piece on the role of the Internet in Egypt's uprising.

Anonymous said...

Apart from the EU, the most urgent task is the defence of the frontier.

In fact, that has always been the prime role of government. If we dont get this task in asap, then the passions of the ME will play themselves out here as well, with the "median" age of the revolutionaries not far out from that of the ME.

Anonymous said...

what is the odds that they all will end up with sharia law?

Don Cox said...

"what is the odds that they all will end up with sharia law?"


Britain had Christian law up to the mid 1960s, and so did other European countries. There is a general tendency to confuse crime with sin, and to define sin according to some religion.