Monday, February 25, 2008

One Love, 2

The Top Headline on the NYT site right now is about inflation in the Middle East. Okay, that's not true. The top headline is about the Oscars. But the NEXT top headline.

"Rising Inflation Creates Unease in the Middle East."

The story is very interesting, and rather unease creating in its own right.

It seems to me there are two issues. Rising inflation. Stop. Middle East. Stop.

If we take a look at the Middle East first --

"In Saudi Arabia, where inflation had been virtually zero for a decade, it recently reached an official level of 6.5 percent, though unofficial estimates put it much higher."

One of the things the article talks about is an issue within the government. The thing about countries with an operational king is that that king is supposed to act paternalistic toward his subjects. Subsidies are a major part of the economic workings of many of these countries -- in fact most countries that are heavily state controlled -- so that things stay fairly constant for the average citizen. But with the price of oil increasing so much, so rapidly it's putting pressure on the whole inner workings -- and the rift between the haves and the have nots are growing exponentially. The societal and governmental structure is feeling enormous pressure, and seems to need to find a new way of dealing with all the new money. A few days ago I mentioned Western Universities making their way into the Middle East -- it seems highly unlikely that this is going to make things less volatile.

On one reposting of the NYT article on a blog this morning, one commenter writes "Boo fucking hoo." I don't want to link here, because I don't want to put those cyber connections in place -- sorry. Someone else said something to the effect of "it must be getting expensive driving suicide bomb trucks." Well, things are tough in the blogosphere. Some of us watched poets unwind before our eyes on the National Poetry Foundation blog this month... but things are tough in America, too -- Boo hoo? I'm sad -- in the article it said that a previously middle class guy used to support his family and his parents who lived in the country. He's now unable to send them any money at all. And he just had to switch his baby to the cheap diapers. Moms know -- that means leaks and diaper rash -- that means a lot more cleaning and crying. That means stress -- climbing and quality of life -- dropping. And what becomes of the parents in the country? (I made up that country part -- they don't say where the parents live...)

I wish I had a friendly neighborhood economist to call -- I do, actually, so maybe you will hear more about this soon. It still doesn't quite compute as to why flooding a nation with money makes poverty stronger -- though maybe it's a little like printing more money -- which is easier to understand as a devaluing issue. Could it be that it really doesn't matter if its real money -- as in actual increased earnings -- or paper money? I find this fascinating.

Anyway -- whatever the cause -- things are not going well for a lot of people in the Middle East.

"Public protests and boycotts have followed, and 19 prominent clerics posted an unusual statement on the Internet in December warning of a crisis that would cause “theft, cheating, armed robbery and resentment between rich and poor.” "

It took me a minute to find this statement -- actually, to find a December London Telegraph article about the statement. That's as close as I got. Maybe it was not in English. Ugh -- I don't even know what language they speak in Saudi Arabia. Thank heavens for global etiquette lessons on the web:

((Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia, but English is widely spoken. It is used in business and is a compulsory second language in schools. Among the non-Saudi population, many people speak Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, and other Asian languages such as Farsi and Turkish.))

The Telegraph article says, "Wealth distribution is a problem in Saudi Arabia, where members of the royal family - including King Abdullah - and businessmen have been listed by Forbes magazine as among the richest people in the world, while civil servants earn 1,000 riyals ($266) a month."

The statement from the clerics says, "We direct this message to the rulers and officials: we remind you of Prophet Mohammad's words that you are shepherds who are responsible for your flock," the group of 19 well-known clerics, including Nasser al-Omar, said in a statement.

"The rulers should seek to try to remedy this crisis in a way that would ease people's suffering ..."

It happens sometimes that in the course of writing I lose something I was going to refer to. It's very frustrating -- I often read 7 or so articles before writing, and the deadline of my kids alarm simply forces me to finish at 7. I've just lost an article -- but what it was talking about was the economic situation in the middle east causing unrest -- protests and death.

It's important to remember why suicide bombings happen -- unrest, frustration -- colonization... oil. Our entanglement in the Middle East.

The Center for Middle East Strategy at Harvard talks has been talking about the boundaries in the Middle East -- how they are drawn and how they will be drawn in the future.

This was posted on that site yesterday:

"On Thursday evening, Turkish forces entered northern Iraq to do battle with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari has called the move “a limited military incursion into a remote, isolated and uninhabited region.” According to various sources, there have been clashes in the Qandil mountains along the Iraqi-Iranian border and in the Zap region. Turkish aircraft reportedly also bombed targets around Al-Amadiyah, an Iraqi Kurdish mountain town about 10 kilometers south of the Turkish border."

Boundaries -- again. The Middle East.

Buddha said if one person remains suffering we all do. Same as the Jews in yesterday's post -- and Marley too.

I don't know -- what if that is simply practical advice? Boo Hoo because it's going to come for us too... Middle East strife, uprising. Inflation too...

The following quotes are attributed to Buddha:

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.

All I guess I can say is I'm glad I don't have diapers to buy -- or parents to support.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More money in the country means more business, more capital investment, more services, etc. The distribution of money through the system creates higher demand for raw materials, services, etc. With finite supplies, limited resources, untrained workforces, not to mentioned corruption, greed, and crime, the soaring demand causes inflation. Suddenly, or even gradually things cost more, but incomes lag, especially for the unskilled and unwilling. So the poor get poorer, and the almost poor get poor.