Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Per Nostro Circolo : The story of the inner circle

Long years ago, it was the Bastille. Tired of the despotic, grossly uninterested nature of the French regime, with Marie Antoinette famously telling the languishing poor to eat cake if they could not get bread, the people revolted. They took charge of the country, and brought the evil king and queen to the guillotine. History most certainly repeats itself and tired of police corruption and high handedness in a remote Tunisian village a 26 yr old immolated himself and that brought the whole Tunisian regime down. Cascading effects are a reality too. Others took the cue, with festering dissatisfaction finding an able bolster in the power of precedent, and Egypt and now Libya have followed course. Watching the trend is nothing short of fascinating.

This book I am reading just gets the plight of these nations blatantly to the fore. Take the case of Iran. Safavid rule was prosperous and all inclusive when it began, with money split between the Government and the Waqfs. As time progressed, the leaders got corrupt and there was a mass siphoning of country funds into personal coffers, which was when the Shahs stepped in. Reza Shah began by appropriating waqf lands under the guise of reform and save for a few developmental projects like the Trans-Iranian rail line, there was hardly anything to show. The elite rich class never complained though, for they were in the inner circle. They dined with the Shah when it was time to split the spoils. Sensing the opportunity, the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini stepped in, ferreting already incensed tempers of the common man, while showing them a utopian state, himself claiming to be divinely guided . Unfortunately, he brought along his own inner circle, which now was another class of people, the bazaris or trading class and others who heretofore had been excluded. And this time, they didn't complain in the face of the blatant corruption and misuse of power in the name of religion. The inner circle just changed from one to another!

Mubarak was an able leader till he was convenient for Western politics, allowing the set up of bases, buying defense supplies, opening up the population as an able marketplace. But once the people of Egypt had had enough of his despotic rule, they revolted, asking for democracy. And the West suddenly swung to support the wish of the people, for they are after all the self proclaimed caretakers of democracy (just as Saudi Arabia is the caretaker of Islam just because it houses Mecca). Likewise Libya. Libyan crude is sweet crude, unlike the sour crude churned out by Saudi Arabia. The next best source of such crude is civil strife-torn Nigeria. So Gaddafi, was the man of the hour for so very many years and his unjust, cruel rule was condoned, 'human rights, what human rights?' was the tone adopted. And now, when his people have started revolting, the caretakers again have stepped in, quick to impose sanctions and further destroy another crumbling nation. Suddenly the despots have fallen out of the inner circle.

The stories are plenty. Every war-torn middle-eastern nation has had a history of exploitation at the hands of a western power. Whether it is the Sykes-Picot agreement that enlisted Arab support in WW I against the Ottoman empire in return for the right to govern themselves via Greater Syria, (an agreement wherein the Arabs were cheated through conflicting agreements made that excluded them entirely) or the very creation of Iraq, throwing in 2 huge Shia counties carved out of Iran into Sunni Iraq to ensure a life-long war between Shias and Sunnis, the exploitations are several. The inner circle is at play again, an inner circle of world powers dominating over the weaker squabbling entities.

Even in recent times, the inner circles rule. Be it large bank CEOs with a direct line to the political powers who laugh their way to the bank with their large bonuses despite the crumbling economy or whether the shining Indian telecom story shows signs of rust thanks to a million scams, the perpetrators somehow, always get to go free just because they are part of the inner circle. Sufficient money has changed hands, as a result of which a minister argues away that what is regarded as a scam is in fact very very legitimate! Sons of politicians get to walk free after committing a murder in cold blood because they are born in the inner circle and it takes a popular revolution to bring him to book.

At the end of the day, it turns out that Robert Ludlum's Matarese seems to be the only truth. Per Nostro Circolo (For our circle) they muttered and that is the way life is today!