My cynic''s view of events sees a connection between Arab Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter and the protests in Tel Aviv and on Wall Street, also said to be happening in 900 cities of 80 countries. (Ha''aretz, October 16, p. 7)

Crowds of decent people, along with politically correct leaders, who seek improvements with little concern for details, priorities, or probabilities, are not likely to produce anything better. So far in this wave of reform efforts, they seem to be making them worse.

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This from the current edition of The Economist

“AS THOUSANDS have gathered in Lower Manhattan, passionately expressing their deep discontent with the status quo, we have taken note of these protests,” wrote Lloyd Blankfein, the boss of Goldman Sachs, in a recent letter to investors. “And we have asked ourselves this question: ‘How can we make money off them?’ The answer is the newly launched Goldman Sachs Global Rage Fund.” This will invest in firms likely to benefit from social unrest, such as window repairers and makers of police batons. As Mr Blankfein explained: “At Goldman, we recognise that the capitalist system as we know it is circling the drain—but there’s plenty of money to be made on the way down.”
The next paragraph admits that this is a spoof. One is tempted to accuse the newspaper of not-so-subtle British anti-Semitism by virtue of focusing on a Jewish name at the head of a bank with a Jewish name and history, but the comedian cited as the source of the spoof also has a Jewish name.
The rest of The Economist article could have been written about Tel Aviv as well as New York. The decent people demonstrating here and there object to a lot that is wrong at the peak of capitalist democracies, but they are a long way from detailing a list of priorities that politicians and government technocrats can discuss with an eye to implementing reforms.
Israel''s protesters are beginning to turn against themselves and their allies in the media. Showing the zealot''s obsession with the perfect and being willing to kill what may only be good, self-appointed leaders are working against the modest proposals produced by a government commission and endorsed by the prime minister. Last night''s demonstrations in several cities may have attracted 20,000. A month ago, before the production of the government''s proposals, the demonstrations attracted several hundred thousands. The tilt in the media has gone from strong support of the protests to strong reservations. Several commentators project a scenario where zealots succeed in killing the government''s proposals, without producing anything to take their place.
My cynic''s view of events in the Arab world is no more optimistic. I have commented several times about the balance in Barack Obama''s Cairo speech that won for him a Nobel Peace Prize. I also expressed wonder about his criticism of the Egyptian regime and calling for democratic reforms from a platform in its capital. It is a stretch to assign the president responsibility for all of the revolutions in process. However, subsequent analyses may well find that his comments made their contribution along with other causes.
The results?
Tunis is the most promising, but my cynic''s view is worrying about the impressive election victory of Islamists called "moderate," and pondering if they can survive in competition with more extreme Muslims.
Egypt is not clearly heading is a direction more democratic than the Mubarak regime that the White House sought to unseat by joining in the spirit of Tahrir Square. Moreover, the lack of stability has had a cost in violence toward the sizable Coptic minority, as well as the freer movement of munitions from Iran and Libya through Egypt and into Gaza. An ongoing dust-up between Israel and Gaza reflects the increase in Gaza weaponry, and portends what might occur both in northern and southern regions, as well as in Gaza, Lebanon, and maybe wider in Palestine and ranging as far as Iran if Western do-gooders seek to do in Syria what they did in Libya.
In Libya, the US and its NATO allies so far have replaced an occasionally brutal and marginally insane leadership with who knows what. Qaddafi''s end does not suggest anything more judicial, humane, or democratic.
Syrian bloodshed is moving toward the multiple thousands estimated to have been killed by Bashar''s father in 1982.
The current Asad is threatening an "earthquake" if the West intervenes as it did in Libya. One can guess that that means rockets sent into Israel from Lebanon and perhaps Syria, with their friends in Gaza joining the party. If that happens, one should not underestimate what Israel might do to Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and perhaps Iran.
I''ll refrain from expanding these comments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Bahrain, and Somalia. If you don''t get the point now, another few paragraphs will not help. All of this dwarfs the magnitude of those movements of the early Middle Ages labeled "Crusades," but this of course has nothing to do with Islam. Neither does it have much promise of replacing effective, if inhumane and undemocratic regimes with anything clearly more enlightened.
I doubt that the protesters in New York, Tel Aviv, or some 900 other places will be any more successful.
I''m all in favor of decency in economics and government. I''m thankful to have spent my life outside of the dark places in this world, although I admit to having visited some of them. I have also escaped the worst sides of unfettered capitalism. I have benefited and maybe even contributed a bit to societies that are imperfect, but not as terrible as claimed by those chanting in protest. For much of my life, I have sought to avoid the mindless extremism of hope and decency that has produced Western contributions to Arab Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter, and the boundless demands of perfection coming from the streets of New York, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere.

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