Arabs are tired of being laughed at by the modern world

Not long ago, a close comrade of mine was dining with a person who I
can’t identify beyond telling you that his father is a long-term
absolutist ruler of an Arab Muslim state. “Tell me,” said this scion to
my friend, “is it true that there are now free elections in Albania?” My
friend was able to confirm the (relative) truth of this, adding that he
had once even acted as an international observer at the Albanian polls

and could attest to a certain level of transparency and fairness. The
effect of his remarks was galvanic. “In that case,” exclaimed the
heir-presumptive, thumping the table, “what does that make us? Are we
peasants? Children?” The gloom only deepened, apparently, as the image
of the Arab as a laughing stock — lagging behind Albania! — took hold of
the conversation.

Who could have predicted that such a comparison would have turned out
to be such a catalytic one in the mind of this nervous dauphin? So
multifarious are the sources of grievance in the Arab world that it
could have been any one of a host of pretexts that ignited a revolt, or
revolts. This ought to make one beware of too glibly selecting the
ostensibly crucial one. Poverty and unemployment? These are so pervasive
that they could explain any rebellion at any time — and in any case
Tunisians are among the richest per capita in North Africa. Dictatorship

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