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Kevin Myers: Arab Christians don't see events in Middle East as liberating

Yesterday I was writing about the power of the feminist meme: today I am writing about an even absurder mental concoction, namely the "Arab Spring" meme.

This delusion is based on the rather interesting notion that you can place the template of the Prague Spring of 1968 upon the Arab world. This is rather like imposing the rules of rugby on the Chelsea Flower Show. You can, if you really want, compare floribunda roses to the South African front row, and possibly fascinating analogies can be made between a Garryowen and Clematis Montana. However, the coach that names a prize hydrangea at out-half is likely to meet disappointment in life: and the gardener who plants Tongan wing-forwards in his orchard will face an apple-free autumn and scurvy by Christmas.

However, what makes the Arab Spring meme so fascinating is its sheer power. Consider Prague, home in 1968 to one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world and to one of the greatest ballet companies in Europe, with many lively schools of philosophical and literary debate.

I must have missed this somehow or other, but is there a Cairo Symphony Orchestra? A Syrian National Theatre? A Saudi Ballet Company, whose quite Diaghilevian brilliance, alas, is largely concealed by the ballerinas' burkas? Is there an intellectual ferment in Yemen about the role of the welfare-state in a post-Marxian neo-Hegelian dialectic? Does Kuwait resound to the chatter of female students discussing the maternal rights of lesbians? Are gays in Algiers preparing their first wedding ceremony, to be conducted by a transsexual rabbi?

I suspect you know the answers to some of these questions. So the real issue is not the events in Arab countries so much as the fatuity of any western mindset which tries to impose its own experiences and its own values upon the Arab world. This is a continent-sized entity of more than 200 million people without a single car factory, a single computer plant, a single aircraft manufacturer, a single IT R&D faculty, or a single world-class university, and which manages to translate just 330 foreign books annually into Arabic -- about one fifth of Greece's annual translations. (This is an improvement. At the time of the real Prague Spring, barely 10 foreign titles a year were published in Arabic, across the entire landmass, from Casablanca to Aden.)

Yet so powerful is the "Arab Spring" meme that it has caused NATO to deploy its air forces in support of anti-Gaddafi fighters, under the utterly spurious pretext of UN Resolution 1973, permitting intervention to protect civilians. This is not so much an item of international law with precise and defined boundaries as a brainless sheet of memetic elastic, which this week stretched to include the deployment of Apache attack helicopters. Only in the more demented outskirts of memeland could such an aircraft with its Hellfire rockets and its M230 chain gun be deployed for "humanitarian" purposes. One might equally say that the purpose of the US invasion of Iraq eight years ago was to bring needlecraft to the salons of Baghdad.

The Arab Spring meme is so powerful that it has even brought Barack Obama into line; this is the man who voted against the Iraqi war eight years ago, but who today is authorising cruise-missile strikes against Gaddafi's forces, and it would appear, even attempts to assassinate him in his bunkers.

This makes it a very powerful meme indeed. What gives it such authority? Is it because it has been endorsed by the three women close to Mr Obama: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the ambassador at the UN, Susan Rice, and the National Security Council's Samantha Power? They have championed an interventionist policy in Libya, under the concept of R2P, namely "Responsibility to Protect". I'd take a guess that R2P itself is just another meme, which within a year will appear even more incomprehensible than a State Department funding for the King Fiesel Academy for Arabian Fly-Fishing. In the meantime, a question: are memes more likely to succeed amongst women? And do princes respond more sympathetically to intellectually inconsistent memes if they are endorsed by their powerful female courtiers?

Arab Christians do not regard the upsurge across the Middle East as any kind of liberation. They know the role of the mullahs in all this: usually on a Friday, usually after prayers and usually accompanied by "Allahu Akbar!" -- a trinity of possible clues about the true motivation behind most Arab insurrections, wherever they occur. Christian churches across the Arab world have been attacked, and Christians killed. Christians, of course, pre-date Muslims in all these countries -- but now they are treated as intruders and are being told to leave.

That NATO is now aligned behind what history will probably reveal as the armed vanguard of an Islamicist revolution is, in its own short-lived way, grimly funny. The laughter fades with the firing squads, the beheadings, the stonings and the many other cultural artefacts of fundamentalism, as Iran -- once the most sophisticated of all Islamic societies, though of course a non-Arabic one -- has so comprehensively discovered.

When the dream dies, the meme dies: and the era of the Islamicist meme begins. Slightly longer, as I think you'll find.

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