Friday, March 11, 2011

Revolution on Oman and Hawaii, compared

In the 60s and 70s, the Revolutionary Communist Party attempted a foothold in Hawaii. A generation before, the soldiers of the 442nd, Japanese Americans whose parents were in concentration camps and whose land was stolen by other Americans, returned from WWII heros.

They joined up with the ILWU, then branded by the witch hunters in Washington as a Communist front organization, and took control of the Territory of Hawaii. The heroic veterans, many of them, became rich.

Their children, born into a revolutionary tradition and finding themselves on the side of the fat cats, recoiled.

Land was the issue. Development was the enemy. Overthrowing government and replacing it with a communist model was the solution for some.

I came to Hawaii -- innocent, dewy-eyed -- in the middle of this battle. I immersed myself in the Hawaiian culture, and was warmly welcomed by many Hawaiians.

For the Hawaiians and many other rural people, the struggle was not to overturn government but to preserve the style of living they had enjoyed for generations, and which could not survive the congestion and land cost that development would -- and did -- bring.

We used a gradualist, cooperative approach; my Communist friends a more aggressive approach. Some of the revolutionaries are still at work elsewhere to overturn an economic system that should be overturned, and the struggle still appears fruitless; and some of those who tried to achieve justice and parity in America I dearly loved, and still do.

The Arab world is in turmoil. Some in the Arab world are trying a gradualist approach; others an aggressive one. Some Arab governments, like our own government in Hawaii, understand that by buying off the leaders of a movement, change is forestalled. Others, like Gaddifi, prefer a brutal way. It interests me to see how the different approaches play out in a different context.

Oman is a prime example of a gradualist approach.

These pics show the mot violence I could find depicted in Oman.


Oman is Hawaii with oil.

This might be the old federal building.

Below is a citation to a New York Times editorial written by an Omani. The author doesn’t mention the history of bloody revolt; that the present Sultan took the throne from his father, whom he sent into exile;

and differences between the rural and tribal uplands and the cosmopolitan cities are ignored — but never mind.

I think the 50,000 new jobs and the guaranteed minimum wage which the Sultan just created in response to protests are pocket change for him, ad I don’t expect any assist in the revolution that is staking place elsewhere.

Oman is a moderate Muslim country, neither Shia nor Sunni. The Sultan maintains friendly relations with the dictators of Iran and with the Saudi king.

Oman is 35 miles from Iran, across the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40% of the world’s oil passes each day. It is, I suppose, in our national to keep the passage open. China’s, too.

A lot of smuggling of goods and people takes place a cross the strait, and always has.

Women are said to have equal rights in Oman, but I don’t know what that means for family integrity, or, indeed, for women. Women are allowed to attend world football games (yes, it's as popular in Oman as in the rest of the world -- Texas excepted).

And there is a woman's football league, all to the good, though not, in my view, good enough.

I don’t expect much help from Oman for the democracy revolutions.


Incidentally, the Bahrain Shia do not hold allegiance to the ayatollah in Iran, preferring their own ayatollah. I do not think the Saudis will allow the ruling Sunni family to fall. Arabs are planning to buy the Shia off, I’m told. See here.


Here is the New York Tomes editorial, written by an Omani, It is sensitive, moving, and -- I think -- inadvertently proves my point.


Yemen, much more difficult, next.

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