Wednesday

September 26th, 2018

Insight

What cannot continue eventually won't

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published Jan. 11, 2018

A worried dictator sings a worried song, even if he feels obliged to deliver its refrain with a fired gun in place. For even Hassan Rouhani, leader for now of Iran's theocracy, seems to have felt obliged to note publicly that the natives have grown restless. And has had to add his support of their expression, if through clenched teeth.

"People want to talk about economic problems, corruption and lack of transparency in the function of some of the organs (of the state) and want the atmosphere to be more open," he has been forced to admit on Twitter. He's had to give lip service to the tide of public opinion against him and his now unsteady government. "The requests and demands of the people," he's acknowledged, "should be taken note of." Which he did, however unwillingly.

Iran's president, bravely whistling past his own graveyard, emphasized that Iran "has seen many similar events and passed them easily." What he's doing is transparent, too: assuming that the crises his regime has overcome will prove only prologue. But how long can a regime go on assuming that it will escape the people's wrath? For what can't be borne will one day not be.

This latest wave of protests may have begun with complaints about Iran's failing and flailing economy, but now they're aimed at the country's whole political establishment. The classic revolution soon enough devours its children, and already cries are heard for the death of President Rouhani and even of its theocrat-in-chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Even the state's own television network had to show pictures of protesters in the streets, along with fires and burning cars.

The lion of revolution has been unleashed and now prowls the streets of Iran's cities. Its roar is a welcome sound to those who have been waiting for their country to be free at last.

To quote Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Iranian protesters are being "brave" and "heroic" while Europe's self-satisfied elite have only watched in silence. Now that silence is being broken, and not a moment too soon.

In Tehran, a 26-year-old worker complained: "We are deprived of the simplest things that are given for people in other countries, both in terms of basic welfare and economic security and of course freedom to express complaints." Speaking for her generation of Iranians and perhaps many more, she denounced President Rouhani's performance as "very weak." And weakness invites turmoil. More of it is sure to come.

Back in the land of the free and, one trusts, home of the brave, wages are starting to catch up with the demand for labor as pay rises in cities where unemployment is low. It's about time. Workers are finding bigger checks waiting for them in cities that years ago were already prospering, like Minneapolis, Denver and Fort Myers, Fla., where unemployment rates already were close to or even below 3 percent.


The laws of economics haven't been repealed; it just may take them a little time to swing into operation. Which they're doing in this new year as companies raise pay to attract workers, often enough away from their competitors. It was all to be expected in classical economic theory, which is being vindicated again by another generation. Once again people are voting with their feet, moving to parts of the country where jobs are most available. The libel that Americans don't want to work is being refuted once again, and the newer the Americans, the more ardently they are seeking work.

Around the world, dictators faced with rising opposition are blinking and retreating to their bunkers, including on the Korean peninsula, which has seen more than its share of war and suffering, much of which was shared by this country. Beloved leader Kim Jong Un has halted his bombastic threats against this country and its Western allies. Instead he's agreed to join talks at a familiar site of peace or at least truce talks: Panmunjom. Their purpose: to ensure the success of the coming Olympic Games in Korea -- and generally to talk peace.

Let the doves fly instead of missiles. It's a long, long trail a-winding from talk of peace to the reality, but it has to begin somewhere. Why not at Panmunjom? Happy new year, all! And it's only just begun.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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