Tag » politics « @ Weiner Edrich Brown

“Malecontentment” in Egypt

Over the last week, people around the world have been instantly struck by unbelievable scenes of turbulence in Egypt, as thousands have taken to the streets to protest against the current political regime.  In recent days things have gotten even uglier, too: American journalists have been assaulted, Molotov cocktails have been launched, and rocks and furniture have been hurled at protesters.  It’s not just the violence that’s the most surprising either – it’s the speed with which the political order in Egypt is being threatened.

But there is another significant part to the equation, and that is the alienation of the young people – primarily the young males – from the economic and political life of the country.

As we’ve seen for a while now, sex ratios are becoming skewed in much of the world thanks in part to a growing global imbalance of male-to-female ratios.  It is estimated that by 2020 there will be approximately 300 million more men than women in the world.  We’ve seen this demographic trend play out in China.  In Vietnam.  In South Korea.  A surplus of frustrated, low-status males is bound to spell trouble for society.  Some experts have argued that China might soon be bedeviled by an underclass group of malcontented single males who could stir up political instability or even armed revolts.  Sound familiar? It isn’t much different from what we currently see happening in Egypt.

In Egypt, the unemployment among young males (aged 15 to 29 years) was 32% in 2009.  In other words, one in three young men were out of a job….and, because of increased education, many more were affected by underemployment. Clearly, growing unemployment has led to insecurity over their future, which to many, seems bleak.  But when you take a generation of young males who have no future, and have no outlet for their aggression (and testosterone), a range of potentially dangerous problems could occur.

Another primary reason for disillusionment among the youth is the perceived weakness of the state’s developmental role.  Because they have no way to vent their discontent to the “ruling elite,” they become more alienated.  And if the youth do not feel like services are extended to them – whether it’s a quality education or opportunity for employment – their connection and allegiance to the state and the regime will falter considerably.  Add to this the fact that many of the youth fear that the only means for social mobility is through criminal or corrupt means, i.e. bribery, nepotism or by bypassing the law entirely.

So the question then becomes this:  What do we do with the young males?  As we’re seeing now, testosterone-fueled aggressiveness can disrupt or even tear apart societies that don’t find ways to channel those drives into activities that aren’t destructive to the communities.  In a worst case scenario, it may be that countries afflicted by the imbalance could to go to war as a means of sending young men’s aggressiveness to where it can do no harm internally.

As we look at what is happening in Egypt politically, socially and economically, a combination of frustration with the existing system, a yearning for democracy, a desire to participate in decision-making and general dissatisfaction have all come together  to create the current situation on the streets.  An important lesson here, too, is the realization that if the interests of the young – especially the young males – are not taken care of, political stability in any country can be threatened.  So this may be just the beginning.

Transposition of East & West

Last summer, WEB authored an important working paper called The Transposition of East & West. Based on some relevant recent happenings, now is a great time to revisit the theme.

Issue Summary:

Currently,  we are seeing a two-way transposition of not only traditional Western values, traits, and characteristics on Eastern cultures (via “Westernization,” or “Americanization”) – but traditionally Eastern values, traits, and characteristics on Western cultures to an extent perhaps unforeseen in recent times. This bilateral shift is happening in profound ways. Indeed, not only is the world’s economic influence shifting, but core values – as they pertain to civil liberties, religion, education, and technology – are also in flux. Eastern cultures traditionally perceived as more conservative are opening up, while Western cultures traditionally viewed as more progressive are becoming more restrictive.

Putting a macro-lens on the economic portion of this theme, a 2008 report by the National Intelligence Council states among several relative certainties that between now and 2025, the unprecedented shift in relative wealth and economic power from West to East will continue. The report also states that the U.S. will remain the most powerful country in the world, but will be less dominant.

Recent Developments:

Updating this paper, we see that even the core Western tenet that is freedom of expression has been somewhat turned on its head with some important recent developments:

Consider Some Implications…

Implications of this theme are manifold. For example, in our original paper we discussed how many of the world’s largest consumer goods firms have begun adopting the process of “trickle-up innovation.” This entails creating entry-level goods for emerging markets and then repackaging them quickly and cheaply for sale in rich nations, where customers are increasingly hungry for bargains. While this concept is not all that new, it should be reemphasized in the context of this theme. Will execs at global companies fight to retain the more ingrained status quo, or will they embrace trickle-up innovation strategies?

Companies and organizations that operate globally will now have to navigate a new landscape when managing cultural norms within the global workforce, with global professionals, and among the global consumer market. Norms, values, and expectations have shifted. The terms “free market,” “civil liberties,” “innovation” and “gender equality” will be among the many that will no longer conjure up stereotypes of governments, populations, corporations or regions. East/West mixes of management, policymakers, board directors, committee members and marketers, designers and product developers will become extremely beneficial if any significant-sized entity wants to remain nimble and viable as it navigates through this transposition.

The New GOP: The Genetics of Politics

Even though public opinion polls show a general distaste for partisan divisions, a rising tide of political partisanship is sweeping into many aspects of American public life.  Witness the several recent examples of how partisanship and ideology have replaced civil discussion and pragmatism.  How many times have players from both sides of the political aisle tried to persuade the other side to think a certain way? And how many times does this actually work?  Both sides continually struggle to understand where the other is coming from…oftentimes with very little to no success.

Theorists have long speculated on how factors such as age, gender, race, marital status, education, income, home ownership, political knowledgeability and church attendance affect and influence political leanings.  But we are learning that these external factors do not play as much of a role as we once thought.

Increasingly, political positions are seen to be largely determined by biological factors.  According to John Alford (political scientist, Rice University, Houston), “Political tendencies are like being left-handed or right-handed — you’re born feeling more natural using one hand or the other.  It doesn’t mean you can’t switch — for many years lefties were taught to be righties.  But it’s not easy.”

Based on a 2008 article in the New Scientist called “Born That Way,” opinions on a long list of issues from religion in schools to nuclear power and gay rights were found to have a substantial genetic component.  Liberals and conservatives even have different patterns of brain activity.

Two groups pulling in different directions will always characterize politics.  However, if these groups are genetically hard-wired to disagree, what does this mean for the future of debate and policy analysis?