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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Root Cause of Bloodshed in the Middle East: No Customers

The Middle East has collapsed into a state of chaos, conflict, and suffering that was unimaginable and unforeseen just four years ago. Hardly any experts or institutions predicted the wars and revolutions that have engulfed the region. And those same experts who missed the coming catastrophe continue to struggle for answers as to why it’s all happening.

One explanation is that the Muslim world is rising up against U.S. and Western oppression. Just after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, I read plenty of publications that said Muslims were so angry with America and the West that many of them wished death upon us. Well, not long after 9/11, Gallup conducted in-depth polling of the 10 most populous Muslim-majority countries, making up 80% of the global Muslim population. Seven percent responded “5” on a scale of 1 to 5 that 9/11 was morally justified and also said they viewed the U.S. unfavorably. I’m not sure that the anti-U.S., anti-West feeling is much of an explanation.

Another explanation is that the U.S. destabilized the region when it invaded Iraq and detonated simmering conflicts that had been suppressed by Saddam Hussein. Yet another explanation is that the Middle East is in the midst of a massive religious war -- that the driving force behind the conflicts is an ancient Sunni-Shiite battle, with one side simply trying to wipe out the other.

Maybe. But does the U.S. invasion of Iraq or religious war explain the Arab Spring uprisings, which have truly destabilized the region? Remember, the Arab Spring began in Tunisia when food vendor Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire. Bouazizi didn't yell, "Death to America" or "U.S. out of Iraq” or “Allahu Akbar." He cried out, "I just want to work!" And with that he set off a revolution that experts say was aimed at oppressive regimes, political and economic corruption, and rooted in a deep desire for democracy.

Of course, the Arab Spring has now turned into an Arab Winter -- more like an Arab Nightmare, with Hosni Mubarak removed from Egypt, then replaced by an elected Muslim Brotherhood, which was then overthrown by a military takeover; Colonel Gadhafi was overthrown in Libya, which has now collapsed into tribal chaos; the brutal Syrian civil war; instability in Jordan and Lebanon; and on and on. Add to all of this chaos the brutal and bloody battle between Israel and Hamas.

Sure, experts can pick from any number of explanations for all of this unrest. Maybe some of them make sense. But here’s an explanation you don’t hear very often that is likely the root cause of the entire meltdown in the Middle East: no customers.

When a society lacks a thriving entrepreneurial sector, it fails to create customers. When a society fails to create customers, it fails to develop economically. When a society fails to develop economically, it fails to create jobs.

When a society fails to create jobs, as in countries throughout the Middle East, young men get up each morning with zero hope for a great life, zero hope to get married (you usually can’t marry in Middle Eastern society without a real job), zero dream of a family, zero dignity, and zero self-respect. What millions of young Middle Eastern males wake up to every morning is unimaginable humiliation, indignation, desperation, and a form of dangerous boredom.

There are over 100 million young people aged 18 to 29 in the Middle East/North Africa area -- meaning there are probably about 50 million young males. Of these, Gallup World Poll data on unemployment -- calculated by full-time jobs only: 30+ hours of work per week for an organization providing a regular paycheck -- shows only 26% of young Middle Eastern males with a real job. This means the share of that young male population without a full-time job is a deadly 74%. When there are no customers, there is no need for jobs.

If you’re wondering where all of this is headed, it’s headed to worse. The situation in the Middle East will continue to deteriorate until there’s real economic growth in the region -- until customers appear. When customers start growing, jobs will start growing. When jobs start growing, young Middle Eastern men will get up early in the morning and go to their jobs -- not their guns.

Maybe the answer to human development in the Middle East and everywhere in the world -- not just for young males, but for most men and woman -- has already been answered by Mohammed Bouazizi: "I just want to work!"


Anonymous said...
July 29, 2014 at 12:00 PM  

And the question of course is: how do we move from the current vicious cycle into the virtuous cycle described by Jim?

placementloop said...
July 30, 2014 at 8:22 PM  

Jim is spot on. As societies have become more connected, starting as early as trade routes, conflict has moved away from the "haves" attempting to gain more assets to the "have nots" simply attempting to gain more themselves. In a highly connected world the "have nots" are realizing, more than ever, just how much they don't have compared to others. When they ask "why?" to their centralized and unvirtuous leader(s) the answers cause anger.

Of course, it was centralized unvirtuous leaders of the "haves" that didn't sacrifice enough power to provide enough opportunity for the "have nots" to be able to catch up to the "haves". This is win-lose model of how to treat each other. Now, "the chicken is coming home to roost" as the old saying goes.

We move to solutions by designing mechanisms, at scale, to release leadership-skill embedded and distributed in communities. Mechanisms designed and delivered by win-win business models that motivate, incentivize, and reward distributed leadership and governance, not centralized.

Specifically, in ability placement, we need a business model with designed mechanisms to release spare capacity of brokerage-skill that is held by distributed members in communities to place ability at best-fit. When placement collaboratives, however small and episodic, purposely form, disband, and re-form in new ability development and placement processes you can project it forward and see a shift from centralized power structures to distributed member or crowd-based structures. The "good job" quells anger.

Anonymous said...
July 31, 2014 at 11:26 PM  

You are deceived. A culture fomenting hate from birth, teaching children that the Jew is the lowest being on earth, that women are property, that the length of your beard is more important than whether you have a job, making America and Israel the reason for all their ills cannot be saved by commerce.

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