This chapter is about taking ownership of your work and being independent.
steal your work, exploit you, for as long as they can – until they can find
someone younger and more talented who will work for less money. If you are
dependent on others, then you will always be in a fragile situation.
Curtis Jackson never met his father, and his mother died when he was 8 years old. He grew up in a poor neighborhood, and sold crack to survive. When he had a boss, he realized that he was investing labor for a small wage. He wanted ownership, so he decided to hustle. The other dealers who worked for the same boss were all desperate for money and accepted their fragile position.
50 Cent made
a deal with them. While he was dealing, he learned how to make the canisters
seem full after removing some of the crack.
He offered the
drug dealers he worked with the salary he got from his boss at the start of the
month in return for their surplus crack, after he taught them his method. He sold
the surplus crack on the side to make more money.
50 Cent was
then discovered by Eminem, who signed him to his label, Interscope. But Curtis
Jackson wanted to be self-sufficient, so he learned everything about the
business by insisting on shooting his own music videos and creating his own
marketing campaigns – he even paid for them himself. To Interscope, this was
less work for them, but 50 Cent used the knowledge he gained to start his own label.
The Syrian uprisings started in 2011 and led to civil war that continues until today in 2019, and has been the cause of one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the century.
Syria turned into a warzone for Islamic militant groups like ISIS and regional and global powers.
understand the roots of this conflict, we must go back in time. The father of
Bashar El Assad, Syria’s current present, was Hafez El Assad, and he was the president
of Syria until his death in 2000. After the Ba’ath coup in 1963, and
particularly after the 1976 invasion of Lebanon, the Syrian Brotherhood, that
was resistant to military backed regimes in the 1950’s and 1950’s, escalated.
invaded Lebanon to fight the Palestinian movement and the Muslim movements that
were on the Palestinian side. This caused the Syrian Brotherhood to confront
the regime. In 1982, the Syrian military found radical elements in Hama, and
conflict erupted. The Syrian Brotherhood called for a nationwide rebellion
deployed 12,000 troops, tanks, artillery, special forces, and the air force to
lay siege to the city. The Syrian army embarked on a three-week bombing campaign
that destroyed Hama. The Brotherhood could not survive the attack. Between
10,000 to 40,000 people died.
the opposition to Assad for decades, until his death in 2000.
to his Bashar al Assad in the late 1990’s. At first, he allowed the opposition
for space for discussion in salons (muntadayat), and this was greeted with
optimism. But in 2001, the regime shut down these discussion groups. The raising
and thwarting of hope caused sharper opposition internally and externally.
minister of Lebanon, Rafik al Hariri, was assassinated in February 2005. This
came right after the US invasion of Iraq. Many fingers were pointed at Syria.
In Lebanon, president Emile Lahoud, backed by Syria, was going to be given an
extension to his rule. Hariri was about to mobilize the opposition to the government
in March in the parliamentary elections.
isolated Syria internationally, something the US has long wanted, since designating
Syria a sponsor of terrorism in Lebanon and Palestine.
The STL (Special
Tribunal for Lebanon) would intervene to determine who was responsible. 4
members of Hezbollah were implicated, and since they were a close ally to Syria,
initial suspicions were confirmed. Syria’s relationship with Turkey
deteriorated after 2005 and they were isolated by the Gulf states. This put a lot
of stress in Syria’s economy.
became more reliant on Iran, itself the subject of sanctions due to its nuclear
efforts, and its allies in Lebanon and Russia.
spread in Tunisia in 2010, Syria was feeling the pressure. But this pressure mainly
came from opposition groups that were deeply divided. The armed protests started
in 2011, but the regime held power, partly because of how fragmented the
opposition was. And the opposition could not be completely defeated, because of
over half the Syrian population, 12 million, were displaced or killed because
of the war.
The build up of tension between the US and Iraq lead to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The US developed a moral argument for the invasion on the grounds that Iraq was a threat to global security.
The UN passed
a resolution that called for Iraqi disarmament of chemical and biological
and the resolution were followed with actions against Iraq after there were
reports of non-compliance by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection
Commission (UNMOVIC) that soon withdrew from Iraq. The US and Britain responded with a military operation;
a four-day bombing campaign called ‘Operation Desert Fox’.
after the US placed sanctions on Iraq and enforced no-fly-zones North and South
of the country in the 1990’s.
The UN imposed
many sanctions on Iraq, these led to the collapse of the Iraqi education system
and domestic infrastructure. The sanctions increased infant mortality rates,
child malnutrition, and resulted in deaths from shortages in medicine and
polluted water supplies as reported by UNICEF.
the US government under Bush and the UK tried to pass a resolution in the UN
that would authorize the use of force against Hussein regime and launched a campaign
to find links between Iraq and the al-Qaeda network.
campaign against Iraq was not a response to 9/11 but was a project that began
in the 1990’s. A think tank (PNAC) in the US declared that removing the Hussein
regime was a foreign policy priority in a letter to Clinton. Notably, the
letter was signed by members of the future Bush administration.
Bush made a
famous speech about the Axis of Evil in the Middle East.
made that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The UN passed resolutions
that aimed to disarm the Iraqi regime from these weapons, but they were not good
enough for the US because they did not authorize the use of force directly. Powel
and Cheney pushed the US administration to apply more pressure, with the
argument that Al-Qaeda could get possession of these weapons from Iraq, unless
there was quick action.
declared that there was no link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda and that Iraq had
discontinued its WMD program in 1991. But the US and Britain launched the
invasion against the regime under the name ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ outside UN
authorization. ‘The Coalition of the Willing’ were the global military that
participated in the war. The operation was quick, it ended in 21 days and
removed the Ba’ath party rule. The global coalition then spread its troops across
the country after a ‘Shock and Awe’ strike that paralyzed the Iraqi military
with aerial strikes before the coalition landed in the country.
killed approximately 126,000 Iraqis.
Gharib scandal, in which Iraqi prisoners were humiliated in prison by US forces,
was featured in 60 Minutes.
4486 US service
personnel and 318 service personnel from the coalition died, in addition to tens
of thousands of physical injuries and psychological trauma.
couldn’t pay for the reconstruction of its country after the collapse of its
state, the US paid the bill, which cost over $3 trillion. This had a massive
impact on the world, and helped precipitate the 2008 global financial crisis.
Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) learned from his experience on the streets, that the only way to get what you want in life, was to be realistic. Many people choose to live in a fantasy world that makes them feel comfortable, while ignoring the details and the reality around them.
succeeded because his mind was sharp, but his mind was sharp because his
circumstances didn’t allow otherwise. When your life is on the line, you cannot
afford to lie to yourself.
manage to overcome their fear of reality and confront it directly, they often
succeed. But they often rest on the glory of the past, thinking that they know
enough, or that they are secure. Their minds become soft and they start making
mistakes. That is the danger that you are warned about.
focus and drift into fantasy land when things are going well.
Deeper – Depth
To do this,
you need to dig deeper. Don’t be satisfied with what is obvious and what is conventional.
the greatest general that ever lived, because he paid close attention to
detail. He took in massive amounts of important information, and that allowed
him to build sound strategies that matched the reality on the ground. He was
never satisfied with surface level information.
understood this too. He realized that the reason black people were marginalized
was because they were dependent. And they had no self-determination, because the
people who could change their circumstances were the liberals in government and
Ahead – Proportion
fear, people often limit their focus on the near term. This is because people are
preoccupied with endless battles in the present. But the less you think about
the future, the less you can shape it.
The key is
to know what to focus on in the present. Instead of worrying about things today
that won’t matter tomorrow, shift your thinking towards only the things that
matter, freeing you up to think about the future.
the mistakes that others have done that you may benefit from and think about
the problems that are holding you back.
People’s Deeds, Not Words – Sharpness
people’s actions personally, if they offend you, but see them for what they
are: attempts to gain power. Some people will disguise their behavior as morally
righteous while others will not, but the motivations don’t matter. The words
they use to justify their behavior are tools to get them what they want,
whether they acknowledge it or not.
not to the grand gestures that people make but to the details. Someone who is quick
to be friendly may be doing so out of envy or malicious intent. To know, you
must observe their behavior in a careful and objective way.
Reassess Yourself – Detachment
weeks, you should use your critical thinking on yourself. Think about what you
are doing, where you are going, and whether you are doing things the right way.
If you are engaged in unnecessary conflicts, withdraw from them. Adapt your
behavior to changing circumstances, make sure you are not moving away from
reality. When you make this a habit, it becomes more difficult to put you off balance
when circumstances change.
Reversal of Perspective
Dreamers are often idealized, but they shouldn’t be. The biggest mistakes of history have come from dreamers, while the realists are the innovators. The realists are not less creative, but more creative, since their insights are closely tied to reality and are useful.
The Arab Spring was the move towards democratisation, away from authoritarianism. Since 2011, uprisings have occurred across the entire region, but the results have been mixed.
While there have been some changes towards greater reform, not all authoritarian regimes have been removed. And in many countries that saw widespread protest, there has been little political change.
is important not because all men are born equal, but because they are not born
history, there have been many political systems that have moved from authoritarianism
towards democracy, while there have been very few that have moved in the
has occurred in waves. The first wave was in the early 19th to early
20th century. The second was after decolonisation post-world war 2. The
third was the collapse of authoritarian regimes in Latin America and Europe in
these were followed by reverse waves – especially between World War 1 and World
Middle East, democracies have taken a hybrid form were parliaments co-exist
with authoritarian regimes. The resistance to democracy is linked to religion. Authoritarian
regimes have argued that democracies would allow the rise of Islamic groups to
power who would implement Shari’ah and put an end to democracy.
There was a
pseudo transition from authoritarianism to democracy in the Middle East from
the early 1990’s and this has enraged a populace that has been given false
promises for political change but have
only witnessed economic slowdown and corruption – 2010 was the year this
frustration and resentment began to manifest on a mass scale.
Ben Ali was
the leader of Tunisia from 1987 to 2011. Under his rule, Tunisia’s economy was
privatised and was considered a stable nation, despite a slow economy. Most of
the wealth was concentrated in the hands of the few. Very little international
attention was given to Tunisia before 2011, particularly because of the prevalence
of secularist policies. But Ben Ali ruled with an iron fist and had no
tolerance for opposition.
disparity and inequality in Tunisia, alongside deep state corruption and authoritarian
rule, culminated in the outbreak of protests.
Tunisia faces a difficult challenge in managing a deeply divided nation with a
won fake elections that kept him in power. The political opposition mobilized
against him, especially when it became clear that power would be transferred to
his son, Gamal, who was also accused of corruption.
One of the
major controversies in Egypt took place when Egyptian natural gas was sold to
Israel in 2005 for 40% of the global market price. This was in an economy with
great wealth disparity.
started in Tahrir square and gained speed through social media. Clashes between
the army and the protestors resulted in a death toll between 800 and 1000.
were held in late 2011, early 2012, in three stages. The Muslim Brotherhood,
under the name FJP party, won. The liberal parties only gained a few seats in
parliament and were marginalized.
In June of
2012, Morsi won the elections for president. Later, tensions developed between
Morsi and the military, after the decision by Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court
ruled that the parliament was unconstitutional. Morsi saw this as a power grab by
the military. Clashes erupted when Islamic Militants attacked an army outpost, killing
16 soldiers, before driving hijacked vehicles into Israel where they were
killed by the Israeli Defense Force.
relationship between Morsi and the military became irreconcilable. Morsi asked
for the resignation of the leaders of the army and replaced them with Abdul-Fatah
al-Sisi. Morsi then assumed full control of parliament in a highly
to Morsi grew and caused public unrest. Clashes took place between Pro-Morsi
and Anti-Morsi protestors. On July 3 of 2013, Sisi called for the resignation
of Morsi. The latter refused to comply, but he was arrested alongside members
of the FJP.
were pro-Morsi were forcibly detained and attacked, around 800 died. Since
early 2014, Egypt has become reminiscent of the Mubarak era. Elections have
been held but with low voter turnout (10%) in the parliamentary elections and a
lopsided victory for Sisi in the presidential election (his opponent got 3% of
sentenced to death for colluding with Hamas and Hezbollah to orchestrate the
escape of Islamic militants from prison. Charges against former President Mubarak
were dismissed in November 2014.
Libya and Tunisia
have seen complete political transformations while Egypt and Yemen have seen
the same structure stay in place.
Authoritarianism can be defined as a small group of individuals who control the state with little popular interference or oversight, in contrast to democracies.
But the presence of an authoritarian government does not mean no political participation, for political participation exists in every political system. Authoritarian regimes in the Middle East have key features that distinguish them from each other.
are the most common, but there are also monarchies.
institutions exist but are the exception. In authoritarian systems, political
participation occurs informally, by influencing the decisions made by the state
but also to extract resources from the regime and advance personal interests
and oppose the status quo politically.
contract in the Middle East is when regimes formally or informally guarantee security
and a stable economy in return for a closed political system, where voting
rights don’t exist.
a tool that authoritarian regimes employ, it is when politicians assure their supporters
that they will support them and will pursue their interests against an enemy. The
content of populist politics changes, it can appeal to fear of outsiders, class
tensions, or even conspiracy theories.
But populism is not just aimed at catering to people’s sympathies. It can also affect policy. Nasser’s move to nationalize the Suez Canal in 1956 and Mossadeq’s move to nationalize Iranian oil in 1951 are both examples of populist policies. They are symbols of challenging a foreign oppressor in the name of the people.
Assad in Syria
Hafez el Assad ruled from 1970 to 2000 and was able to maintain his political power through the army and moukhabarat (intelligence). and the use of coercion. The internal security forces and the army were responsible for crushing the uprising of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in 1982. The city of Hama was leveled and between 10,000 to 20,000 people died. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood still existed after the event but not in any meaningful capacity. The 2011 uprising in Syria saw them take a leading role.
Assad also used sectarianism to his advantage. Syria was divided into many different sects, with a majority Sunni Arab population – this community was usually in control of Syria’s politics and economy. Assad came from a marginalized Alawi community and the most important security services positions going to members of his community, while other less important positions were given to Christians and Sunni Muslims.
The economic model pursued in Syria was socialist but with some exceptions. The Sunni Urban population was allowed to own private property. After the end of the civil war in Lebanon, Syria was able to make economic gains by exporting 1 million poor workers to Lebanon. This came after recessions in the 1980’s (ramifications of the 1982 uprising).
The Assad regime introduced many secular laws and many of these led to improvements for women and minority groups.
Assad wanted to pressure Israel into returning the Golan Heights, and wanted to do so by using the PLO. But In 1976, Syria’s goal to control the PLO through intervening in the Lebanese civil war backfired, as it exposed the intentions of the regime.
Saudi Arabia’s Monarchy
Large oil deposits were found in Saudi Arabia in 1938, this made the country a top exporter of oil in the world. The Saudi state was established when the Saudi family took over the Arabian peninsula in the early 20th century. The Saudi monarchy is indigenous to the region and has developed its own form of religious ideology and legitimacy through Wahabism.
King Saud’s rule lacked adaptation and innovation. He ruled without a constitution and closed the political system, while emphasizing legitmacy through religious elements. Economic mismanagement eventually led to the drain of the government’s new found wealth, and this lead to an internal coup in 1964, when the King was replaced by his half brother Faisal.
Faisal tried to improve the functioning of the Saudi society through education, infrastructure, and industrial programs, funded by the state’s oil wealth (that had increased dramatically after the 1973 oil embargo).
But this managed reform process was not accompanied by a political reform process.
The oil-rich east part of Saudi Arabia is home to the Shia’a (15 % of Saudi’s 28 million people) – a group that has long been oppressed by the monarchy.
In recent years, The US, UK, France, China, North Korea, and Russia have been trying to publicize their nuclear threshold, but Israel have denied being the first state in the Middle East to possess nuclear capabilities despite evidence to the contrary.
Arguments that support Israel’s nuclear program say that it is a powerful negotiating tool, deterrence, and gives Israel strategic autonomy.
The US have supported Israel’s nuclear monopoly since 1979. But at one point, they supported Iran’s nuclear program, when it was under the rule of the Shah. The discovery of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in 2002 has seen change in the policy of ‘deliberate ambiguity’.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 saw Iran halt its nuclear activities before resuming it in the 1980’s, when Iraq’s nuclear program was revealed. Iran moved away from US technology, and sought the help of China, Pakistan, and Russia, while starting indigenous projects.
In the 1990’s,
Russia assisted in Iran in completing the nuclear facility at Bushehr despite US
pressure to stop support for Iran. This was when the key themes emerged, that
continue to define the debate over this issue today.
that its programme is legal under International Atomic Energy (IAE) guidelines,
while the US and Israel argue that Iran has no intent to limit their nuclear power
for peaceful purposes.
US Department of Defense: ‘the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological’.
George Washington University Professor Walter Reich: ‘a strategy of violence designed to promote desired outcomes by instilling fear in the public at large’
ICJ Justice Rosalyn Higgins: ‘a term without any legal significance. It is merely a convenient way of alluding to activities, whether of states or of individuals widely disapproved of and in which either the methods used are unlawful, or the targets protected or both.’
Defining terrorism is problematic because it depends on who you
are describing, and not what they are doing. A state that acts with violence is
forgiven, but a non-state group that uses violence are terrorists, and they are
an enemy of the public.
Yet terrorist groups think of themselves as having ‘altruistic’
motives, that is, they think that their actions are benefiting the broader
The economics of the Middle East is a mixed picture. Some oil producing countries have seen rapid economic growth, while others like Israel, Turkey, and Tunisia have relied on strong service sectors. But inflation, unemployment, and corruption continue to undercut economic potential in the region.
The economies in the Middle East have structural issues, including over-dependence on oil revenues, and the influence of the informal economy. When countries are too reliant on oil, their GDP fluctuates in a very volatile manner, depending on the rise or fall of oil prices.
such as technology, geopolitics, security, demand and supply dynamics, affect
the price of oil. This volatility creates uncertainty, which is something
investors don’t like.
economy is not the black market, although the black market is part of the
informal economy. Anything that occurs outside the watchful eyes of the government,
without taxation and regulation, is the black market, but the informal economy
also includes the ‘grey economy’ which is when there is the same lack of
taxation and regulation, but through government channels and networks.
economies have long been a part of the landscape of the region and this is due
to the weakness of institutions, which facilitates the use of grey markets
through bribery and corruption.
many reasons why the Middle East has such a large informal economy, including
excessive labor market regulations, a lack of state ability to regulate
employment, and high taxes on domestically produced goods. Most of the activity
in the informal sector revolves around unregulated employment.
There is a
problem in trying to fix the situation since many people depend on the informal
economy for their livelihood.
The Politics of Oil
importance of oil to the world is a key factor that has shaped how external powers
have engaged with the nations of the Middle East. The impact of oil on the
region has been mixed, since material wealth, that has increased greatly, has not
seen a parallel increase in human development.
of natural resources like oil is known as the ‘resource course’. Economic
development has been unsatisfactory in many oil producing states, and a form of
autocratic rule in the form of a rentier state has become common.
The US does
not only benefit from the supply of Middle East oil but form the stability of its
prices – this became apparent after the 1973 oil price crisis when OPEC imposed
an oil embargo in response to Nixon’s announcement that he would send air
supplies to Israel.
discusses the main obstacles of the peace process that developed between Israel
and Palestine since 1991.
Both sides claim
to fight for their identity and for their rights. The Israelis have been
fighting for their self-defence, while the Palestinians have been fighting for
their right to self-determination.
process started in 1991 in Madrid and has continued with no success. The process
began after the 1987 Palestinian Intifada (Arafat could no longer control them),
and PLO’s support for Iraq during the Gulf war. Further, Cold War tensions accelerated
the need for the peace talks.
In Oslo in
1993, there was progress, when Arafat and Israel’s Shimon Perez received the Nobel
Peace Prize. Arafat consented to a give year transfer of governance to PA
(Palestinian Authority), which would culminate in a peace treaty. This eventually
since then and since it signed a peace treaty with Egypt and Jordan, has been
its internal security, despite occasional clashes on its border with Lebanon against
Hezbollah. Their biggest internal security threat has been Hamas, a group
formed in 1987 by the Muslim Brotherhood, who’s aim is to establish an Islamic
state in the Mandate of Palestine.
to power during the first intifada, and through the 1990s with a series of
violent attacks. The Gaza withdrawal occurred in 2005, when Israeli settlers withdrew
from the strip but maintained control over its border. This meant that Gaza – a
365 km squared city of 1.8 million people – was in a state of mass imprisonment.
of the Arab-Israeli population outpaces that of the Jewish Israeli population 0.5%
per year and is now over 20% of the population. The shift is gradual but important.
Israel has parliamentary system, and there have been concerns over the growth
of Arab voting power.
Process had many problems, including lack of agreement about settlements,
refugees, and territory. It is difficult to see how the two sides can find
consensus in future negotiations. The role of the US is vital here, as a power
that commands the attention of both sides.
ideology, a consistent set of ideas and visions for how society should work, is
a modern phenomenon born out of the French revolution.
nationalism, it is important to understand the idea of nations. Nations are
bound together by a shared language, culture, and history. Nationalism is an
ideology which claims that supreme authority exists within the national community.
Thus, every nation should have an independent political system, or state – hence
the word ‘nation-state’.
nationalism was based on ethnic unity, while the European union was based on
war had two symbolic consequences. One, that Israel could not be defeated. Two,
it shattered the belief in Arab unity.
Hadith is a
set of disputable claims about selected narratives from the Prophet’s actions. Shari-ah
is the legal code of Islam. Principles from the Hadith and Qur’an that are
interpreted by religious leaders, judges, and religious scholars, and determine
The goal of
Islamic movements is to apply Shari’ah as the state’s legal code. There are
other movements that try to combine Shari-ah with civil law, but these are
and Shi’a Islam
dispute between Sunnis and Shi’as is over the successor of Prophet Muhammad.
The Sunni favored popular selection while the Shi’as believed the successor should
be Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law. The Shi’a have been marginalized throughout
history, since the majority of Muslims are Sunni.
There is another
key difference, in that the Shi’a believe that Muhammad possessed a divine
light, while the Sunni do not think Muhammad was divine. The idea is controversial
to Sunnis since it threatens their belief in the oneness of God.
There is also
differences in their approaches to legal systems. Ulama is a broad term used for
formally trained scholars who focus on jurisprudence and Islamic Law. There is
no hierarchy among the Ulama, which leads to a diversity of opinion.
have a more formal structure. The Ayatollah represents the highest level of
learning a scholar can receive within the Shi’a religious school. Iran has
formalized this into their system of governance (vilayet-e-faqih). But the
diversity of interpretations has been the defining feature of Islam, and this
has allowed political leaders to control and contain the influence of Islam on political
the most contested term in Islamic discourse. ‘Jihad’ means struggle, with it’s
most common use in the struggle in the way of God. This specifically refers to
the struggle for against temptation, and to live as a virtuous Muslim, and to Jihad
of the tongue (to spread the word of Islam). A third use is for social
responsibility. The fourth use is the most controversial, and it refers to the struggle
of the sword, it is the requirement to defend the Muslim community when under
Sadar, Egypt’s leader, attacked Israel in the six-day war in 1973. Egypt were
eventually held back but because of their initial push, gained favourable peace
terms. The conflict had a powerful effect on the world, when Gulf states
imposed an oil embargo that threatened the world with a economic recession.
Ayatollah Khomeini confronted the regime in Iran. Through his writings, he was able
to influence the revolution that led to the coup. His most important contribution
was the volume Government of the Islamic Jurist (Vilayet-e-faqih). He
not only argued for removing the regime, but he outlined how an Islamic regime
should be structured and implemented. This included reliance on Islamic scholars
revolution, two branches of government formed. One was led by Khomeini, while
the other by Barzagan. Their relationship was dysfunctional, and Barzagan resigned
by the end of 1979. The invasion of Iraq in 1980 and Iran’s international isolation
and confrontation with the U.S led many to believe that the regime would not
conflict between the US and Iran has continued since the 1970’s and has its
roots in the close relationship between the US and the Shah. The US installed the
shah after they played a role in toppling of the 1953 Mossadeq government, and
the US financed the SAVAK (an organization that repressed protests).