The up-risings in the Middle East are attributed to the loss of patience of the population with tyranny. However, the condition of tyranny has persisted for a long time and has been generally stable until now. So what conditions have changed? There seem to me to be two and they are closely related. One is the waning power of the USA and the other is the economic downturn. The latter began with the crisis in sub-prime loans in the American housing market which was itself a function of dishonest practice and, therefore, of declining moral standards. So a decline in morale in what was the world's premier country led to a crisis of confidence in the banking sector which produced a finance famine for industry which led to deflation which caused temporarily falling demand for oil and rising food prices around the world.
In the Middle East where the ruling class must feed the masses using money derived from oil this produced a squeeze and only in Saudi Arabia and one or two gulf states were the rulers willing to dig deep into their pockets on behalf of the poor. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether the sweep of politial change will reach the Arab homeland of Arabia or not. However, regimes are changing. What will happen next? Quite likely oil proices will continue to rise for some time. If there are new democratic governments in the Middle East it will be more difficult for Western powers to persuade them to keep the oil price down. This will hit the USA harder than Europe because the average American consumes a staggering 2.5 times as much oil as the average European even though European and American living standartds are close to parity. Europe is well ahead of USA in oil saving technology. It will also hit emerging economies in a way that the economic downturn did not. This could produce further political turmoil and civil unrest even in China or India.
What can happen in countries where the population are broadly content with their politcal system? Election results can be sweeping - as in Ireland. However, what will they do when they discover that the new government cannot fix things either? Come to that, what will happen in Egypt or Lybia when the new regimes find it as difficult to provide for the population as their predecessors. Democracy does not guarantee more food.
Europe too is being gradually restructured by the effects of the economic stress. Integration continues inexorably. The fact that it is difficult for this to be achieved by concensual process means that it will happen by stealth through the economoic mechanism. This latter process will be greatly to the advantage of Germany which will emerge as the decision maker of greatest power. UK will maintain some independence of this but at considerable cost financially. All this probably means that whether China or even India dominates in the long run it may well be Europe that is the covertly emerging super-power.
Also, in Latin America, oil rich Venezuela will probably stengthen in its influence and if it retains its peculiar ideology this will also have consequences across the continent, as will the relative economic strength of Brasil. Latin America no longer dances to the US tune and the new future contains many possibilities. The situation remains very uncertain, however.
It is difficult to predict what the next knock on effect of the American decline will be but each stage is having significantly consequential spin offs and we are still a long way from the end of this particula disturbance in world equilibrium. The current focus is in the Middle East. Will the countries there be able eventually to achieve a pan-Arab union of some kind equivalent to the EU or even NAFTA? This is the only way that those countries could achieve parity with the major powers. It would not be easy but it is not impossible. Were it achieved then a new major power would emerge.
So, all in all, I am inclined to see all of the major changes that are happening at the moment as deriving from American decline. Of course, the chain can be traced back further. That decline itself has causes, and the chain back is endless. From a spiritual point of view we can note that moral decline has major effects that are economic, political, constitutional and ideological, but which are also often paradoxical and, in detail, unpredictable. Those countries that have been feckless are exposed and those that are bold in such turbulent circumstances sometimes make great forward strides. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good and it is likely that we are entering a period of austerity and instability but also of more liberation. The world is becoming interesting again.