NO ONE saw it coming. Three months ago the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, Libya and Bahrain seemed firmly in control. Dissent of any kind, let alone revolutionary change, was nowhere on the horizon. Now it's anybody's guess which country will be next.
[...] According to Yaneer Bar-Yam, who heads the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the stresses of poverty, unemployment and an absence of government accountability built up in Middle Eastern countries with a large "youth bulge" of young adults without jobs, children or prospects. Then spiking food prices and the public suicide of one young Tunisian triggered revolution. [...]
Civilisation, goes an old maxim, is four meals away from barbarism - once the food deliveries stop, so does law and order. That could mean trouble for the political uprising in Egypt. It may also be what triggered it.
[...] Food is a political issue in Egypt: Egyptians are the world's biggest wheat importers and consumers, and most are poor. As a result, the government maintains order with heavy subsidies for bread. It also runs the ports where imported wheat arrives, the trucks that haul it, the flour mills and bakeries. "Such hierarchical systems are both stable and unstable," says Yaneer Bar-Yam, head of the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. [...]