I've never felt so much like an unreconstructed base-determines-superstructure Marxist as I have when reading about the events in Egypt these last few weeks.
A vanishingly small number of press stories report how badly food insecurity has gotten in Egypt these last few years (go through THIS SLIDE SHOW by the World Food Programme for statistics, including the fact that 31% of Egyptian children in 2011 are stunted due to insufficient caloric intake), and even less about how this is in part the result of the leading edge of global warming caused environmental catastrophe which, given the inaction of the world's polluters these last few decades, is certain to get much worse.
Superstructure debates about constitutions, islamism, majoritarian "democracy," etc. are essential (please take time to see the kid to right if you haven't). But unless people have enough food, they can lead to a misunderstanding about what must be done. The problem is that when someone's child is in danger of starving, they have absolutely nothing to lose, and when enough people have nothing to lose all bets are off.
When American reporters talk about "economic stagnation" in Europe, readers are likely to think of their 401k's losing value and their home values decreasing, not about inability to feed their kids (though that happens here too, just not to the average reader of the Wall Street Journal).
Historically, massive food insecurity produces a set of horrible options: (1) wars to attempt to steal other people's resources and that also function to kill off the hungry populations, (2) revolutions that usually lead to (1) (this happened in France from the food riots under Louis the XVIth leading inexorably to Napoleon), or (3) a state that uses so much violence that people with dying kids are convinced they in fact still have something to lose (Ireland, China, the Soviet Union).
These kinds of factors seem to me to have far more power historically than the kinds of debates being covered in the American press. This is particularly galling because if we discussed these things honestly there might be some realization that the United States would do much better to send food and agricultural help, and to do something about global warming. But instead we send weapons.