But imagine for a moment that the current chaos and unrest is only a period of turbulence between two eras. Imagine if, a century from now, we were to look back upon the Arab 2010s as something like the French 1790s or the American 1770s or the English 1640s – a terrible time that foretold the creation of a better time.

To imagine this, you’d have to conclude that the current Arab “youth bulge” – the extraordinary proportion of the region’s population (at least a fifth) who are between 17 and 25 and whose unemployment, disappointment and youthful zealotry are currently key sources of its violence, instability and chaos – largely come of age, in a few years, as a new generation of adults seeking better economic and political futures.

Once the civil wars, riots, coups and countercoups played themselves out and some uneasy semi-democratic détente was reached, that generation’s education and literacy, urbanized and connected aspirations and entrepreneurial outlook gave rise to a period of improvement and reform that, while far from utopian, put the Middle East and North Africa onto the same modernizing track as the rest of the world.