Monday, February 21, 2011

Tunisian Revolution: Bread and Dignity

Tunisian Revolution: Bread and Dignity

Sunday, 20 February 2011 16:41
Nassar Ibrahim, Alternative Information Center (AIC)

It was in a single moment, one worth a lifetime, which Mohammed Bouazizi chose, in a brief absence of misery. A moment he believed might slap the young Tunisians into action and eternally shake the foundations of the Tunisian government.

That slap echoed through all the cities and rural areas of the Arab world, as Bouazizi’s body lit the night of Tunisia and illuminated the long night of the Arabs.

The lessons, effects, and repercussions of the Tunisian revolution did not stop in Tunisia. Sympathy was aroused and overwhelmingly embraced by popular and social movements throughout the Arab world. This response reflects a compensatory behavior, according to social psychology, in reacting against the status, environment and culture of despair that Arab regimes have perpetrated through decades of oppression, repression and a culture of fear perpetuated by internal intelligence bodies.

The effects of this recent revolution did nothing to stop the panic that struck most of the Arab regimes. They have been filled with fear that the sentiments in Tunisia will be transmitted to all Arab peoples; people who are full of anger because of the miserable performance of the Arab regimes at all levels concerning political, social and cultural rights. The regimes act contrarily to the basic human need for dignity, even at the national level, what to mention their reckless crushing of pan-national rights.

The Arab peoples have acted as though the revolution in Tunisia is their own revolution. This is, in some way, living proof of the potential mobility of the Arab public in the coming days. Whatever happens, the strongest messages, full of meaning and implications, have reached the Arab streets, where anger and criticism have hit their maximum capacity.

The effects of the revolution have certainly gone beyond Tunisia, quickly securing bread and heating for children in the majority of Arab countries.

It is an ironic scene that follows days of breaking news on most of the official Arab television stations: presidents, kings and princes are ordering, so simply and immediately (far from the usual governmental and parliamentary bureaucracy), cuts in the prices of chicken, rice, bread, and the distribution of heaters and fuel to schools and families. They have also issued instructions to freeze the prices of essential commodities, cut taxes and freeze electricity prices. Some went even beyond this, distributing cash to each citizen, like in Kuwait which paid $3,000 to each person, in additional to 15 days of free food.

More importantly, the Arab presidents, kings, princes issued "urgent orders" for their governments to put the social and economic needs of citizens on top of their agendas, and to do their best to meet these needs.

This is quite strange. Are not the peoples’ political and social needs always supposed to be at the top of the government’s agenda? If this is not the case, what issues have been keeping them so busy? They are now trying to portray their actions as good, as if they have no connection to the events in Tunisia. They are trying to present the food and fuel as gifts from their own pockets, as if they do not come from the peoples’ money, stolen by a system of corruption, brokerage, sales of natural resources, and political and security services to foreign countries and agencies.

Suddenly the Arab regimes have discovered that there are in fact Arab citizens in “their” countries, and those people are not rubble, they also have rights. They are able to move in a moment, and can overthrow the repressive security organs. Their combined worth is more than the budgets of the ministries of education, health, culture and agriculture combined, and their power is stronger than the security bodies, redirected from national mission toward the protection of the ruling families.

Yes, this is the reality of the situation. The revolution in Tunisia, without any bargaining, commenced the immediate feeding of the Arab children, and gave back to the Arab peoples some of their dignity, which had been wasted by the cowardly Arab regimes. Thank you, Tunisia.

The implications of the Tunisian people’s revolution have forced, without bargaining and begging, the majority of Arab rulers to step through an obligatory passage. It has revealed the fragility of the intelligence and police culture that have suppressed and horrified people for decades, the culture, which collapsed suddenly under the march of the Tunisians’ famous poetic rhythm:

If the people one day decided to be, the destiny should (must) respond.

That beautiful, immortal anthem led the Tunisians in their heroic rebellion, not only to bread, as some attempt to portray, but to individual and national dignity.

The ruling Arab regimes had been forgotten in the midst of their selfish anger, along with their immense natural and human resources. Meanwhile the miserable regimes continued portraying the Arab people as beggars at the doors of the colonial powers, as millions migrate to look for jobs or dignity in exile. With tears they look to the shores of the Mediterranean, their memory inhabited by the horses, palms and rivers which shaped human civilization.

The revolution of brave Tunisians does not look like the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which happened behind the illusions and promises of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund; nor does it resemble the so-called "Cedar Revolution" that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri in Lebanon, which in the end targeted the Lebanese resistance. The revolution in Tunisia is deeper than both, because it came out of the original consciousness of active Tunisian social movements. It is the result of amassed perseverance and continued resistance, a reflection of the dynamics that were taking place in the depths of the Tunisian society, which continues to surprise and confuse anyone who tries to approach it outside of its social, political, economic, ethical and national contexts.

The Tunisian revolution does, however, face major challenges, critical questions and most seriously, external interventions coming from overseas or from the nearby regimes. These interventions will not allow the revolution to progress naturally.

I am not speaking here about the internal challenges and questions, because I am sure that the Tunisians are able to deal with them. No one can play the role of teacher to them now. The Tunisians presently occupy the seat of this seat and everyone must sit politely in order to listen and learn from the young people, men and women, those in urban and rural areas, in trade unions and universities, as they insist on continuing the revolution and deny those that try to kidnap it. This is a historical moment, a time to cut politically and culturally with the previous system. The Tunisians know this point clearly and deeply.

However, worry comes in the form of external interference, which will not spare any effort in emptying the Tunisian revolution, separating the desire of the people from the contents of the movement, and distorting it to the point of self-destruction.

The first attempt came quickly. Jeffrey Feltman, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, arrived bearing promises and lies of the sympathy of America, and spoke of the free democratic choice of the Tunisia people, as if their revolution is the practical translation of George Bush and Hillary Clinton’s slogans regarding the deployment of "American democracy.”

This kind of American policy, also supported by the European Union, will attempt to confiscate the most important indicator of the Tunisian’s revolution, namely its originality in every sense of the word. This is because the revolution seeks to topple a very important ally of the White House, and a government model supported by the United States for decades. Feltman will not succeed in hiding his intentions with the nonsense speeches he gives, reminding us that the USA did criticize the human rights violations in Tunisia, during the reign of Ben Ali and his wife. In one word, Feltman will carry only hypocrisy, which reflects the deep concern and fear among the western colonial countries regarding the repercussions of the Tunisian revolution and the risk of its success, linking social aspects and motivations to the political.

The revolution is seen by the U.S. as a dangerous threat against its political hegemony in the region. It disrupts the culture of defeat which promoted the United States’ hard work over the decades. The United States is also fully aware of what the former Labor Party minister and member of Israeli Knesset Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said, “The coups in the Arab world will have a direct impact on Israel that may increase hatred and violence towards it” (Al-Jazeera - 25-1-2011). This was expressed in another way by the Egyptian movement “Kefaya,” meaning “enough”, when they pushed for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, halting gas and oil exportation to Israel and the abolition of the peace agreement (Al –Jazeera.Net. 1/25/2011).

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the revolution in Tunisia is the link between the political and the social, and the insistence of the people to fully cut with the former regime.

It is an authentic (original) revolution because it came as a direct response to the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (the most important tools in the hands of the global capitalist system) that propel world regimes and governments to control and dominate, and to promote a culture of selfishness and consumption, and dependency on the Western colonial countries through support of policies of privatization and the subjugation of the interests of millions of Tunisians for the brutality of market looting.

It is a genuine revolution. It has raised the slogans of freedom, of bread, the right to work, and finally dignity, which is no less important than the others. It is because of dignity that the revolution does not stop only with basic human needs, and skips forward to the political and national rights. It is the most important manifestation of national dignity, which has been trampled and insulted by the majority of the Arab regimes, particularly when they turned the Arab countries and peoples into playgrounds for the arrogance and policies of the United States and its allies, especially Israel. This is exactly what one Tunisian woman meant when she shouted, “The Tunisians revolt for bread and dignity.” The dignity in this context is the equivalent of national pride and glory, a contrast to the political practice that the Arab regimes, which caused the Arab to be ashamed of himself.

This aspect of the revolution is extremely sensitive and significant. There are those who used every possible tactic, money and the media, to prove that the revolution in Tunisia does not go beyond the borders of Tunisia, and its ceiling is limited to the loaf of bread. They tried to send the message that the Tunisian people does not belong to the Arab world, and that he does not feel its pains and aspirations.

This trend is reflected in the official Arab media, which is trying with all its power and potential to convince the Arab peoples that what happened in Tunisia is purely Tunisian. The attempt to see that Tunisia revolution does not go beyond the desire for some basic human needs is a clear attempt to separate the social contexts of the revolution in Tunisia from its political and national contexts. It is also a clear attempt to separate the internal political policies of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime from his foreign politics.

All of this testifies to the fact that the blood of Bouazizi, the Tunisians’ martyrs and the Tunisian people have given a heavy duty to the Arab people, Arab elites, political groups and social forces. And now, their MAIN MISSION is to support the Tunisian revolution, not through everlasting praise or empty advice and well wishes, but through action by social and political movements across the Arab world, in order to connect what began in Tunisia with all Arab countries. Through this the revolution can be protected from the wolves of the new world order and from the Arab regimes which try to thwart and to distort its original context.

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