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Tunisia: This is Not (Yet) A Revolution

January 17, 2011


"If the people will to live, providence is destined to favorably respond; and night is destined to fold, and the chains are certain to be broken; and he who has not embraced by the love of life, will evaporate in its atmosphere and disappear."

What we all have witnessed in Tunisia over the past week was the First West Asian/North African Revolution since 1979. But, I feel, the term “revolution” may not fit perfectly…yet.

Revolution” is predicated on the fundamental change of power structures. What happened in Tunisia was the removal, ultimately, of the Face of the Power Structure. Ben Ali was the head of a corrupt and repressive regime that governments, particularly in Europe and North America, where all too pleased to glorify and support. All the studies by the World Bank, IMF, and others highlighted Tunisia as a shining beacon for the rest of the region – never mind the torture, the brutality, and the pain of the Tunisian people. Like we are all too fond of saying here at ewz, so long as retired Europeans have a place to frollick in the sun, err…whateverz.

While Mohammed Bouazizi may have ‘sparked’ the revolution, literally, by burning himself after police confiscated his license as a street fruit vendor, the seeds for this were already planted decades ago. The countdown to the end of a dictator always begins when he sits on his throne. In Tunisia, a lot of things had to come together over long periods of time to allow these recent events to move so quickly: for over two decades, the Tunisian people had to bear the brunt of a police state physically, but also socio-economically; years of brutality, economic hardships, the growth of Al-Jazeera and Arab satellite news (which beamed footage everywhere), the Internet and social networking (which allowed people to plan, share information, and mobilize), and WikiLeaks (which added fuel to the fire, by disclosing US Diplomatic Cable documents regarding corruption in the country).

These seemingly independent entities flourished, played with each other, and shot out into different directions. They were all political butterflies flapping their wings, which set off the Jasmine hurricane (ah, the media and its infatuation with colour-coding every political movement that has happened over the last 10 years).

This is the experience of many citizens in North Africa and West Asia – who, mind you, are young and don’t have much to look forward to in the system. Ben Ali, and his blood ties, may be gone, but the infrastructure of control and power are still the same – his friends, his partners, and his allies still remain, the army currently in control and are still the same, and things are still volatile.

It is a change, but it is not a fundamental change. Ergo, it is not a revolution…yet.

This does not mean it was not important. The change in Tunisia is evident: the power of the ‘people’ tore apart an invisible barrier for the rest of the people in the region. Many Arab Leaders and their “Western” friends are quietly watching this and they are probably reassessing things – this means things can get better, or worse. For a fleeting moment, the Arab public are electrified, and small shock waves are happening in Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan. Will this grow? Most likely not, but there is that possibility, ever so slight, which in itself has so much meaning and power for the rest of us in the West Asian region.

It is a powerful lesson in illustrating how the world has become exceedingly tied tightly together, and how this monstrosity, known as the Internet, played a roll in accelerating the situation. It also shows how completely isolated Arab regimes are from their people, the continuing idiocy of the American Administration, and the changing power-dynamics of the 21st century.

Tunisia, for now, has awoke a notion that’s been slumbering for a long, long time. We can’t keep living like this.

The question remains: What’s next?

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