Saturday, December 17, 2011
December 17 2010: The Man Who Changed the World
What a year. Twelve months ago today, a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest his treatment by Tunisian cops. Tunisia was run by the corrupt and repressive regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Severely burned, Bouazizi died after several weeks in a coma in the hospital.
His actions set off a wave of protest in Tunisia that eventually brought down the Tunisian government, the first success of the so-called Arab spring. Ben Ali was kicked out of Tunisia. A wave of protest soon swept the entire world, opening the lid off repressive regimes and confronting the illusions of so-called Western regimes alike.
While it's too early to report the last year as an unqualified success, exactly, the world looks quite different than it did before Bouazizi's selfless and heroic act of martyrdom and resistance. Dictatorships are gone, and to be sure some have been replaced with the potential seeds of new ones, and some protests have faced the brute force of suppression.
But suddenly there is possibility like never before. Even here in the United States people out in the street are awakening to the possibility of direct democracy through direct action: by awakening to the gulf between the 99% and the 1%; by actually engaging in the class war that has up until now only been waged against us; by organizing ourselves in the Occupy Together/#Occupy Wall Street movement, now the future looks different than it did before.
Mohammed Bouazizi gave his life, but he planted a seed. It's now our responsibility, as people together, to nourish that seed and help it blossom.
(Illustration of Muhammad Bouazizi from Brazilian politican cartoonist Carlos Latuff via What If I Get Free?)