Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Arab spring has seen dignity being clawed back

Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation took place a year ago today. Since then, a new and profound reality has emerged

Martin Chulov
, Saturday 17 December 2011

".....As I stood in the clinical calm of an intensive care unit, chanting from demonstrators outside started to drift through the hospital corridors. "Down with the Khalifas," was one defiant cry from thousands of Bahrainis who were using the ambulance zone as a protest hub. And then came another, far more poignant chant: "We don't fear you anymore." Time after time throughout this past 12 months, comprehending the Arab awakening has come back to this....

Personal dignity is paramount in the Arab world, perhaps more so than anything else. When a Tunisian vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself alight after an official slapped him and refused to renew a permit for his vegetable cart it was seen across the region as far more dignified than desperate.

The resonance of Bouazizi's story was enormous and the means of telling it electrifying. The reach and impact of pan-Arab cable television and social media was far greater than any dictator could control.

Bouazizi's tale and millions like it destroyed the default position that an individual's destiny was largely outside his or her control. A new and profound reality has emerged – self-determination is not only possible, it is an entitlement....

There are some lingering problems, though, some of which are legacies of the past three to four decades. Accountability, on any level, remains largely absent in Arab society, which is structured around an entrenched system of patronage, where powerful figures dispense favours at will, often subverting natural justice.

And, despite the widespread access to a plurality of views, independent, or critical thought, is not common. World views are largely aligned behind sect, or leader. Despots such as Bashar al-Assad and Mubarak have spent decades de-educating and impoverishing people to the point where several generations have limited knowledge, skills or wealth, or means to do much about it...."

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