Sunday, February 12, 2012

The miracle generation

Marwan Bishara

"Editor's note: This article is the third of a series of excerpts that Al Jazeera will be publishing from The Invisible Arab: The promise and peril of the Arab revolutions. You can also read an excerpt from the preface, and from chapter one, L'Ancien Regime.

....The Arab youth increasingly comprise a modern, transnational tribe that bypasses borders, religion, and social strata. As a distinctly modern social construct, the youth transcend traditional hierarchy in favour of open and pluralistic characteristics. Thanks in no small part to the information revolution and its twin byproducts "new media" and "social media", Arab youth have developed their own social and cultural codes and jargon. They share opinions and experiences freely, and, in the process, have established a diverse Arab community that is creative and innovative.....

Making and empowering individualism

The new media has had an important cultural, even sociological, role to play in patriarchal Arab societies. It helped young people break free from social constraints, it propelled them into uncharted territory, and it helped them mould a certain type of individualism. They began to enjoy an uninhibited space where they could share information and experiences, join chat rooms, and participate with one another.

Theirs is a newfound egalitarianism that contradicts the intrinsically hierarchal and inhibiting sociopolitical system. Paternalism was replaced with collegial relations; censorship was replaced by free expression. Internet citizens were not judged according to gender, ethnicity, age, or class - but on individual contributions, ability, and wit. Indeed, identities could be invented or tailored to fit personal taste or fantasy.

With no fear of retribution, Arab citizens set out to express themselves as free souls, as sovereign members of a community of individuals that is as real as the world they inhabit. They choose on the basis of free will, devoid of social and political pressures - joining, subscribing, sharing, reading, saving, deleting, working, investing, playing, as well as making friends, starting romances, joining global activism, speaking foreign languages, and communicating across borders with no limits and with no Big Brother watching over their shoulders.....

The youth have sparked a revolution not only in the public squares, but also in the minds and hearts of those long subdued by repression, broken by oppression, domesticated with proverbial carrots, or deterred by sticks. But if these old warriors were down, they weren't out. In no time, people of all types and age were awakened by the calls for change and encouraged by the will of the youth to go all the way."

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