I realise there are quite a few people who follow on here who will not have seen me post this elsewhere. Here is my article I wrote for the International Observatory on Stability and Conflict, and I'm thrilled with the result. Check out the OISC's website for further analysis on the evolving situation of the global protests. So happy to have collaborated with them.
Last spring, the western world watched with wonder and bewilderment the people once under colonialist submission rise to defend their right to self-determination. Concepts such as one man-one vote, direct suffrage, equality for all, redistribution of wealth and freedom of the press were defended amidst blood and sweat, the very same price western peoples paid for their freedom two centuries ago. More importantly, the western world watched as unarmed, young protesters without leaders made decades-long dictatorships fall, in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and more bloodily, in Libya. The once apathetic American youth received a massive electrical shock in 2008; placing all its hopes and dreams on the sole shoulders of President Obama, their activism is now focused against their own leader: corporate greed, corporate personhood, and corporate domination has to fall. The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread nationwide, is unarmed, without a leader, and is very much hoping to reclaim the American Dream. 2011 could be the year of worldwide successful revolutions; it could be the new Dawn of the People. But what are the consequences of such massive political overhaul? Is Occupy Wall Street the child of the Arab Spring, in a reverse clash of civilizations? Journalist Susan Richards-Benson, on the foreground of the new era, gives us a compelling analysis.
“One man, lighting himself on fire in protest of a continued reign of tyranny, through his actions lit a fire in the souls of people around the world”
The world today is trembling, and not just from the movements of its crust. People around the globe are unknowingly uniting together against one front: fighting the continued abuse of power that for so many years went ignored.
It all started with one small country. One man, lighting himself on fire in protest of a continued reign of tyranny, through his actions lit a fire in the souls of people around the world. What started in Tunisia quickly spread to Egypt. It wasn’t long before surrounding countries also began to feel the heat. The spirit of Revolution had been awakened. But this time, people were not going to simply sit back quietly and accept the tirade of excuses presented by the powers that be. This time, the power of the people would triumph and their voices would be heard.
The Arab Spring sent shockwaves throughout the world. For many sitting in the comfort of their living rooms in the United States, there seemed little reason to be worried. These were countries far away with political policies that barely impacted their everyday lives. How could the United States possibly have anything to fear with the growing tides of revolution in the Middle East?
“Is it possible that people currently in New York really share the same grievances as the Egyptian youth staked out in Tahreer Square?”
The Occupy Wall Street movement serves as a reminder that revolutionary spirit is not limited to developing countries only. As more protesters flood the streets of New York, activists begin looking to protesters across the Atlantic for inspiration on how to best keep the momentum moving. If the revolution in Egypt proved anything, it was the power of social networking to inspire and unite. As with the Occupy Wall Street protests, media outlets initially ignored the growing tensions in both Egypt and Tunisia, leaving it to the protesters themselves to get the word out. Facebook and Twitter have proven to be monumental tools in coordinating protests, garnering support, updating on developments, and ultimately breaking through the blackout wall erected by both regimes and media outlets.
But how similar are the movements in reality? Is it possible that people currently in New York really share the same grievances as the Egyptian youth staked out in Tahreer square?
To answer this question, one must first examine what the root causes behind the protests really are. Are they simply the disgruntled and unemployed who have nothing better to do with their time? Or are they in fact the great majority of a population who have simply tired of being trodden on and suppressed by the ruling elite?
Egyptian society during the Mubarak era was highly striated; the difference between Egyptian and U.S. social hierarchies is that in Egypt, this societal structure is well known and documented. But now, due to global protests, more and more people in the U.S. are realizing that class warfare exists in their home country also. The fundamental difference between the two countries is that in Egypt, people came to accept this hierarchy as an absolute truth, whereas in the U.S. there is always hope that the “American dream” will become a reality if you work just that little bit harder, just that little bit longer.
The Egyptian revolutionary youth broke through this mentality. During the January Revolution, young and old, rich and poor, Muslims and Christians stood side by side united in their cause. Together, they toppled a regime that had kept them under lock and key for three decades. Together, through the power of the people they triumphed. Now however, Egypt is witnessing attempts to rip apart this social fabric that was so carefully woven during the Revolution. Egyptian media outlets are continuously dominated by stories of Muslims attacking Christian churches, of Christian business owners attacking their Muslim neighbors’ store front. It smacks of methods previously employed; methods which had successfully implanted in many minds of Egyptian citizens that they were not all equal and did not all deserve the same chances in life. It is an attempt to sabotage the undeniable solidarity that pushed Hosni Mubarak out of power to begin with.
Protesters in Wall Street should be watching carefully as these tactics are employed throughout Egypt. They too are facing similar tactics, with smear campaigns circulating the very social networks they used to get their message out in the first place. A picture is being painted of social activists who are merely attempting to stir up trouble, and true patriots should never question the ruling elite. It’s worked for centuries has it not? Why rock the boat now?
“They have learned a valuable lesson; one that should be translated to protesters throughout the rest of the world. In order for the power of the people to triumph, it must be united.”
To this day, many Egyptian protesters are still taking to the streets, despite the lacking media coverage to emphasize their cause. Despite attempts to stir up sectarian tensions amongst everyday citizens, Muslims and Christians together are presenting one voice, one united front: “We are the revolutionary youth. We are all Egyptians.” They have learned a valuable lesson; one that should be translated to protesters throughout the rest of the world. In order for the power of the people to triumph, it must be united. To allow attempts to divide individuals or groups, to plant the idea that one person is somehow more entitled than the next will only serve the very ruling elite people are rebelling against.
Now is the time for governments that were built for the people and by the people to listen to their citizens. To acknowledge their past mistakes. To accept that further dividing a country and its citizens will never succeed. If Egypt proved anything, it is that one voice alone cannot change anything, but a million voices united in a cause can give birth to a new country – to a new future.
As Alexander Solzhenitsyn once said “You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.”