Saturday, February 12, 2011

"All horizons are open"

As I watched the celebrations, the tumult, the joy in Egypt yesterday, one long-time activist for democracy in Egypt was being interviewed by Al Jazeera. Trying to capture her feeling at this particular moment, the above quote summed up not only her own sense of possibility, but my own sense that what has been happening across North Africa and the Middle East over the past six or so weeks is more than just rearranging the same old pieces on the chess board. With Yemen's long time autocrat vowing neither he nor his son will run for President in upcoming elections; with Jordan's King Abdullah II accepting protesters' demands that the government be replaced; with protests from Mauritania in the far west to under-the-radar YouTube postings from Saudi Arabia have shown, this may well be the beginning of a complete alteration of the nature of political life in the large swath of the Muslim world.

This was already on my mind from hearing this interview last week on NPR. Today, this article was offered up on Al Jazeera's English-language website.
The Egyptian revolution, itself influenced by the Tunisian uprising, has resurrected a new sense of pan-Arabism based on the struggle for social justice and freedom. The overwhelming support for the Egyptian revolutionaries across the Arab world reflects a sense of unity in the rejection of tyrannical, or at least authoritarian, leaders, corruption and the rule of a small financial and political elite.


We are now witnessing the emergence of a movement for democracy that transcends narrow nationalism or even pan-Arab nationalism and which embraces universal human values that echo from north to south and east to west.

This is not to say that there is no anti-imperialist element within the current movement. But the protests in Egypt and elsewhere promote a deeper understanding of human emancipation, which forms the real basis for freedom from both repression and foreign domination.
The whole article deserves to be read, but this central reality - the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and nascent stirrings in other countries are about people seeking to define their nations, their realities, for the very first time - it seems to me is the only way to read events. Even should the revolutions be betrayed in the near or more distant future, they were sparked and made successful by the people of Tunisia and Egypt standing up for the first time and demanding to be heard as the people of Tunisia and Egypt.

Virtual Tin Cup

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