For Americans, it must be odd seeing a nation of Muslims overthrowing their leaders in the name of freedom from tyranny and corruption.
I’ve been watching the Tunisian “Jasmine Revolution” from afar, not quite sure how to report on the events — watching as world media conglomerates attempt to frame the rebellion on their terms: to give context and simplify, dilute it to the point that it becomes simply unrest. To call it unrest, or violent insurrection is to miss the point.
Every event is precipitated by something. The recent trend amongst mainstream media and government officials is to deny that the roots of the insurrectionist fervor run deeper than mere joblessness — as if unemployment were the only thing that will cause people to rise up against their corrupt leaders and oppressors.
No, joblessness only brings it home to would-be rebels and insurrectionists. Most people just want a job to provide for themselves and their family; to create a sense of fulfillment in a life’s work (if they’re lucky); or to just survive. Take that away from a man and he’s liable to do anything — especially as the elite enjoy the fruits of corruption. And to deny that the wealthy elite swim in pools of shimmering abundance while others beg for scraps and plead for jobs is to deny reality. More than that, it is to willingly approve of the state of affairs and to become complicit in the lie.
But, again, Tunisia’s unemployment rates are not the cause of this rebellion. It is something more primal, encoded in the very DNA of humanity: the sublime and eternal truth that the human will wishes to see the many government abuses redressed, or institutions altered completely. The joblessness merely removes the filter — exposes the collective hallucination. Joblessness is the symptom of a system that is unraveling before our very eyes.
Which is why we hear every government official, economist and pundit speak of getting people back to work ad nauseum. Get the people back to work and they will quiet down, shut the fuck up — and the hallucination can drop back down like a cloud of medicine.
Marx was wrong: jobs, not religion, are the opiate of the masses.
What we’re seeing in Tunisia is the truth breaking free. The Tunisian government has tried to cauterize the truth by replacing ousted leaders with new ones in order to ensure a continuity of government. A unity government was attempted, but 1,000 protestors took to the streets yesterday, chanting:
“Citizens and martyrs, the government is still the same… We will protest, we will protest, until the government collapses!”
Five new cabinet members resigned as a result, according to the New York Times. Men have immolated themselves because of a range of issues, from suppression of free speech to food inflation. Mohamed Bouazizi, for instance, set himself alight after his fruit and vegetable cart was confiscated. Ben Ali’s government slaughtered scores of people in response to the protests. Now he’s fled the country. Tyrants always know when to leave.
What can Americans and others learn from Tunisia?
That what is happening in Tunisia is a microcosm of what is happening all over the world. This is only the beginning. I’m not predicting widespread revolution for every country in the world in the short term. But as the population continues to explode, food shortages become more common, the tentacles of businesses and government corruption suffocate the last vestiges of living democratic flesh, and free speech is rendered a thing of the past — what has happened in Tunisia, indeed, what has happened in Greece and other places, will become the norm.
And there will be two sides: One side will consist of wealthy elite and tyrants like Ben Ali (plenty of this type in America), and the other will consist of everyone else — the underprivileged, the forgotten, the expendable… superior in number and superior in virtue.
And if the latter wasn’t the case, this world would be a very different place.