Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The Smell of Revolution
Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" was more coffee than perfume - a sign of morning, beginnings, waking up. And smell is the most penetrating, intangible, evocative of senses. It feels almost unreal. You can't hold it, suppress it, drive it away. It is the cumulative force of masses of people rising up, self-motivated, determined, as a wall of uncompromising resistance. This pungent, irresistible smell aroused latent rebellious urges in the masses of Arabs who live undeer the most draconian and fervent oppressions and tyrannies. The Jasmine Revolution is the aphrodisiac of freedom grasped by force of desire and will power shared as a wall of mass, spontaneous rebellion. Who will be inspired by it? Millions. Who will take action?
The Western media categorizes the threat to Arab regimes as "North African", specifying Libya, Algeria, and Egypt. Morocco doesn't play well into this, since Mohammad VI has managed to ease authoritarian rule and give a strong impression of freedom-to-be-released from its cage. But the others are ripe for picking. Overripe, one could say.
Going further east, one shouldn't ignore the totalitarian regimes in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan - and while we're at it, the Gulf States (although like Morocco, they are liberalized to the point of losing that draconian dictatorship vibe).
All these countries have large populations under varying degrees of oppression - notably large populations of unemployed youth, the very group that spearheaded the Jasmine Revolution. Youth unemployment is a huge problem in the Arab world - for example, Saudi Arabia. But will they revolt? There's a strong tradition of top-down authoritarianism that dominates the thinking of many young Saudis, especially the zealots for whom religion is a prime motivator. The reason is not Islam - contrary to popular (Western) opinion, it's very pro-democratic - nor Arab culture - no Pharaohs in that tradition either. Rather, it's the Wahhabi tendency to micromanage people's lives that created a culture of behavioral policing that in turn lends to totalitarian policies and practices. This itself makes a Saudi revolution implausible, as a micromanaged crowd cannot rise up in a focused, forceful way.
Syria's and Jordan's leaders managed to give off a bungling, human, reasonable vibe that makes them not so easy to universally despise. Masses need to unite with rage. And a human face on the leader diminishes that rage in many. As for Libya's Gaddafi, in spite of his people's contempt for him, he manages to appear less self-indulgent and authoritarian than just a wild and crazy guy. So we're left with Egypt and Algeria as the most likely countries to smell the coffee.
Egypt is the place where that pungent smell should - and will - resonate most. Mubarak is universally despised. His cronies have proven themselves as positively evil - raping and torturing opponents, humiliating and ignoring huge parts of the population. The gap between rich and poor is both vast and also humiliating. The poor barely survive. Education is a joke. Housing is ad hoc. The government is a bureaucracy of bribes and bribes alone. Nothing is as it seems or as it is officially claimed to be. Government officials cannot live off salaries, but must - no real alternative is there - live off bribes. Corruption is so rampant - for years! - that there is no meaning to the word "government" or in fact most of the words used for public display.
Mubarak himself has no domestic policy whatsoever. He leaves that to a brutal police trained in suppression, oppression, draconian rule, and crowd control methods that would shock the world had they been ussed on, noty animals, but insects. Thye individual Egyptian does not even register on the government's radar as a cypher. He/she is nothing, below nothing, a creature without meaning or value who still poses a potential threat - and therefore is an enemy - to Mubarak and his ruling class - a small elite so deprived of moral values that they would be better replaced by robots who at least may run on logic.
Mubarak's sole interest is foreign policy. By appearing with foreign leaders, he creates the impression of being a leader, doing great things, having a job, not being what he really is: a gigantic, monstrous obstacle to human life, success, hope, faith, survival, health, or any semblance of humanity for millions of people.
It is illegal in Egypt for more than two people to walk together. Mubarak's prime minister, Nazif, claimed repeatedly, including in an interview with Charlie Rose, that the Egyptian people are not ready for democracy. He lied. Only he, and his master's voice, the wizard of Toz (which in Arabic means "so what" or "to hell with it"), Mubarak.
Of all places in the world, Egypt needs to smell the revolution, to wake up, to stop the fear, to rise up as one mass, to forget about death. Is death really worse than this desperation-without-purpose that passes for life? And to stand en masse, as one gigantic, irrepressible, eloquent, unbeatable, recalcitrant, immoveable force forging at last their own will, freedom to be, once again, at least, people, human, not caged and bused and humiliated animals.
It is time to forget the fear of loss, of being attacked. If the force gains enough momentum, police and media will turn against the evil dictator and help that force to force him out - him and his collaborators - in shame. This is a moment to sieze now - not let dissipate. The coffee's in the air. The perfume, the aphrodisiac of liberty wafts far and wide. The quarry quivers, has not yet bolstered his defenses, is afraid. Now is the moment - THE MOMENT - to make Mubarak's fears realized, to bring his worst nightmares to life, as he brought his peoples' worst nightmares to life and extended them to the forseeable future.
Now is the moment to have a future, to give children a future. For life under oppression is not life. Faith under oppression is not faith. Love under oppression is not love. Hope under oppression is not hope.
Do not wait for a plan, a leader, an army. The plan is to rise up, all without exception, and each man, woman, and child is a leader when they join the force of revolution and rebellion against the evil that is Mubarak. The only force that can destroy such uncompromising evil. The smell of revolution will blow and it will either reach people's hearts and minds, or fall to the ground, lost forever. It is a choice. and the wrong choice is an unacceptable disaster.
One cannot do it alone. Neighbors, neighborhoods, whole swaths of people, a whole nation rising up with one voice is a force even a brutal dictator like Mubarak cannot fight. Think of the day after - a day when Mubarak flees with his family and cronies never to return. Can there be any greater, unmitigated joy, shared by millions, than that?