Blueprint For Change
The uprising in Tunisia continues. The western mainstream media isn't sure what's going on there, because of news blackouts, and so they revert to calling it "rioting" and as the New York Times does this morning, "mayhem." Their confusion is heightened because the regime under fire in Tunisia is the US backed oppressive regime of Zine al-Abidine Bin Ami, and the media has not received clear directions from the US government on which side to back and which to attack, as they have, for instance, in countries the US considers to be enemies of Capital, and US hegemony, like Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. The US State Department seems so far conflicted about Tunisia, and perhaps confused. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is quoted this morning in AFP, the French Associated Press, as saying the US takes no position on the conflict, but earlier the state department spokesman PJ Crowley said we recognize the right of the regime to "protect its citizens" by closing down all Tunisian schools and universities.
I have been following as best I can the events in Tunisia on a Youtube "channel" created by someone, or ones, in Tunisia. Their Youtube member name is TheSoesoe38. Most of the videos are news reports in French, the language of the colonial power in Tunisia until its independence in 1956. TheSoesoe38 has also posted videos produced by Tunisian hip hop artist Hamda Ben-Amor, also known as The General, who was arrested last week after one of his videos, a song called "President, Your People Are Dying," was released. Ben-Amor was later released, I see now.
All TheSoesoe38's posts, and everything in the news coming out of Tunisia contain video people are shooting with hand held cameras and cell phones, which is how any images that are getting out of Tunisia are getting out. These citizen-shot videos provide a fascinating on-the-street perspective of the unfolding rebellion. They also reveal that the protests have broad backing. Young people, old people, women, all are demonstrating, although students and unions are said to be playing a part in organizing them.
The protests in Tunisia are about economic conditions, and oppression, but were sparked by an event. On December 17 Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, who was forced to drop out of college and had been unable to find work of any kind, and was making his living by selling fruits and vegetables on the street, tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire, after police confiscated his fruits and vegetables because he was selling them without a government permit. Bouazizi eventually died of his wounds and the protests have only intensified.
In a screen grab reprinted widely of one of the first mass demonstrations there is one protester in the middle of the crowd holding up a loaf of long bread, shaped like what we call French bread. In one of the latest videos posted by TheSoesoe38, just this morning, which I took a screen grab of and posted above, many of the demonstrators are now holding loaves of bread.
The best selling book in France at the moment was written by a member of the French resistance in World War two to the Nazi occupation of France, Stephan Hessel, who lays out the problems with the existing state of Sarkosy-Neoliberal France, which are almost exactly the problems of Obama-Neoliberal America. Like banks looting the public treasury and the resulting budget deficits being blamed on the working class and government programs that benefit the working class. Like hatred of foreigners fanned by right wing demagogues, and calls for them to be deported.
Peter Montgomery reviews the book in the current World Socialist Web Site and praises the book for laying out what the problems are and calling for change, but in a section of the review that has become a standard part of book reviews on the Left in recent years he also criticizes the book for not including a blueprint for change. It includes no concrete suggestions for what we are to do.
As a result of these kinds of reviews, many books in America of the type Hessel's is, now include suggestions for what can be done. I've read some of these blueprints for change. They are often not well thought out and they always read as if the authors had tacked them on solely to avoid being criticized for not having a blueprint for change.
More importantly though, these blueprints have one other thing in common. Like any blueprint for change that emanates from the Left (or Right for that matter) the new world that their authors envision is invariably one that leaves them in good condition. It's one in which they are not going to have to sacrifice any of their perks and privileges.
In fact I challenge anyone, who has envisioned a better world, to ask themselves if their vision requires them to give up anything.
It's understandable. One of the prime human motivators is the desire to avoid discomfort. Also, having grown up in Capitalist society we are conditioned to crave material comfort, to use it as a replacement for psychological and spiritual comfort. We sell our souls, we work, we say yes sir to the boss and do what he says, to have that big new car, that big new house.
So these blueprints for change are useless. Just let writers agitate, raise peoples' awareness. Let the people decide what to do about it themselves. Give them credit. Give them some respect. Because they will decide anyway, as they are in Tunisia.
In Tunisia, besides the interests that are at stake for the people of Tunisia, these demonstrations make a point I have tried to make before about revolution. That is that despite all the efforts made by those with power to stamp out dissent, despite the chest thumping that goes on whenever it looks like a resistance movement has been defeated or when something happens that can be portrayed as bad news for a Hugo Chavez or a Fidel Castro, the will to resist can never be defeated. There always has been and there always will be revolution. As long as there is oppression and injustice, people will rebel against it.
Revolution is not imported. It is not planned. It does not happen because of some suggestions someone tacks onto the end of a book. Revolution can be sparked by an event, or by speech, but it cannot be created that way. Revolution is a natural act of rebellion against unfairness, injustice, and pain. Revolution is inside of us. It is part of human nature.
No one in Tunisia suggested or wrote a polemic or a blueprint for change saying that as part of our plan, let's all go get loaves of bread. That happened spontaneously. It is becoming a symbol of the resistance. The resistance going on in Tunisia, is like resistance movements that are forever springing up everywhere. They are the result of everyday, normal people just getting sick of an oppressive, dictatorial regime. They are what maintain our hope in these self-centered times when no one in the United States seems to be standing up against the power of Capital, against government wiretapping, against the increasing control, against the searches, against censorship, stupidity, and violence.