This Domino Effect that began in Tunisia, with Bou Azizi setting himself on a fire that has ignited flames of revolution throughout the Arab World, should not obscure the fact that all these Arab nations have been sitting on human time bombs. What Bou Azizi did, without intending to, was set the timers to zero.
The level of oppression and the extreme absence of freedom of expression in the Arab World should not be viewed as a sign of backwardness, but in fact as a sign of strong will and desire to be free. If people were obedient sheep, you wouldn’t need the level of sophistication in the security apparatus to keep them under control. It is precisely because the people have been consistently rejecting the brainwash dosages that they need to be beaten by the stick to conform.
But with Bou Azizi, they crossed the line in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Unlike the impoverished in the developed world, Bou Azizi knew exactly the source of his impoverishment: government policy! No amount of neo-liberal economic indoctrination could convince someone like Bou Azizi that it was his own actions or his lack of motivation and effort that led to his misery. That is why when he insisted on making a living by selling produce (because his self-pride and self-respect did not allow him to become a beggar) and the government tried to take that away from him, with humiliating slaps and spits to his face in broad daylight and in public, he said “no more,” by setting himself on fire, to say to his oppressors that they may take away his produce, his wealth, and his life, but they may never take his freedom and dignity.
Like a great warrior delivering a motivation speech to his soldiers on the battlefield, Bou Azizi struck a chord in every Tunisian soul that penetrated all political, religious, and philosophical beliefs. Everyone felt what Bou Azizi felt, and the bravest got up first, realizing that it was time to give up their lives if they had to, to retrieve their freedom and dignity. For they knew that if Bou Azizi can’t hold onto his dignity, then no one else can. And so, the flames of Bou Azizi’s self-emulation spread throughout the entire Arab World, at varying degrees. But why haven’t these Arab governments been able to contain the uprisings?
The West, based on their experience with protests and demonstrations, advised the obvious course of action: “do nothing! Let them demonstrate God damn it! Let them protest and vent their anger! Do not shoot live ammunition; do not brutalize them. How hard can that be?” Indeed, how hard?
Oh but the Arab dictators ignored that advice completely. They ignored it in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Yemen, in Bahrain, in Syria, in Algeria, and most definitely in Libya! Are we to believe that Arab rulers are dumb? Even Mubarak, the greatest US ally after the House of Saud, disobeyed clear instructions not to resort to violence, and literally went medieval on his own people, with camels, horses, swords, and whips. Why? Why not let the people demonstrate freely, and by not retaliating with brutal force you actually prove to them that things are not as bad as they seem, like they do in US demonstrations?
In the US, over 500,000 people protested in New York alone, and thousands of others in different parts of the country, to oppose the soon-to-begin Iraq war. They demonstrated for hours, while the police stood by and made room, and then the demonstrations were over and everyone went back to their normal lives, eating BigMacs, smoking and drinking, and watching sitcoms on television.
Ah! But Arab dictators know very well that such a formula would not work on Arab populations. Instead, the idea is to resort to violence immediately, and at an excessive scale from day one, in order to dissuade others from joining them the next day. Of course, they’ll blame the governor or mayor for the deaths and force him to resign, to keep the central government’s, i.e. the dictator’s, hands clean, just in case it doesn’t work, they can still appear humane (this is where Qaddafi was dumb; he bloodied his hands from day one). So the despot kills, injures, and detains a percentage large enough to psychologically dissuade those observing from their comfortable sofas at home from thinking about joining the peaceful demonstrations the next day. Then he sits at home and crosses his fingers and hopes that the next morning no butler will wake him up to the news of more and greater demonstrations.
Why not let the peaceful demonstrations run peacefully for the most part, as happens in developed countries? Because, first of all, unlike developed nations, the Arab world did not separate between politics and economy. In America, for example, the true dictators are America’s corporate CEOs. No government official is allowed to have a part-time job in some corporation. Sure, an individual can switch careers back and forth, but can’t have both at the same time. In the Arab World, however, the king, the president, the head of the army, and the owner of the media and the Arab world’s fortune 500 are practically the same gang! Even the least educated redneck in the Arab world knows that!
Arab dictators have already used their wildest card: absolute fear. They have taught their people that they have the right to barge into their homes in the middle of the night and disappear people, who go missing indefinitely, with no appeal and no recourse. Stories and videos of Abu Ghraib style torture, rape, and murder were intentionally sunk into the people’s heads, by the government, in order to keep them under control.
The question that begs… since Arab dictators know this very well; since they know that these Arab demonstrators in the streets are very aware of the brutality and torture and murder and rape that awaits them, can’t these despots see that the people are no longer afraid? Can’t they see that Bou Azizi, and everyone that followed him in the domino effect, had shown them the way? Can’t they see that when people demonstrate against brutality, that more brutality would only empower them and remind them why they must demonstrate?
Yes, the Arab dictators have already used their wildest card; their strongest suit. What more horror can they inflict upon the people than torture, rape, and death? No, the question is, what do Arab dictators know of, when it comes to communicating with their people, other than using the bottom of their shoes?
When the slave-owner grew up believing that the way to control the slave and get him to do what he’s supposed to do is to stomp his face with a boot, what other enlightenment can be expected to fall upon this slave-owner to change his mind? Imagine an Indian worker (slave) in some Gulfy country telling his Arab “sponsor” that he will not only refuse to do the work, but that he also wants to replace his sponsor with another one who is more worthy. How would this Arab slave-owner react? Wouldn’t he slap the Indian man to the ground? Wouldn’t he feel like he would lose his manhood and respect if he did not do that? Wouldn’t his silence encourage other slaves to rise up and make similar demands?
And that is exactly what these modern Abu Sufyans are thinking when they see their own people rise and demand their rights. The first thought that crosses their mind is: “Look at these ungrateful sons of bitches! Protesting, aih? Well I’ll give you something to protest about!” Basically, if you want to know what runs inside the mind of an Arab dictator, listen to Qaddafi’s speeches. The only difference between him and the other despots is that he is insane enough to say it out loud.
When the dictators have used their wildest card, their strongest suit, then they have really run out of tricks, and their days become numbered. They’re just too proud to accept the inevitable. And this current game of changing faces (instead or regimes) won’t last too long. The Bou Azizi momentum cannot be reversed — fear has left the building.Filed Under arab dictators, arab league, Arab politics, arab world, Bou Azizi, Egypt, egyptian revolution, politics, Sarakenos, syria, tunisia, tunisian revolution, Yemen