Completely unintentionally, revolution has been the theme of this week. I read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy Of The Oppressed and saw the musical Fela! courtesy of the National Theatre broadcast. The South Africa retelling of the story of Christ (Son of Man) mirrored Fela! remarkably – for good and ill. The documentary on Antonio Negri (A Revolt That Never Ends) explored the workers movements in Italy in the 70′s, and his academic work on the Multitude since his time in prison.
In the meantime, protests have rocked the Arab world. The causes are not all the same (flood response in Jeddah, government repression/hung parliament in Lebanon) but have generally been popular uprisings, the likes of which have never been seen on this scale. Tunisia and Algeria led the way, and Egypt looks like it will succeed with removing Mubarak (read Sharif Kouddous’s take to get up to speed). The Palestine Papers have gutted any illusions once held of the Palestinian Authority, and Israel is going to have a hell of a time justifying their occupation of Gaza with a weak or deposed PA and no Mubarak. Parallel protests have erupted in Jordan and Yemen, and Syria & Iran are already suppressing communications in advance of what they fear would be more of the same.
I’m sure I’m missing some, but the gist is that we want to see Arabs take on their own destinies. As Freire writes:
Resolution of the oppressor-oppressed contradiction indeed implies the disappearance of the oppressors as a dominant class. However, the restraints imposed by the former oppressed on their oppressors, so that the latter cannot reassume their former position, do not constitute oppression. An act is oppressive only when it prevents people from being more fully human. Accordingly, these necessary restraints do not in themselves signify that yesterday’s oppressed have become today’s oppressors. Acts which prevent the restoration of the oppressive regime cannot be compared with those which create and maintain it
What can be done if you’re not there? Well, if you’re American, you can salvage whatever’s left of American credibility by insisting to your representatives that all aid be cut to Mubarak – it comes to about 1.3 billion annually, and is how Mubarak has funded the tear gas and bullets used against the protesters, as well as the torture outlined in the Wikileaks cables. It’s too little, and too late, but it’s better than nothing.
Likewise, if you’re American, think long and hard before supporting Lieberman’s delusions about an Internet Kill Switch – all too similar to the apparatus Mubarak used to kill internet in Egypt in an attempt to stymie the protesters. If you’re a hacker, get involved with building the next-gen net – one that is more resilient, more secure. Activists, learn how to use cutting-edge technology to your advantage. On the flip side, read this report on how Tunisia nearly obtained the Facebook credentials of the entire country – technology can enable repression as well as freedom.
Canadians should watch the ombudsman’s report on the illegal – yes, illegal – police actions that characterized the G20 in Toronto last year.
For a view beyond this week, read Chibli Mallat’s interview with the Browser on maverick political thought, recommended literature, and what Sharia should be.
In closing; two different people posed the question to me this week, asking why the sort of movement we are seeing in Egypt is not happening/not possible in the United States. I have some thoughts, but let’s hear from you first.
Jordan Peacock is a non-citizen, learning through trial and error how to transform through love; with his spouse, children and world.