Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Distinct Narratives of Revolutions

Anne Applebaum's analysis in The Washington Post on revolutions spreading in the Middle-East correctly shows the patterns in history that repeat. In 1848, revolutions in European nations, have similarities what had and are transpiring in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, and possibly more nations (China?) in the coming days and months.

Revolutions are indeed messy and by its very nature, political changes demanded by general restive populace under the repressive governments / regimes meet heavy handed oppressions by the power in the pulpits who are desperately trying to cling to their slipping illusory controls over the mass that no longer have the fear.

Each of these nations that are going through upheavals that were unthinkable only a few months ago, have commonality in their shared culture and history, but also have stark dissimilarities arising from varied geographical boundaries and political history. Conglomerating protests in all these nations as a single unified Arab revolution may be a misnomer that Anne Applebaum has realized in her well thought out article where she provides the following comment on the diversity of this revolution:
"In the Arab world today we are also watching different peoples with different goals take charge of street demonstrations, each of which must be assessed "in its own context." In Egypt, decisions made by the military may well have mattered as much as the actions of the crowd. In Bahrain, the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is clearly central. The role of "Islam" is not the same in countries as different as Tunisia and Yemen. In Libya, the regime has already shown itself willing to use mass violence, which others have avoided. Tempting though it will be to lump all of these events together and treat them as a single "Arab revolution," the differences between countries may turn out to be more important than their similarities".
History shows that though the initial revolutions may fail for various political (local and international) reasons, like the 1848 revolutions in Germany, France, Austria and other nations, but history also showed that "in the longer run, the ideas discussed in 1848 did seep into the culture, and some of the revolutionary plans were eventually realized". 

One definite difference between the world of 1848 and the world of 21st century that Anne Applebaum did not discuss is the speed that information travels, even when the dictatorial regimes haplessly try to block all forms of freedom of expressions, including banning the foreign journalists entering a nation, cutting off Internet, phones, or television showing patriotic songs or manufactured calmness on the streets, while in reality streets are overflowed by determined protesters who are being ruthlessly beaten, maimed or murdered, and this speed and the adaptive ways the technology can be used to let the wider world know what's the grim reality is, may possess the key accelerating the revolutionary processes in favor of democracy in the end.

Anne Applebaum comments: "Television creates the illusion of a linear narrative, giving events the semblance of a beginning, middle and end. Real life is never like that; 1848 wasn't like that. It's useful to ponder the messiness of history from time to time, because it reminds us that the present is really no different."- true that the messiness of history have the tendency of repeating over and over again, but perhaps present world will prove to be different, with the help of technology, rooting out entrenched weeds and convenient dictators, one by one.

Freedom and democracy are the cherished goals of humanity that eventually defy and overcome the apparent permanence of suppression. The main struggle lies in the afterwords of revolutions.


The above commentary was inspired by the following articles:
  1.  In the Arab World, It's 1848 - not 1989 - By Anne Applebaum. Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/21/AR2011022103310.html 
  2.  Gaddafi's Crime - The Washington Post Editorial - Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/21/AR2011022103233.html
  3.  Gaddafi Loyalists Launch Attacks Against Civilians as Conflict in Libya Escalates - By Sudarshan Raghavan - Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/21/AR2011022104733.htmlhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/21/AR2011022104733.html
  4.  Egypt Seeks to Seize Mubarak's Assets - By Ernesto Londono - Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/21/AR2011022102576.html

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