A little over a year after Mohamed Bouazizi put himself on fire in Tunisia, humanity is uniting in an epic race to change our destiny and shape the future.
By Nadim Fetaih
A little over a year ago, on December 17th, 2010, something happened that would change the world. A man, a fruit vendor in Tunisia, burnt himself alive in protest against the gross inhumane actions of the police and inadvertently the Tunisian government. What would follow was a domino effect — one that can never reverse. Since then we have seen the Arab Springs, the European Summer, the American Fall, and soon, the World’s Winter.
On Saturday December 17th, 2011, I had a busy day. It was not only my father’s 61st birthday, but also twin family friends’ 24th birthday, and my friend’s 23rd birthday party. I was running around having drinks, dancing, and having fun conversations. But, throughout the hectic party day, I remembered to have a drink in the memory of that brave fruit vendor. Because of his actions — a truly selfless act on his behalf — came a transcendence of humanity.
Within the fire he lit came a memory long forgotten, a lesson we have had to relearn — sadly, a lesson we have had to learn in blood once again; that the people are the ones with the power. Unity, solidarity, selfless sacrifice all became not simply memories written in history books but acts by the very people around the globe who needed them most.
With his sacrifice came the destruction of “us” and “them” and the creation of a new “we”. Yes we, the indignants of the world, we, the 99%. We have redefined the world’s motion. We have questioned the authority, status quo and the future of the world. We have fought, died, and been arrested. We have been beaten, ridiculed, and feared. Our voices have carried in the wind as a warning to those who bring indignation to humanity in every nation of the globe.
We have camped with one another, understood each other’s stories, views and emotions. We have grown from simply fighting for a nation and fellow citizens to fighting for humanity around the globe. We have done what no other generation could do before; we have destroyed boundaries, borders and means of segregation.
There is no longer an Arab, European, North or South American, or Asian. We have gone beyond these confining definitions to understand that we are all one. We need the same things: dignity, happiness, shelter, food, family, and education. We are all the same, and with this realization came power. None of us are alone. We fight not for ourselves but the men and women around us, for the men and women we do not see, the men and women we have never met. We fight for children born and those who will be born. We fight for a hope, a belief, and a dream that the future can bring a better world for all.
But this is only the beginning. This year has brought much progress, yet we are still behind in the race. Yes, we are running a race for humanity’s future — the “human race”. We started late, not knowing that we could run. But the blaze lit a year ago in Tunisia, lit the fuels laid by years of dormant rage against a system that has failed. Luckily we have thus far been able to use this fuel for the engine we created in the past year. But we mustn’t let ourselves stop.
Soon depression will come. We must be ready to mobilize en masse by then, or be faced with unfocused riots. This will inevitably lead to an iron fist created by the elite around the globe to fall upon the population. We must make peaceful revolution possible, or await violence as an inevitability. The race, then, is about a simple question: who will be ready for it?
Those who are running against us do not want freedom, they do not want democracy, they do not want equality. They want money, they want a population living on their knees, slaves to the chains they have created. They will throw scraps of food off their table to keep us alive and obedient. They will give us reforms to the banking sector, they will create new parties, they will give you false hopes. With this, they take away our fuel and they had done this many times before.
In Egypt, they gave public beheadings of the puppets — the Mubarak family — while ensuring that the power would stay with the puppet masters. The Egyptian people were appeased for some time, cooling down, but they have stood up once more — fighting for their lives against the worst enemy one could imagine: the Military Council.
The same thing happened in 1977 when the Bread Intifada occurred. Subsidies for bread were taken away after the Washington Consensus was imposed upon Egypt. Millions of people took to the streets for a day — the country was on the brink of revolution. Then the government reimposed subsidies to calm the people down. You may think they won, but instead the price of bread rose slowly to become higher than it was when the government pulled out the subsidies long ago. Slowly and steadily, the elite knew people would take it quietly.
This is not simply done in Egypt, but all over the world. Gasoline prices are the perfect example. Three years ago (in Canada at least), the price of gas went from mid 70 cents per litre to $1.30/litre in mere months. People stood up, screaming for change, shouting that something was wrong. The government quickly brought the price down to appease the people. But now, we are lucky to see the price below $1.20/litre. All the while, public transit prices keep on rising.
I urge you, then, not to be appeased by the scraps they throw at us. Do not allow the lack of fuel to stop our engine. We have ingenuity, we have creativity, and above all else we have power in numbers. If we need to we can push our “car” to win this race. But we must not forget that we are still in this race. If we lose it, we lose our humanity. If we lose this race, we lose any possibility of change. We will lose our environment, we will lose any dignity we have been able to hold.
But if we win, we — the indignant, the 99%, you and I — can reshape the world. We can allow humanity to progress towards levels never seen before. Our technology is at the cusp of evolution. Society is on the cusp of evolution. Humanity is on the cusp of evolution. We need only push it further with our victory over the elite. If not, not even George Orwell nor Aldous Huxley could imagine the distopian society we will live in — a society some already see now.
We started fast, but we cannot lose our speed. We have a duty to each other to continue. We have a duty to those who have died to continue. We have a duty to a man who burnt himself alive in protest. A man who sparked a global movement. A man who shocked our hearts into beating once more. Let us make this winter the winter of the elite’s discontent. Let us unite around the globe. Let us learn from one another. Let us find new ways to run this race.
Let me finish this reflection off with a couple of notes. First, the only reason we are thrown scraps, the only reason they give us reforms, is because the elite fear us. Second, reforms are nothing but the delay of inevitability. Do not be appeased by them. The system is the problem — it must go, revolution must come. Finally, let the World Winter come. We are 7 billion strong as we run this race. But in order to win, we must destroy the demons within us first. The key word is consensus. Have the fluidity to constantly change the definition of your self — never close yourself off.
This reflection was made in solidarity with the revolutionaries around the globe; from Khaled Said and the Tunisian fruit vendor, to the students in Tienanmen Square, to the brave men and women in Yemen, Syria, and Libya who have stayed peaceful against the foul bludgeoning of lead. For all those who are bloody, beaten, bruised, tired and still fighting, I leave you with a great poem by William Earnest Henley:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Nadim is a Canadian-Egyptian filmmaker. His first documentary, A Tale of Two Revolutions, is scheduled to be released this year.