There’s a lot to process. In seeing fellow humans push back against tyranny and succeed – even if only for a moment – you are filled with rush of happiness and contentment. Upon looking closer – other observations present themselves.
The LA Times has a pretty good run down of the run up to revolution. In essence it is clear much of the pressure came from economic and social inequality. The corporate elites who truly run this country have noticed (and are concerned). It is also clear that it was the military that played the deciding role (though the unions helped immensely):
Gen. Rachid Ammar, the army chief of staff, has yet to explain his role in the uprising. But officials and diplomats close to the 45,000-strong force say that he probably feared a rift within the army if the soldiers were ordered to fire on demonstrators.
As the UGTT announced a general strike for Jan. 14 and activists began calling for a massive protest, it may have been the army that called on Ben Ali’s trusted Interior Ministry forces to stand down.
“If the police fired on the people, [Ammar] told them, the army will take up positions against the police,” said a Western source with extensive contacts in the military. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
Had the military been on the side of the government things might have turned out slightly different.
The media has gone into a frenzy over the use of twitter and facebook – as expected. The internet loves to navel gaze, and media desperate for page views loves to capitalize on that. It notable, just perhaps not in the causal way that’s being implied.
There is the possibility these protests will spread – but will they have the same impact? The answer likely lies in the reactions of the military and police forces for the various countries experiencing newly inspired protesters.
Are there any lessons here for us? Perhaps. Perhaps the growing distrust of corporations – and resentment at the ability of the ultra rich to enjoy all the fruits of our labor with none of the risks or responsibilities – will lead to social unrest. We are facing:
- New norms of high unemployment
- Employment at lower paying jobs with less necessities (calling “health care” a benefit is a cruel lie)
- General “austerity” measures force needed government services (police, education, hospitals – all getting hit hard)
- A society still drifting towards complete police state status
- Massive amounts of propaganda from news outlets like FOX scape goating liberals and Muslims for everything from national security worries to job losses
This is a recipe for political and social instability on a grand scale. Whether it might lead to a positive outcome is a depressing thought were it not so darkly amusing. The lesson from Tunisia is that social and economic distress combined with repression can and will lead to action. With all the misinformation out there it isn’t encouraging to think what the nature of that action might be, or who might be targeted.