Let Them Have Cake
The word Revolution comes from the Latin word Revolutio, which literally translates into “a turn around.” The term refers to a fundamental shift in the current state of affairs whether it pertains to a political system, social institution or cultural ideology. The world has seen many revolutions in its tenure, with the most recent one taking place in Tunisia, followed by Egypt.
The self-immolation of Mohammad Bouazizi on the 17th of Dec, 2010 sparked a wave of protests that resulted in the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali within 28 days. He had been ruling the country for the past 23 years. People took to the streets as a result of rampant corruption, rapid inflation and unemployment as well as the claustrophobic atmosphere created by the government as far as freedom of speech and human rights go. The Tunisian people did not give up till they got what they want, showing the world that it is possible to overturn oppressive governments. They showed the world that it was possible to take your own fate in your hands and agitate peacefully for a brighter democratic future, free from dictators and tyrants.
The whole world was watching but only Egyptians were really listening. Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets on January 25th, 2011 to protest against the same things Tunisians had come out on the streets for. Their corrupt ruler Hosni Mubarak had been in power for 30 years and had created unbearable conditions for much of the population. The government crackdown in the form of closing down all communication channels, intimidating the protesters as well as the media, arresting opposition leaders and using the secret police failed in the face of the protests and the numbers kept swelling as the days went by. The army was in the streets, tens of thousands of protesters were camped in Tahrir Square chanting slogans against Mubarak; the US was weighing its policy carefully while Mubarak was feigning reforms that convinced no one. And then one fine day, just eighteen days later – he was gone. The Egyptians got exactly what they wanted; a fresh start, an Egypt without Hosni Mubarak and his cronies.
As inspiring as all this is, it begs the question; can this be replicated in other nations? Leaders across the world are watching their public warily and many have been proactive in their approach. The king of Jordan reshuffled his cabinet; the ruler of Yemen announced that he would leave after his term expires in 2013 while other dictators tried to address concerns such as inflation and unemployment. What Egypt had on its side was the fervor of youth – it was mainly young middle class Egyptians who started this movement and who maintained its intensity throughout. They were tech-savvy, using social media to mobilize and were fed-up of their living conditions. Having been to Egypt I can vouch for the difficult lives average hard-working people have; most people cannot survive with just one job as the salaries are so low, and hardly anything can be done without bribery and corruption. Sounds familiar? I bet this sounds familiar to many people across the world as so many populations are grappling with the same issues and unresponsive, undemocratic governments.
Can such a revolution take place in Pakistan for instance? It can. Will it? Probably not. People are definitely fed up with the government and the way the country is being run into the ground, but for some reason there doesn’t seem to be the same level of commitment to a cause or the ability to sustain a movement in Pakistan. Also the nation is so deeply divided on every issue that it would be very difficult to establish a unified front to the government. The movement if it ever takes place would definitely be a bloody one as the nation is very prone to engaging in violence and destruction to get its message across. Having seen so much bloodshed in its history, it seems as if people are almost immune to the loss of life. More importantly, the feudal system in Pakistan is excessively powerful and rulers draw their support from rural populations either with money, coercion and fear or simply by illogical and almost obsessive dedication to caste, race and ethnicity. The public is also very fatalistic, leaving everything up to God or the next person rather than making an effort themselves. Each person keeps waiting for the other to take action. The elite are too comfortable to forsake their power so easily and the selfish nature of people makes it very easy for politicians to manipulate the opposition, play the public against each other or in many cases, give them a piece of the pie. The nation also lacks good leaders who can galvanize the public so till Pakistani’s regain their love for their country and start to think about the country rather than themselves; such a revolution is unlikely in my opinion.
The rest of the world is watching carefully though. Leaders across the globe have at least been shaken up a little by these events and are definitely feeling more insecure than before. Hopefully it will cause these repressive governments to change their ways. Protests that erupted in Yemen and Jordan have not been able to gather the same momentum and the recent uprising in Algeria has partially been extinguished by a strong show of force by the government. Only those who persevere will prevail, while others will simply be forgotten when history is written.