Of Jasmines and the Internet

I wrote this article a long time ago, when  I was in India and the so called Arab Spring had just begun. Tunisia had already removed their leaders and Hosni Mubarak was to be soon deposed. I was thinking about Syria and putting down my thoughts about it when I remembered this. In the face of the current Syrian situation this article almost looks naive. Khair. Read through to remember how “easy” the revolutions before Syria were. More on Syria later

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When, Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia, set himself on fire a couple of weeks back, out of sheer desperation that poverty brings with it, little did he know he was going to stoke flames of dissent long buried in the hearts of the citizens of the Middle East. These flames now raging like wildfires all over the Middle East from Yemen to Egypt have their leaders running for cover. Fanned by Internet Media ( Facebook, Twitter etc.) and to some extent the reports of Al Jazeera News Channel, Bouazizi’s self immolaion has set in motion a possible domino effect of governmental change across the Middle East. Tunisia’s own president Mr. Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali has long since resigned and is now under self imposed exile in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hosni Mubarak’s family has already fled to London fearing for the safety of their lives.

JasmineThough uprisings against self-styled dictators in the Middle East arent uncommon given the massive corruption, rot and decay that exist in government institutions, the protests this time around have had a sense of purpose to it. Dubbed the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ to signify a revolution occurring across societies, Tunisians are not ready to step down until there is a popular government in place while Egyptians today hope to garner the support of a million people as they march to ouster Mr. Mubarak. While I scan the updates coming from Egypt constantly, I can’t help but laud the people of Egypt in their efforts. It would be insolent on my part to claim that affairs of Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations had been on my radar prior to these uprising. Yet, the popular nature of these protests is definitely noteworthy. Regular people who live regular lives have stepped out on to the streets to voice their opinion against the oppression that has left them crushed. The Egyptian army sent in to quell the crowds has declared hints of support towards the ‘Million Strong March’. Reports by Robert Fisk at The Independent currently in Egypt talk of the camaraderie and brotherhood apparent among the protestors and the law enforcement agents.

Such images are encouraging to say the least and though already democratized as a nation it is important for us as Indians to sit up and take notice of the developments taking place in the Middle East. True we elect our representatives, but governance in India today is a joke. How different is Hosni Mubarak from those in power today? Aren’t we witness to some of the biggest scams in modern Indian history? While we recline comfortably in our couches hardly having too wait for a live stream of the IPL on our 3G enabled cell phones, how many thousands literally die of hunger in India? Activists of human rights are simply convicted for secession and terrorism, while real terrorists and criminals languish in jail cells or government chairs afforded the best in their class of luxury! I reiterate our governance is a joke and we need to take a stand.

As I already mentioned the people in the protests in Egypt and related countries are everyday people with everyday stories like yours and mine. Another thing I’d like to mention is that we do not need to get onto the streets to create change. It took our freedom fighters 90 years (from the Revolt of 1857) to garner independence for us Indians. It hardly took 3 weeks (from the self-immolation of Bouazizi) to bring the matter to a head in Egypt. The difference this time being the pervasive nature of social networking and print/TV media. Boon or bane, one can hardly deny the role that Facebook et al. had to play in precipitating the events in the Middle East. While we watch the social networking revolution blitz us daily with new offerings it is imperative for us to indulge in a thought revolution. Muslims are the original disciples of SatyaGraha, learning it from their Prophets and in particular Mohammed (PBUH) while Indians were taught the ways of struggle by Gandhi himself. Through a revolution stemming not from violence but from moral rectitude and adherence to ethical standards there is hope for positive change again. A revolution that can be taken to the doorstep of almost any person above the age of 15 and having access to the internet without having to set a foot on the ground. A revolution which any person who follows the affairs of the world around will “Like”.

It is up to us to take notice of the issues that plague us. It is up to us to make the right noises about these issues. It is also up to us that the noises we make are heard by so many people that it can truly make a difference. The good news is we have a tool we can easily use. The bad news is we don’t “Share”.

PS : – While it is very easy for us to be happy with developments in Egypt, let us not forget the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that pervade the streets. Shops and homes are being looted by anti social elements and food supply is becoming scarce. People who lose possessions in this period lose them for good. I pray for a speedy end to these occurences that is causing so much discord and I also pray for the lasting peace for the people of Egypt. Amen.

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