COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
The month of February twenty eleven was marked by great social upheavals in the Arab world when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak fell from power following the massive protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The success of that people’s revolt in ousting a leader has sparked a fire of similar events in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Oman where people have gathered in massive protests against their authoritarian rulers.
Earlier, the light which started the fire of protests across the Arab world was ignited in Tunisia in a simple case of repression by state forces. Mohamed Bouazzi, a “university-educated Tunisian vegetable seller” set himself aflame on December 17, 2010 after a degrading confrontation with the police. The incident signaled a wave of people’s protest in that small state which led to the overthrow of the Tunisian leader.
Suddenly, the wave of protest caught fire in neighboring Egypt, of which activists have been gathering steam in cyberspace in protest of another case of police brutality that happened earlier in that place. Then, as the revolutionary air spread through a populace who are long discontent though silent of their common plight, the call for the end of Mubarak’s long-standing rule became a rallying point for the massive demonstrations that followed. At last, Egypt, the seat of ancient autocracy has finally given way to a people-centered society.
Muslims in the Arab world have long been wary of western influence especially democratic ideas as challenging their traditional culture and beliefs, that the “clash of civilizations” argument was raised as a modern day reason for global warfare. But, democracy and its refinement which is being articulated in the fight for human rights offered a different light to an ancient-bound people who chose to follow that light. Modernization itself ushered in a social transformation of a different kind so inevitable change was imminent.
The gradual eradication of authoritarian states is bound to happen, as social movements around the world have gone global; empowering people, educating them and forging into a force that challenges existing social orders. Advanced technology further accelerated the disintegration of hierarchical societies as it changed the relation between labor and capital along with its ensuing social relations. Computers, for one, democratized the people of the world thru the Internet.
Democracy may not be compatible with a lot of Islamic laws, but as Arab societies are faced with the reality of more people being empowered to chart their own destinies the democratic path would always beacon even though how painful and a tortuous one. There could be no turning back as the wave of change is moving towards a society where people are treated more as human beings and not mere subjects under the will of a powerful and privileged few.
And, as the democratic process is normally chaotic as it is filled with debates, confrontations and compromises, there might be a knee-jerk reaction to the new found freedoms and a desire to revert to the old system of governance. But if that ever happens it will only be short lived, for an enlightened and empowered people will continue to move on, fighting for social justice with the aim of attaining human dignity for all.
March 4, 2011