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Popular uprisings are like the forces of nature

Popular uprisings are like the forces of nature - you can't stop them

By Yahya R. Haidar

The little-predicted revolutions in Arab countries which shook the political world to its core have coincided with natural disasters that took their toll on the physical world with equal strength. But, there is an unlikely common denominator between the geographies where the two separate events occurred. The latest UN report on International Corruption ranked at one end of the equilibrium the countries of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen as being the most corrupt, while at the other end New Zealand and Japan where considered to have the cleanest record of national corruption; yet, the two extremely opposed governments were not immune to the unforeseen large-scale challenges that hit them. If natural disasters are difficult to pin down regardless of sophisticated scientific reasoning, the masses are proven to be a force equally unpredictable despite the millions of pages compiled by political think-tanks and strategy experts.

No doubt, the earthquakes and tsunamis that hit Japan are natural occurrences that defied the collective human ability to predict and to respond; but by the same token, there is nothing more natural than the revolutions spanning through the Arab world, which happened despite the hegemonic and almost supernatural climate of fear imposed by Arab dictators on their people with the aid of their western backers. These revolutions have been natural at all levels; in their lack of any form of ideological affiliation, and more importantly their emphasis on the principle of all human rights – the right to be genuinely free.

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Popular uprisings are like the forces of nature, you can't stop them. Indeed, neither can you predict them. No one could believe that Bouazizi burning himself in protest against the confiscation of his vegetable stall would instigate a mass uprising that would end 23 years of U.S. backed dictatorship in Tunisia. Neither the forty-day Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the war on Lebanon with all their atrocities, nor the U.S. invasion of Iraq, could signal mass protests the scale of which anywhere near what is afoot today. It is indeed a cause of perplexity to any inquiring mind. The masses carrying such formidable waves of change found no better slogan than the one that says 'if the people want to live, destiny must surely respond' In the midst of bewilderment, this stanza from a poem by the late Tunisian poet Abu al-Qasim al-Shabbi, became immediately the most fitting chant to the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. But, if the common meaning of 'destiny' implies a power which tak es its own course irrespective of human will, the logic of mass uprisings have proven that when destiny responds to human will, it becomes identical with it; they together become an unstoppable force.

A new political status quo has been effected and the U.S. and EU states are struggling to 'live with it', and by living with it they mean to attune to the new scale of power and restore the 'critical balance' that maintains their political and strategic doctrines. But, by doing so they don't seem to have understood the meaning of the new revolutions. The message of these revolutions is a call to see the world as it is, which might not parallel the dreamy western conception of it. By maintaining their political ideologies, the west fails to get the essential implication of the Arab revolutions. And just as the Japanese government and people are trying to co-exist with the natural course of the physical world, the west must know to live in harmony with the natural course of the political world, where the human will to be genuinely free will always prevail over preconceived political doctrines of domination and control.


Yahya R. Haidar is a freelance journalist and researcher in religious studies

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