Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Smell it yet?

It seems as if the stream of major events in the Arab world over the past month has brought what we call the passage of time right round full circle and smacked us right in the face. Those of us from the middle-class in this country are a little more intellectually privileged than, I suppose, most other nationalities in that we are taught a largely impartial narrative of history in school that puts the Arab people in political, social and cultural context with our own history. Many of the pre-Islamic Arab kingdoms around the Gulf region indeed owed their longevity to the use of trade routes with India that were established much earlier in time and whose roots are now lost to antiquity. And after the establishment of Islam as the pre-eminent Arab religion, there is a long line of myth, legend and fantasy that puts Haroon al-Rashid in golden Baghdad as much in historical relevance in the Indian psyche as Saddam Hussein and the Indian exodus from Kuwait during the first Gulf War.

If anything, we in the subcontinent (and I do mean the region including Pakistan) should have been expecting the tumult that started in Tunisia and that has now led to the ouster of two seemingly intransigent dictatorships, with many more revolts emerging day-by-day around the Arab world. And I am quite frankly a little sick of the paternalistic reportage in the western media especially surrounding the Egyptian Tahrir Square saga. That the Egyptian people were helped immeasurably by these reports I have no doubt, but the heady, breathless and awestruck tone of the reports by one celebrity reporter after another has left a bad taste in the mouth.

The regimes that these ordinary people were standing up against bravely were propped up over decades by governments that projected themselves as custodians of liberty while using every measure possible to ensure that the Arab people were subjugated against their will. It is also common knowledge that the reason that Egyptians rose up against their dictator and refused to accept anything less than his immediate resignation had less to do with Facebook and Twitter and more to do with their demanding of freedom at any cost. I am also sick of this contemporary media narrative that has so far given rise to the myth that the dreams and hopes of the peoples who make up the Islamic world are somehow less valid and aspirational than those that make up the Western world and those of emerging economies.

Who gave whom the right to decide what people want and when they want it? The Arab people have shown the world that might is right only if you allow it to be so.

Viva la Revolución!

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