La Prise de la Bastille (Jean-Pierre Hoüel, 1789)
Some of the commentary about the Arab Spring expresses a discontent that it isn`t over yet, that it is inconveniently long for the media and for the attention span of the West. The more noble motives for wishing it were over faster include sparing lives, preventing further abuses, and a resolution that is a genuine representation of the peoples' national interests. The less noble have to do with media revenues, viewer fatigue, and where there has been an over international intervention, international "blood and treasure".
As Spring has shaded into Summer, and early triumphs into tough slogs, there is a sense that the "Twitter Revolutions" should have accomplished their goals in the perceptual time span of "Twitter History", or at least that of Facebook. Yet both these social media and other sources continue to report on the ongoing human rights abuses, battles, and political manoeuvrings that are part of most revolutions, in varying doses and over differing times.
In the July 14, 2011 print edition of The Globe and Mail, in the rubric, Moment in Time, "July 14, 1789 French Patriots Storm the Bastille", John Ibbitson captioned Jean-Pierre Hoüel's painting, above, thus:
As the economy worsened in Bourbon France and modern politicians demanded reform, the streets of Paris filled with protesters demanding bread and power. In response, King Louis XVI made the worst of the many mistakes that ultimately cost him his head by sacking his reformist finance minister. The people reacted with fury. On July 14, a group of patriots--or a mob, depending on how you look at such things--stormed the Bastille, an ancient royal prison that had only seven inmates but plenty of gunpowder, and the French Revolution was well and truly under way. Five republics, several monarchies and a dictatorship or two later, France continues to celebrate Bastille Day, for liberty, equality, and fraternity are eternal.It is obvious on reading this that the Arab Spring uprisings are close to this analysis of the French Revolution, and that revolutions tend to follow a similar pattern, of dissatisfaction, intellectual shift, trigger event, popular uprising, reprisal, and an ongoing struggle between reformers and reactionaries.
Louis XIV of France (born 1638, reigned 1643-1715, his death), painted by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701
Depending on where one sets the beginning and end points, the French Revolution began with the death of Louis XIV--who consolidated the French monarchy as an absolute one, defeating aristocratic unrest--in 1715, the rise of the Enlightenment philosophers through the 18th Century, and was set off when the peasants had come far enough through a famine to have the energy to revolt, and the reformers, including a rising middle class, were emboldened enough to politically challenge an economically weakened absolute King Louis XVI (1789). It included, or ended with, the declaration of a Republic (1792), taking the French Revolutionary Wars to neighbouring countries (1792-1802), a Reign of Terror (1793-4), Napoleon's Consultancy (1799), the restoration of a now constitutional Bourbon monarchy (twice), the imperial reigns of Napoleon's children, or the establishment of the Third French Republic in 1870.
This broad time frame of 1715 to 1870, is not the one most prominently used. Rather, the French Revolution is usually timed to start with the peasant and political revolts of 1789 and the beginning of Napoleon's reign in 1799. Even in that 10 year span there were a number of political configurations of each political system: the monarchy, then the republic, then the directorate. The worst of the fighting was 1789-92, the greatest repression and killing--by the reformers--1793-1794.
Each country of the Arab Spring is unique, and each is following its own trajectory as a function of its history, internal circumstances, and international positioning. Tunisian and Egypt are fighting to maintain the momentum of the overthrow of their dictatorial presidents and control the political process and outcome of upcoming elections. Fighting continues in Libya and Yemen. There are uprisings in Syria and Bahrain where promised reforms have been coupled with actual repression. Protests have occurred in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco and Oman where the leadership has tried to stave off further unrest with some reforms. Palestine has also protested but the protests and reporting of them have been stifled.
Saudi Arabia has been an active participant in Bahrain, and part of the Arab League negotiations on other countries. Within the country, pre-emptive warnings and demonstrations of power, along with some reforms, have muted actual uprisings. In all the countries, but perhaps more so in Saudi, in light of other restrictions, women have been active participants, and feminists have moved forward with their agendas for reform.
One can hope and work for positive and peaceful progress towards improved governance, transparency, and legitimacy for each of the MENA countries as a function of their interests. However, one should not be unduly impatient with the time frames, nor the inevitable setbacks, twists and turns, and timings of major transformations.
As the European Revolutions of 1848, "the Spring of Nations", "Springtime of the Peoples", "Year of Revolution" reminds us, quick, violent uprisings can be splendid watersheds but are not the end of the (r)evolution. May the Arab Spring, الثورات العربية, "the Arabic Rebellions", "the Arab Revolutions", "Arab Awakening", "Arab Uprisings" of 2011 be more effective and fruitful.
From the post "A Tribute to the Arab Spring", here.
Le 14 juillet, 1789, 1790, 1989, 2010: mythes et réalités en France et au MENA
July 14, 1789, 1790, 1989, 2010: Bastille Day Myths and Realities in France and in MENA
Routes d'Arabie: Archéologie et histoire du royaume d'Arabie saoudite au Musée du Louvre du 14-07-2010 au 27-09-2010
Roads of Arabia - Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the Louvre from 07-14-2010 to 09-27-2010
Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution": One Month of Popular Uprising; President Ben Ali Flees to Saudi Arabia
Les Ben Ali-Trabelsi Chez Nous! Ben Ali's Relatives Arrive in Canada as Permanent Residents: The Tunisian Community Calls for Freezing Their Assets
Belhassen Trabelsi & Family In Quebec: Canada Revokes Permanent Residency Status; Staying on as Refugee Claimants
As Belhassen Trabelsi Makes His Refugee Claim, One of His Tunisian-Canadian Victims Seeks RCMP Protection, "la rage au coeur"
Why the West (the US) Cares So Much About Egypt: Part I The Suez Canal (Oil)
Egypt's "March of Millions"; the Obama Administration Begins to Say, "Kefaya!"; and, to Manage the Future of Egypt; Mubarak Announces "8 More Months"
Egypt's Uprising February 2-3, 2011: A(nother) Turn of the Screw
Egyptian Blogger Arrested and his Account Suspended: Sandmonkey's Most Recent Post Copied Below
Canada's PM Stephen Harper Hearts Mubarak--Favours Slow Transition Under His Presidency
A Yemeni/Egyptian-Canadian's Personal Story Shows the Current Plight of Egypt's Middle Class
Egyptian Blogger "Sandmonkey" Mahmoud Salem On His Detention, Going Public, and Wael Ghonim as a (Disappeared) Leader
Al Jazeera English's Egypt: A Nation in Waiting (2008) on Mubarak's Egypt, An Excellent Backgrounder to Current Events
The Egyptian Protesters/People Triumph! Mubarak Resigns!
How the Egyptian Protesters Organized Within Tahrir Square
Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions Impacting on Italy: Part I Egyptian Uprising Organization Inspires Italian Women--Attenzione Berlusconi!
Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions Impacting on Italy: Part II Tunisians, Libyans, and SubSaharans Converge on Lampedusa, Italy
Outstanding Resource: LIBYA 17TH FEBRUARY 2011--LIBYANS FOREVER IN UNITY. FROM BENGHAZI TO FEZZAN
Whence Gaddafi is Getting His Mercenaries: His Influence in Subsaharan Africa
Saif Al-Islam Alqadhafi's PhD Thesis from the London School of Economics (LSE); Libyan Funding of LSE; Response of the University; LSE Student Sit-In
February 26th 2011: Day of Demonstrations Across Canada to Support Libya/Libyans
France's Recognition of Libya's Opposition's National Libyan Council--Bravo!
From Libya Feb 17: Call to Libyans in the U.S. & Canada to support the Libyan National Transitional Council
NATO to Head Enforcement of No-Fly Zone Over Libya; Canadian to Head the NATO Mission in Libya
King Abdullah Returns to Saudi: Concerns About Succession Fade as Concerns About Reform Grow
Saudi Arabia's March 11, 2011 "Day of Rage"
More on Saudi Arabia's March 11, 2011 "Day of Rage": Why It Was Called For but Calm
The Regional and International Implications of Saudi Arabia Sending Troops to Back the Bahraini Government
Saudi Activists Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Layouni Detained for Attempting to Help Canadian Nathalie Morin Flee Saudi Arabia with her 3 Children
Saudi Women June 17 Driving Guidelines (Women2Drive): If you are going to do it, drive safely!
On Women Driving, in the West and Saudi; Other Parameters of Women's Quality of Life; Hope for Change
Saudi Women Driving Garners Attention; Saudi Women's Education Brings Substantive Change--Including to Driving
The Arab World in Turmoil-The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
Arab Protests: Are the Monarchies of MENA Less Vulnerable?
A Cultural Challenge for the Arab World and Its Intellectuals
The Trouble with Referring to Tribes in the Rhetoric of Current "MENA Protests"
The Arab Awakening and Shifting Oil Sands: Obama's Georgetown Speech; "Ethical Oil"; Canada's Bible Belt
Trying to Understand which Arab Countries are Rebelling and Why: In Demographics and Maps
Reading the Arab Spring Uprisings As a New Power Balancing of Saudi Arabia and Iran
War is a Hell Where the First Casualty is the Truth: Photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros Die Proving It
Joyeuse Fête Nationale!
Happy Bastille Day!