Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Bastille Day Reminder: A Revolution Isn't Built In a Day--or a Spring

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.

Related Posts:

Bastille Day
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

Arab Spring

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

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

Saudi Arabia
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!


jaraad said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. I hope many Arabs read it. Many of my friends started feeling some grudge toward these uprisings. I always tell them it will take years and years before we can collect the fruits. Our generation may not see the bright future but at least we paved a brighter future for our children. Hopefully, they will no longer have to live their entire life under the ruling of one man.

We can't expect a successful revolution without losing some people. Yes, there will be chaos but as they say no pain, no gain.

What happened in MENA is not due to the social media, as many youth like to believe. And to keep the momentum we need more than just tweeting about it.

Jay Kactuz said...

I doubt that the so-called "Arab Spring" will lead to any major changes, at least any that will translate into democracy, better life or human rights. Mow if we were to consider "revolution" to mean "change of government" then yes, there will be change, but not necessarily for better.

True democracy requires respect for others and the acceptance of the concepts of equality and freedom of speech. Like it or not, these cannot happen in an Islamic context. A look at the 57 members of the OIS seems to support this generalization. Even those states usually considered 'democratic' (ie, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey) also have very rigid laws that persecute and discriminate against non-Muslims.

Of course, I say this because I believe that Islam, the dogma, is an important factor in the lack of human rights and democracy in Muslims countries. If this is true or not is a matter of opinion, but to me it seems to explain the situation quite well.

jaraad, I am guessing that what will happen is pain and no gain.

China was interesting.

Chiara said...

Jaraad--thank you for your comment and kind words. I too hope that many take heart from this post, including Arabs, and maybe those who are especially disheartened by recent events, or have suffered the greatest losses.

After I posted this, on Friday, there was further protest and further violence against protesters in Egypt, and in Jordan too. In Jordan it seems that the "forces of order" have moved into a new phase.
I hope that (r)evolution takes place there, and in Morocco (little reporting on the reprisals against protesters there) which has a similar "divine right of kings" + "constitutional monarchy" (a combo also seen for a while in Europe) with the least pain possible.

The social media have been an important tool in organizing the revolutionary movements, reporting on them, and keeping momentum. They are but one tool though, and will accompany other strategies.

It is impressive how protests were organized in the past in repressive regimes, without benefit of social media. The decolonization movements of the 50's-70's come to mind among the more recent in MENA.

The Latin American revolts against dictators in the 70's also come to mind, including the organization by the dictatorships of counter-protests.

Thanks again for your comment.

Jay-thanks for your comment. Just to prove that amidst the chaos all is right with the world, you and I disagree on this topic obviously.

More democratic forms of government have evolved or revolved in any number of places they were not expected too, and where the people or the religion were supposedly and in their essence too passive, too reactionary, too oppressive. Again, Latin America and Catholicism come to mind. Despite the Papal efforts to keep Catholic liberation theology and socialism down, the people (and the priesthood) made impressive changes in most countries. They also made a lot of good revolutionary music, as I am sure you are aware. :D

Quebec of course moved from extremely reactionary Jansenist Catholicism--more Catholic than the Pope, still kept the Index officially and unofficially long after Rome abandoned it (or most of it), fascist mayors and premiers--to a very liberal and secular society with an active democracy.

Or, as de Gaulle so famously said in 1967, "Vive le Québec libre!". The separatist and socialist Parti Québécois became the governing party in 1975. Independent of the PQ there was that nasty FLQ business, but it was a minority movement within a much broader (r)evolution.

*I think you meant OIC--Organisation of the Islamic Conference/ منظمة المؤتمر الإسلامي; / Organisation de la Conférence Islamique--rather than OIS.

Thanks again for your comment.

Wendy said...

I agree with Jay. My Muslim husband agrees with Jay. Only with a secular government can things really change. I see Islam used by dictators as a way to control people initially and then the religious leaders really get their claws on the people AND the government ... Saudi stye. Sudan is a good example of what Islam can do to a country and their people.It tore the country apart and is killing the spirit of the people in the Islamic north where things are now getting worse with the government planning to impose very strict Sharia law ... Saudi style. The general the Sudanese Muslim population are very, very unhappy as they watch their enjoyment of music and dancing and all other forms of enjoyment being slowly sucked away from them. The Khartoum University is now a hotbed of Salafi recruitment. Husbands and wives who used to hold hands on the street are now being harassed and asked for marriage certificates, etc. etc. etc. etc. I could go on.

I truly hope that the Arab Spring will be successful but Islamic law and democracy are words that do not go together.

Chiara said...

Wendy--thanks for sharing your knowledge of the Sudanese situation which is indeed tragic (an overused word these days, but applicable here).

There is a difference between an "Islamist" or fundamentalist Islam state and a more moderate one.

Most Muslim majority MENA countries have Sharia law only for family law, the Moudwana, and that is interpreted far more liberally than in Saudi Arabia. Other legal aspects, including criminal law, do not follow Sharia, but rather the Napoleonic Code or British Common Law depending on their colonialist past.

The separation of mosque and state is far greater in most of the countries. Islamic scholars or leaders may have an advisory role but are not the core of government. Not all are fundamentalists, or even conservatives.

To the extent that they represent a highly socially conservative segment of the population (as opposed to creating or forcing one), and that they have other forms of power (economic, traditional family position, playing the democracy game better than the others) they are a force to be reckoned with. Like fundamentalist inspired political groups elsewhere, they often use wedge issues to sway the population.

Secular states may also be totalitarian, dictatorial, egregious to their populations.

They may represent a different kind of fundamentalism--extremes of Communism, Socialism, Militarism, whatever.

I think the issue is more with transparency, pluralism, accountability, representation, than with the origin/type of the fundamentalism.

I don't see Islam as any more necessarily extremely conservative or fundamentalist than any other major religion, all of which have fundamentalist movements currently, and those movements seek or have political power.

Thanks for contributing to the discussion!

Wendy said...

"I don't see Islam as any more necessarily extremely conservative or fundamentalist than any other major religion, all of which have fundamentalist movements currently, and those movements seek or have political power."

Chiara I think there are many who would disagree with you on that comment including many Muslims. There are not many MENA countries that come to my mind that function well with really happy people and this is why we are seeing the Arab Spring. Tell me which countries are doing really well.

"I don't see Islam as any more necessarily extremely conservative or fundamentalist than any other major religion, all of which have fundamentalist movements currently, and those movements seek or have political power."

And again I say that the happiest of peoples live in countries with a secular government and not one based on religion. I find it sometimes amusing that the USA has separation of church and state but I think that government often forgets that. That' a whole other subject though but because of the religious influence in the USA it rates much lower than most secular countries in overall health and happiness of the country and it's people.

There have been many studies done on secular vs non-secular and they all point to the same thing. Societies are worse off and less happy when they are religion based.

Majed said...

As usual I mix up things,and at times I dont even know what I want to talk about, but any way.

I dont know why, but, I always
find it difficult to believe that,the poor and the downtrodden people are so stupid that they would always be those who suffer revolting against the blue bloods often to have them replaced with others of the same blood or those who would later mutate.

Everything in the this world revolves around intersts,when something happens either good or bad we should look for who will benefit from it in short or long term, and we should also see if there were people like Bassenge and Bohmer with their necklace,Abullah ibn Saba,Lowrence of Arabia or like the jews behind the russian revolution,of course putting aside Rasputin who paved the way and made it easy for them,so if we could not smell such rats then, we can be at ease, but acutally I smell not a rat but a lot of rats both indigenous and foreign behind those Arab revolutions, and, as for why the fruition is taking all this time? it is not simply because the shift needs it, but because those behind it are looking for even more promising and loyal substitutes for the new setup,than those who were deposed.

Many countries owe great deal of their success and glories to its monarchs,monarchy is not necessarily always bad neither domocracy is always good, both have their advantages and flaws,and because we favour one system over the other we can not decide for the rest of us.

countrygirl said...

Chiara i totalludisagree with you, you said that

"The separation of mosque and state is far greater in most of the countries. Islamic scholars or leaders may have an advisory role but are not the core of government. Not all are fundamentalists, or even conservatives." and if it is so why in a so called "moderate" muslim country like Marocco converting muslim is a crime?

why building churches in ANY muslim country is praticall impossible and i don't ven go on the subjedt of a muslim who decide to change religion. Freedom of religion (and the freedomto change it) is a basic humam rights amd i don't see it in any MENA countries. When the universal declaration of human rights was made guess what muslim countries disagree with it and made the cairo declaration on human rights in Islam..where of course there's no mention of freedom of religion.

If there's a truly separation of mosque of state anyone could be free to change religion and anyone could preach to muslims whatever religion but i don't see it in ANY muslim countries

Jay Kactuz said...

Chiara, we disagree on everything except maybe 'italian food is good' and 'motherhood is important'. When speaking of italian, I always think of my deceased sister-in-law, the most italian person I have ever known. Cida (as in Maria Aparecida) was a wonderful person, mother, cook but she died at 61, a victim of breast cancer. Now my brother-in-law is a drunk, smoker, womanizer, sem vergonha, that will probably live forever. Go figure. Virtue kills!

Thank you Wendy and Country, for your support. The problem is that if you are not free to think about and choose religion - a matter of conscience - then there are no additional freedoms, including that of speech. This little concept is lost on most Muslims. Also there is the fact that all a radical Muslims has to do, when talking reform, is say 'that is against Islam' and even the most liberal Muslim will silence. No Muslims wants to be against Islam, whatever that is because nobody really knows. So there is no change.

Hey Majed, how are you doing? All well here in the land of sun and crazies (Arizona).


Majed said...

I think what makes muslims countries formally distrust and resist missionary activities is due to their cheap ways and Dubious tactics in converting people, as they always prey on the poorest,most needy,ingnorant,starving and orphans using enormous resources under their disposal in developing countries, their aim seems to be rather recruitment of fith columns in side those countries just like interlligence agencies than guiding to the right path,the lastest trend they follow now is product placement in films and shows just like any other commercial product. as opposed to that muslims try to proselyte the rich,the educated in the west.

Countrygirl said...

@Majed have ever think that missionaries do because they want to share the message of universal love? you have a very narrow mind..and FYI the missionaries main goal is to HELP people without looking at their belief, mother Theresa helped poor people around the world without asking for anything.

Wendy said...

Majed, I don't trust missionaries either. I think ANY religion that tries to convert people to their way of thinking is doing those people harm. Ditto for the religion that forbids or shuns someone if they decide to leave that particular organized religious group. If missionaries want to go out and help people then do so but they should not try and force or convert someone to their way of thinking.
CountryGirl, I mean this for you as well. Missionaries can spread all the love and care they want as long as they keep their beliefs to themselves. If you think that it's okay for them to convert people to Christianity or whatever then it should be okay for Muslims to forbid churches. Let people worship or not worship as they wish.

What have missionaries got to do with Arab Spring and governing anyway?

countrygirl said...

@Wendy in my previous post i wanted to tell my point that without a truly division between mosque/church and with a truly freedom of thinking (and this means freedom of changing religion) there won't be a changing in the arab world, it was majed that spoke about the big bad missionaries that are targeting preying poor people.

Nowadays missionaries do they works of HELPING people none of them if forcing anyone to change religion.

Wendy what about the muslim who decide to change reliong, in toaday's world it's pretty easy to read about other reliongs on the net BUT in ALL muslim countries this is impossible to do.

My poin is that there will NEVER be a real change in the MENA countries unless there will be a real freedon of thinking and this means the freedon of changing religion, the freedom of speaking in a critical way of religion in this case of islam.

Majed said...

You are right it has nothing to do with missionaries, I guessed I took that detour after Countrygirl.

Message of peace, I have gathered a lot of verses bible that really, and I meam realllly talk about love and peace and about the bibilic approach to women and how that they should be stoned over different issues,for your information we don't have that mentioned in Quran.

Now,millions are suffering horrible famine in the horn Africa,where mothers have to go through the agony of watching their babies breath their last gasp and surrender their innocent souls to the merciless claws of death,and depart for no return. This is where they jump those who are looking to spread their message of peace and love,to purchase peoples souls when they are in their most helpless and vulnerable situations just with little food,when this little food worth fortunes.

But I have to be fair, yes there are some orgnizations that really help for the sake of help, one of those that I admire the most is the salvation army I did not fathom the depth of it,but as I heard and read they really do not care about the beliefs of those they help, and that, only if you are interested will they explain christianity to you,so God bless William and Cathrine booth.

Hi, thanks I am fine, nice to see you around.

countrygirl said...

@majed in my first post i never mentioned mission and missionary i simply pointed out that in ALL muslim countries is pratical impossible to have freedom of religion (and with it i mean freedom of changing of religion). Freedom of choosing whatever religion is a basic human right and if you can't have it you won't have a truly democracy and the so called Arab Springs will fail if in the new goverments nothinh will change about the freedom of religion (and this isn't happening is Egypt or Tunisia)

Chiara said...

Great comments and discussion. I'll be back shortly with my comments on the comments.

Meanwhile, carry on--respectfully!:D

Wendy said...

CountryGirl, when you start talking about missionaries spreading peace and love you are putting yourself on the same footing as Muslims IMHO. I personally do not want to have anything to do with ANY organized religion including Islam and I've said that often enough. This topic was not about whether or not Muslims can leave their religion or missionaries spreading whatever comes out of their mouths or the Bible or anything else. It is about the Arab Spring and governments and how government and democracy.

Countrygirl said...

i talked about missionaries and their mission only to ansker back to majed (in my first post i only said that proletizing is big no in muslim countries) point was and still is is that you CAN'T have a democracy if you don't have freedom of expression and that includes freedom of religion (and that means freedom of changing it). As Jay said how can you have a true democracy if non muslims are discrimated, democracy means IMHO EQUALITY and i don't see it in muslim countries. You must have freedom of expression and this mean also freedom of criticize islam and others religions as well

Wendy said...

I didn't finish my last sentence but I was going to finish simply by saying that It is about the Arab Spring and governments and how a democratic government must be far away from religion.
On reflection total separation is probably not possible, at least in the beginning. Canada has laws about polygamy and of course that law originally came from the Christian ideal of marriage. For the most part though, religion needs to be a personal issue and the government should stay out of it ... IMHO anyway. I just can't see that happening with Islam.


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