Saturday, 17 December 2011

Not a Moment of Silence, but a Lifetime of Struggle.

There's been a lot of talk amongst activist circles about death lately - from the brutal murder of Mustafa Tamimi by the IDF to the passing of the late Christopher Hitchens which has certainly created some intense debate. To me, no death is more or less important than any other; but I'd like to take a moment to say a few things about one in particular which I think resonate with certain truths.

Sometimes, in death someone speaks power to truth in ways which they never could have dreamed of doing through their lives. A year ago today, a man did just this when he set off a chain of events that would lead to his death. Perhaps for him, his act was driven by shame, or desperation, or sheer hopelessness. I certainly don't agree with claims such those made by this report by CNN, which states that his death was "a cry for dignity, justice, and opportunity". Yet his desperate act spoke to the many injustices that the people of his nation and region had suffered for far too long. It spoke to the intolerable cruelty of police states, and the obedient cruelty of those people who make themselves cogs in the machinery of such states. It spoke to the sheer inhuman cruelty of IMF and World Bank policies that split Tunisia into three zones of varying degrees of economic exploitation and in this way denied millions the right to decent fulfilling employment. And above all, it spoke to the cruelty of the global capitalist system, which is built on human suffering just a shade less than slavery.

Just as the confiscation of his vegetable cart became his final straw, Mohamed Bouazizi's death became the final straw for the Tunisian people. Perhaps it's not entirely accurate to call Tunisia's revolution or the Arab Spring it inspired his legacy, when the cruelty was bound to lead to an expression at some point. Yet his desperate act certainly galvanised and strengthened the resolve of all those who knew the regime's cruelty. And it spoke not just to the cruelty of the regime and the situation, but the intolerabe injustice of it - and this realisation, that the situation created by neoliberal capitalism for the majority world is not just unjust, but intolerably and impossibly injust, proved the necessary catalyst to bring down Ben Ali.

Now that "the Protester" has been named the Time Person of the Year, the global capitalist media has come out to continue their campaign of distortion against the revolutionary movements of Tunisia and Egypt, just as they did during the two recent elections. Events like the Bardo sit-in, which don't fit with the narrative that the Tunisians just wanted the right to free and fair elections and to get rid of a few scapegoats - and everything can go back to normal now as soon as the "unrest" of ongoing protests and strikes is over - are ignored.

Yet we should take this December 17 to remember that nothing has changed, that the intolerable cruelty is the same in Tunisia. Even if the provincial poor have the right to vote, they are still poor, the same corrupt officials and police are still hassling them, and the same IMF & World Bank are still presiding over the whole affair. We sitting here on our laptops and smartphones in the first world are still consuming the majority of the world's resources while people are dying of hunger and thirst and curable diseases (unlike Christopher Hitchens, who died of cancer - which itself speaks to the injustice of a world where curable diseases generally get cured for the few and generally don't for the majority). And until a lot more people say no more, take Bouazizi's desperate act as their nadir, and refuse to tolerate the injustice of this system any further, then nothing is going to change.

For our Dead and Disappeared, Not a Moment of Silence, But a Lifetime of Struggle (

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