Women were in the vanguard of Tunisia’s revolution.
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What has happened in Tunisia fails to fit the model our media have constructed to explain every act of resistance to our satellite regimes in the Middle East — that it represents only a narrow, faith-driven Islamist agenda and is intended to reinstate traditional religious government. What we see here is not fundamentalists overthrowing a liberal, secular technocracy in favor of an illiberal theocracy; it is people of all kinds, religious and otherwise, who simply had their fill of being despoiled by a rapacious and amoral elite, and did something about it.
What will result from this revolt is entirely up to the people of Tunisia, and it must remain so.
My fear is that, as in Gaza when Palestinians elected the “wrong” leaders in the form of Hamas (again, not for religious reasons, but because they rightly viewed the Palestinian Authority that controls the West Bank as corrupt and too pliable by Israel), Tunisia may suffer a range of diplomatic and economic punishments at the hands of the US and whichever of its allies the latter can inveigle into joining it.
My hope is that this possibility will not deter the people of Tunisia from fighting tirelessly for their own best interest. Ultimately, the postcolonial empires cannot sanction everyone. Therefore, let Tunisia’s example spread; let revolution spring up across the Middle East and South Asia; let the satrapies fall, their industries be nationalized, the tyrants be exiled. The leaders in this great enterprise will doubtless become the targets of campaigns of intimidation intended to deter and discourage anyone thinking of following them. But the more numerous the revolutionary movements, the more it will become impossible to contain them.
Meanwhile, we in the West have our own duty to the cause of freedom. We must tune out the mass media, with their crucial reports on the unavailability of alcohol and duty-free shopping to European tourists, and track developments via WikiLeaks and other independent news sources. And if we become aware that our governments, or the corporations that control them, are trying to meddle with Tunisia’s free choice to shape its government and affairs as its people choose, we must be prepared to take such measures as are necessary to stop them.