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For thirty years; generations of Arab people were deliberately spoon-fed a fallacious reality about themselves; a reality of passiveness, instinctive capitulation and quiet submission; a reality that seemed to contradict –and indeed often wrestled with- their true identity, their heritage and honorable history of rising against social injustices, rule of force and corruption; from the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottoman rule to the 1936 Palestinian Revolution against the British, from the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 to the two blessed Intifadas in Palestine in 1987 and 2000, still oddly enough; for thirty years we’ve found ourselves admiring the history of the French revolution instead, romanticizing the American War of Independence and cheering –from afar- for the fall of the Berlin wall.
For thirty years, Arab youngsters were raised on the unshakable conviction that waking up in the morning and feeling a bitter contentment with what little is remaining of their diminishing social rights and freedoms is actually an unquestionable “winning formula” for safety and happiness, that “people’s power” means absolutely nothing in the midst of their daily and backbreaking task of securing the scarce necessities of life, that even if a “change” is due; it’ll be in the form of a destructive foreign military occupation –such was the case in Iraq-; and even then, we’d roll along and adopt some kind of a darwinian approach in dealing with and adapting to it; and just like that; we were programmed to settle for this brand of democracy at the point of a gun and its twisted sense of “nobility”.
For thirty years, silence has become compelling with governments’ inexcusable laxity towards pressing social matters; and a collective sense of powerlessness was carefully nurtured as inglorious exploits of Arab nations’ resources ran amok and a ludicrous gap between the very thin layer of the rich class and the rest of society grew glaringly wider, for thirty years; successive Arab generations surrendered each day to this somber “reality”; that every struggle for dignity they might get into is a foregone conclusion, and that the collective Arab nation is nothing but a sad ghost of glories past; buried in the grave and wretched morass of rising unemployment rates, sinister poverty lines and gag orders.
Now, in what seemed like a fleeting moment, Arab youngsters in Tunisia and Egypt have broken this decades-old thick crust of silence; and managed to weather the storm of fear and mass intimidation and clung onto their god given right of free speech and peaceful expression of popular will, they’re setting a fine example for even the most civilized nations in the world; Arab nations no longer bear the moral stigma of self-defeat and stagnation, they no longer want to hide their light under a bushel; they too have a voice and they are making sure it is being heard loud and clear the world over.
We no longer survive on nostalgia for an ancient storied history of pride and free will; these days; a new history is being written for future generations, in our hearts; every square is a freedom square.
AHMAD BARQAWI, a Jordanian freelance columnist & writer based in Amman, he has done several studies, statistical analysis and researches on economic and social development in Jordan.