Awe and history in the Arab revolts

By Rami G. Khouri
The Daily Star
For those many honest people around the world perplexed by the variations and inconsistencies in so many aspects of the current citizen revolts across the Arab world, historical analogies may be a good starting point to understand the full dimensions and implications of the momentous current developments.

In their ongoing revolts against police states and overly centralized autocratic governments, ordinary Arab men and women are compressing into a single moment their equivalent of perhaps the two most outstanding global historical movements of the past 300 years or so: the democratic revolutions that engulfed the world from their starting points in France and the United States in the late 18th century; and the global decolonization movement that swept much of the third world in the mid-20th century.

Each of those movements on its own was a force for human and social transformation on a colossal scale, sweeping across countries and continents with an intensity emphasizing how the allure of freedom and sovereignty resonates powerfully in the hearts of people everywhere. It is impressive enough for a society to transform itself into a democracy, and equally moving to see countries rid themselves of foreign domination or control and achieve true independence. So imagine how awesome it is to combine these two great feats into a single dynamic – which allows us to understand better the persistence, intensity and complexities of these citizen revolts.

Democratic revolutions and liberation movements across the world often lasted for decades, and usually included various forms of political violence, domestic turmoil, intense negotiations, trial-and-error policies, and infighting among dominant political groups or movements. Some transformations were stopped or reversed in mid-course; others persisted for a century or more until the fruits of change were finally made available to all citizens. In some of the world’s leading democracies, for example, women only obtained the right to vote hundreds of years after a declaration of statehood or the consolidation of nationhood: in 1920 in the United States, 1928 in the United Kingdom, 1944 in France and 1971 in Switzerland.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

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