Tunisia had a revolution. The western media more or less ignored it in the beginning. But, Al Jazeera didn’t and thankfully they have an English language channel for us to follow the events. Ben Ali finally left, BBC and CNN made this their top headline news. I could connect to the Tunisian public. Unemployment, rising prices, deteriorating quality of life, corruption, nepotism and lack of freedom are too familiar to me. The Sri Lankan public too, I thought, could connect with these people. But Ben Ali inflated the Tunisian middle class. He created an educated generation, able to speak French or English, internet users and a generation increasingly hunger for freedom (He didn’t create this, it is a result of education and media). Being an internet user and an English speaker, I could still connect to the protesters. But, to at least 9/10 Sri Lankans, internet and English are foreign.
After Tunisia, Al Jazeera briefly covered Egypt’s similar woes and experts spoke as to why Egyptians can’t/wouldn’t revolt in a similar scale. Egypt’s bilingual, educated middle class is slim with little/no influence, Mubarak controls the military with a firm grip and has a sophisticated intelligence service and moreover Egyptians are not known to revolt, they would rather keep their woes for themselves rather than risk being taken away by the infamous secret police.
But now, Egyptians are revolting in a large-scale. If the people of a country ruled by an autocrat for 30 years can revolt, can’t we?. well, the Arab world now has a vibrant free media, that can no longer be censored, thanks to satellite TV. In Sri Lanka, all we have is self censored media. Ben Ali and Mubarak chose the “icon” of the free world as their ally. America is a democracy and preaches it, although it doesn’t, in many cases, choose its allies based on it. But, when people revolt against its ally regimes, it at least puts some pressure on the regimes, like calling for “reforms” in Egypt. But China, our closest ally would never give a damn about freedom or democracy. It would rather advise Rajapakse to use live ammunition like it did in Tiananmen square or in Tibet.
But, revolution it seems is unique to every country, although what causes it in the 21st century will broadly be the same. Corruption and lack of democracy and freedom.