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Saturday, January 22, 2011
The Smallest Spark & The Lack Of Fear
It just takes the smallest spark....literally in this case.
"No bomb exploded announcing the start of the Jasmine Revolution, and in the end, there was no iconic figure — no Nelson Mandela or Vaclav Havel — to declare its stunning victory. Instead, the fuse for the Arab world's first successful popular uprising was lit when a small-town Tunisian policewoman slapped a fruit seller. A trivial incident, but this is 2011. And so, what happened next went viral, unleashing the seething frustrations of a generation of Tunisians raised under a sclerotic dictatorship — and rocking all of North Africa. When the police officer slapped computer-science graduate Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, in the town of Sidi Bouzid, ordering him to pack up his street cart, the young man snapped. Unable to find any work as a computer technician, Bouazizi sold fruit to support his seven siblings, and the slap was one humiliation too many. He marched to the governor's office and demanded an appointment, threatening to set himself alight if the official did not meet him. Turned away, Bouazizi carried out his macabre threat on Dec. 17. With his death 18 days later, millions of angry young Tunisians had a martyr. Their frustration had been mounting in recent years as the unwritten compact their parents' generation had made with President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali — economic opportunity in exchange for political freedoms — had come undone. Youth unemployment, as well as inflation, had soared, and the regime had grown ever more corrupt. Bouazizi's suicide "was the drop of water which made the whole cup overflow," says Tunisia's wildly popular rapper El Général, whose enraged lyrics prompted the government to ban YouTube in a futile attempt to quell the protests. "Our parents are too busy trying to feed our families," he says. "But we youth had nothing to fear."