His name was Mohammed Bouazizi. He was a 26-year-old man trying to support his family by pushing a fruit cart in the streets of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. But the police confscated his cart because he didn’t have the proper permits. He was beaten by police when he protested. His complaints to the municipal authorities fell on deaf ears. Question: what would you do in a country of rampant unemployment, political corruption, misery, no voice and no way to be heard?
On December 17, 2010, Mr. Bouazizi walked down to the building of the municipal office that refused to help him, sat down, and then doused his body with paint thinner and set himself on fire. Two and a half weeks later he dies in a hospital. By that time, a string of events will have changed Tunisia forever. But after news of Bouazizi’s immolation reach the people, mass demonstrations erupt all over Tunisia as the result of a single man’s refusal to accept and allow the abuse of an inequitable money system.
Five days later on December 22, another person, Houcine Falhi, aged 22, cries out, “”No to misery, no to unemployment!” before electrocuting himself to death. Massive demonstrations continue. The security forces’ crackdown is unleashed.
By December 28, 2010, lawyers join with the protesters. They are arrested, “savagely beaten” and allegedly tortured by the police. The president of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, goes on television and reads the riot act to the country, offering to punish protesters will in all “firmness”of the law.
On January 4, 2011, the Tunisian Bar Association goes on strike in protest of the their members being arrested in the crackdown. The response by the government was to start another crackdown. Eleven days later, Tunisia president makes concessions; promising “reforms” and an investigation involving those arrested, tortures and killed in the uprising. It’s too little, too late. All hell breaks loose when Ali declares a State of Emergency, dissolves the government and flees the country. He wants to go to France, but is refused. He finds support in Saudi Arabia and lands there. Mohammed Ghannouchi, the Prime Minister goes on television and says he’s in charge. Calls for Fhannouchi to step down as well ensue.
Jaunuary 15. Massive looting of stores and empty homes of the Tunisian elites. People are attacked and buildings burn. The police stay at home. The next day there are reports of Ben Ali’s family and associates being arrested.
January 17. The new coalition government is formed and stacked with pro-Ben Ali hacks. The next day the people go apeshit and riot some more. Some of hacks step down, but others stay. New elections are called, but the people want all Ben Ali backers removed. Two days later, the Swiss freeze all funds that Ben Ali has socked away for a rainy day.
January 21. National Three Days of Mourning.
January 22. More demonstrations. This time, they are joined by the police, who claim they were forced to mistreat protestors.
January 23. More of Ben Ali’s friends and allies are arrested, some for treason.
So who knows where this is going? It’s fair to say that nobody could have predicted the events in Tunisia that followed the immolation of a single, abused, abandoned and neglected peasant. He sacrificed his body and his life in what can be called, the Great Refusal – a sacrifice only undertaken when life becomes so horrendous that setting oneself on fire is preferred. And that point exists within every person. There’s a fucking point where life becomes completely bereft of all meaning and grace, the struggle and hunger and the shocking lack of decency in people is too much to handle, and the only way to deal with the horror of this existence is to refuse to take part and erase yourself from this world. All because he didn’t have a piece of paper allowing him to push a cart with fruit and veggies. An Equal Money system would not allow what happened to Mohammed Bouazizi and all the others who died in the Tunisia uprising. We will see if Tunisia will be able to create a government that provides for all equally. But I doubt it.
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