Nothing at all has appeared in the Australian ms media about the intifada underway in Tunisia.* If this were Iran, on the other hand...
Sudanese-born Briton, Nesrine Malik, writes eloquently in The Guardian 0f 31 December about Tunisia's inspiring rebellion:
"There are few moments in the political atmosphere of the Middle East that fill me with genuine pride. While eyes have long been fixed on opposition movements in Iran and Egypt, suddenly Tunisia has provided one of the most inspiring episodes of indigenous revolt against a repressive regime. Following the self-immolation of an unemployed man, riots and demonstrations have swept through the country. Lebanese journalist Octavia Nasr wrote on Thursday: 'I never thought this day would come. Certainly not in Tunisia. To be quite honest, out of the Middle East region, I thought such a rebellious act would come from Egypt where the opposition to President Mubarak's regime is so fierce and vocal that public demonstrations of anger and dismay have become a routine'.
"Despite the depressing reports of security forces shooting demonstrators dead, the events are heartening, not necessarily as a harbinger of transformation in the region, but as an indication that it is possible. Change is sometimes more likely to happen when people know what it looks like, when the first person dares to point to the emperor and say that he is naked.
"I am generally wary of lumping Arab countries together in terms of political climate, but in this case it is more or less valid. From the monarchies of the Gulf, to the hereditary presidencies of the Levant and North Africa, bar the odd military coup, there has been little evidence of potential regime change. Those who espouse slow, gradual and incremental progress argue that the attrition of globalisation will eventually lead to an organic transformation. But in my own lifetime I have seen regression in places, and globalisation either selectively sampled, or co-opted in the effort to subjugate citizens.
"The complication in many parts of the Arab world is that it is never really simple brute oppression; it is a sophisticated system of stick and carrot, of fear and incentive, to maintain the status quo. In Tunisia itself, there existed a system of subsidies of strategic commodities which granted the state some legitimacy and political allegiance, but even that has crumbled. Whether it is the laudanum of oil-wealth in Saudi Arabia, the parallel systems of bribery in Egypt which subsidise income, the alliances of patronage with powerful tribal leaders in Jordan which underwrite the monarchy's legitimacy, or the pact with the military in Algeria, there are several factors, underscored by support from the state's security forces, which douse the flame of rebellion.
"In addition, there is a tendency to downwardly compare miseries with other Arab countries. Those in oil-rich states comfort themselves that at least they are safe from the relative poverty of North Africans, who in turn seek solace in that they enjoy relative freedom of dress and intermingling of the sexes. And all can take comfort that at least they are not Sudan.
"Although Tunisia is relatively remote from mainstream Arab culture and popular media, which is dominated by Levantine and Gulf elements, the events on Tunisia's streets are being watched on satellite TV throughout the Arab world.
"Not that outpourings of passion are rare on Arab streets, but they are usually related to the latest events in Palestine, some random perceived insult from the West - or football. It's the rage of an easily slighted dignity, and it's rarely directed against the primary local culprit: the government itself.
"In a detailed analysis, the Moor Next Door blog says: These riots are important because they challenge the dominant discourse on Tunisia's politics (or lack thereof) in Western writing and reporting. Tunisia is by far the most politically stable country in North Africa, and arguably the one with the healthiest economy. But this is all relative to its neighbours and must be considered in the regional context. If things are going the way they are in Tunisia, what does this mean for other geriatric regimes on the verge of power transitions?'
"Even if nothing comes of the Tunisian revolt, it is proof that resignation is not an inevitability, that it is not hardwired into our DNA, that the 'Arab malaise' is not terminal."
To feel the rage of the Tunisian intifada, view the video Inspiration from Tunis at pulsemedia.org.
[PS (13/1/11)* The first reports on Tunisia (AFP) have finally appeared - in The Australian of January 11 & 13.]