Thursday, August 11, 2011

Steve Crawshaw & John Jackson: 10 Everyday Acts of Resistance That Changed the World - How regular people, from Denmark to Liberia, have stood up to power—and won

10 Everyday Acts of Resistance That Changed the World: Václav Havel called it “the power of the powerless.” How regular people, from Denmark to Liberia, have stood up to power—and won.
by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson

The Arab spring of 2011 has already changed the region and the world. Ordinary people have lost their fear and shattered the perception that their rulers are invincible. Whatever happens next, the changes across the region in the first few months of 2011 will prove historic.

In Tunisia, the now famous “jasmine revolution” began with protests in December, triggered by the self-immolation of a 26-year-old vegetable seller, Mohammed Bouazizi. Bouazizi, remembered by his younger sister Basma as “funny and generous,” could finally take no more of the official harassment and humiliation meted out to him.

Four weeks of protests, fueled by Facebook and other social media networks, concluded with the unthinkable: Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, president for the past 23 years, fled the country.

Even after the collapse of Ben Ali’s dictatorship, it seemed that Egypt would surely be a different matter. The 30-year-old, U.S.-backed rule of Hosni Mubarek was reckoned by many to be too ruthless for protests to succeed in creating real change. But millions in Tahrir Square and across Egypt were determined that they should be allowed to make the choices that others around the world had made for themselves.

After 18 days of protests, Hosni Mubarek was gone. All across the country, crowds erupted in celebration.

Victories like this, born of small acts toward monumental change, are not new. Throughout history both recent and distant, ordinary people have found innovative and inspiring ways to challenge violent regimes and confront abuses of power: bringing down dictators, changing unjust laws, or simply giving individuals a renewed sense of their own humanity in the face of those who deny it.

The people here treat the impossible as full of possibilities that haven’t been realized yet. Some have achieved the change they were struggling for. For others, it’s yet to come.

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