Bright Light Appears in Desert – Tunisia, January 26, 2014
On Dec. 17, 2010, a 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi stood in front of the municipal headquarters in his dusty central Tunisian town. Bouazizi, the family’s sole breadwinner, had been seeking the right to operate his street cart from corrupt local authorities, some of whom had been forcing him to hand over bribes to satisfy the police. On this day, a policewoman confiscated his cart yet again and physically beat him in public … the highest humiliation for a man in this fundamentalist country.
Up against the wall, desperate, humiliated, and with rage boiling over, Mohamed doused himself with gasoline and lit a match.
This one match ignited Mohamed and simultaneously lit the fuse to a civilization-changing revolution know as the Arab Spring. Mohammed’s ultimate act of protest resonated with millions of Tunisians whose everyday lives were confronted by the same frustrations, humiliations and abuses—injustice, corruption, hunger, crippling poverty. The welling of public outcry led to the fleeing of iron-fisted President Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for 23 years. Within days, the freedom-seeking revolution over-spilled the borders of Tunisia spreading into neighboring countries.
While limited violence marred Tunisia’s bid for freedom, the fate of other countries experiencing the Arab Spring, such as Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, degraded from massive civil and political upheaval into terrorism, atrocities and military interventions. Right now, Arab Spring fever has reached the Ukraine, and as far abroad as Venezuela, countries in which massive public outcries are currently battling political oppression.
Tunisian’s opted for a more peaceful path, choosing cooperation to create a new constitution guaranteeing the rights of citizen’s. After a rocky start, old-line conservative and fundamentalist government officials resigned and were replaced by a cabinet of liberal technocrats, which included 42 women in their 217-seat Assembly.
Working through two years of unsettling turmoil, evolving cooperation among Assembly members led to the ratification of a new constitution of profound significance to the evolution of human civilization. The new Tunisian “law of the land” is a template for the evolution of a global Humanity. Tunisian Assembly speaker Ben Jaafar said after the vote, “This constitution, without being perfect, is one of consensus. We had today a new rendezvous with history to build a democracy founded on rights and equality.”
In very profound ways, the Tunisian Constitution is more progressive than the Constitution of the United States. For example, one of their constitution chapters is made up of 28 articles dedicated to protecting citizens’ rights, including protection from torture, the right to due process, and freedom of worship. It guarantees equality for men and women before the law and a commitment from the state to protect women’s rights. Specifically, the constitution reads, “The State shall commit to protecting women’s achieved rights and seek to support and develop them,” and, “The State shall guarantee equal opportunities between men and women in the bearing of all the various responsibilities in all fields.”
In addition to guaranteeing equality between men and women, The Tunisian Constitution has a mandate for environmental protection, only the third country in the world to so. It also has a declaration that healthcare is a human right, with preventative care and treatment for every citizen.
The new Tunisian Constitution represents a profound step forward in the advancement of human evolution. With its strong commitment to universal human values, it truly represents a great victory for human rights. Tunisia’s vision provides an example for people deprived of democracy around the world.
Congratulations are in order for Tunisia. However, we must also recognize that there is still a hard road before them. They now must apply the new principles to a culture whose behavior has been shaped by generations of repressive ancestral beliefs/programs. Fortunately, their effort will be eased by the increasing percentage of the population representing the Millennial Generation, specifically those who have been plugged into, and awakened by the global Internet.
A cautionary note: The Arab Spring demonstrations were precipitated by high unemployment, poverty, food inflation, poor living conditions, corruption, a lack of freedom of speech and other political freedoms (… such as those taken away by the Patriot Act!).
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