Youth has long been the buzz word connecting to the uprisings in North Africa and in the Middle East in the spring of 2011. A demographic shift, we’ve been told, combined with economic and social conditions, resulted in a new resistence culture with new strategies and goals for their respective countries. Tunisia was one such country, where the median age is 30, and multi-lingual, interconnected youth played an essential role in spearheading the pressure that would lead Ben Ali to flee the country. Now they are also an important part of safeguarding and assessing the changes that are taking place. On today’s podcast, we sit in a part in Tunis, together with 3 young people working in the field of non-profit watch dog organizations. In our 40+ minute conversation you will hear from Amir Kamergi, Khaoula Mhatli, and Yosra Mkadem, regarding the work they are doing and their individual and collective experiences and opinions regarding what is up with Tunisia today, how far we’ve come, and what to make of the future.
“It’s like shock therapy. Something happened that we never expected… it’s getting better each day, people are growing up… and that’s the great thing about our revolution… we know what we want.” – Yosra Mkadem
An African Election is a film that documents the struggle and achievements of the 2008 Ghanian elections. 4 years later, with the death President Atta Mills, the country is preparing to go back to the ballot box. And they’re not alone, throughout the continent of Africa, the wheels of democracy continue to turn, often in places you hear the least about in the international press. Film maker Jarreth Merz is fascinated and inspired by the shining examples of Africa, and in their stories he see’s a chance to inspire, the spark that can light a fire and get new discussions started, large and small. To do it, he’s putting together a mobile movie theater and bringing it all over Ghana and beyond. But he’s not doing it alone, besides his talented team, he’s putting out the call to people around the world who love democracy, Africa, aventure, and stories.. to get involved and get on board – it is time for A Political Safari.
A militia rolls into the airport and shuts down all air traffic, because they’re angry about something. Another militia goes into the offices of the electoral commission and burns ballots, because they’re upset about something. Officials from the International Criminal Court are arrested and later released, under suspicion of being spies.
– Eight months since the declaration of a new Libya and the end of Gaddafi’s rule, the steady stream of bizarre and sometimes dangerous activity continues in that country. As per the nature of media and stories that travel beyond its borders, these stories overshadow the positive developments that are also surely taking place. But the question becomes, despite the short amount of time that has passed, have the first steps in these critical months been the ones that will lead to a more just and peaceful future for the country? Are these isolated incidents that will pass, giving way to cooler heads and more rational conflict resolution?
There is perhaps no great point to speculating or judging for the first year or years, but I am reminded of old wisdom from both religious texts and human rights advocates throughout history on the subject of wars and bringing about change through violence. Violence begets violence. That doesn’t have to be 100% true in all cases, but in today’s Libya I see what seem to be signs of what happens, the side effects of bringing about much needed change by using violence. The guns haven’t gone away and more importantly, the wounds have not simply healed. The trauma continues to play out, and sadly, creates more victims long after the official war has ended.
Was there a better way to do it? Again, it is both too late and not the point. The point – is that the costs of what happened and how it was carried will continue to be felt for what seems like the foreseeable future. Those costs undermine the goals of creating a better country where people can live life without fear of their government or their neighbors.
Over the past weeks the stories have trickled in of events unfolding in Mali. In a rush to fill a knowledge void, many of us do quick research using sources from the past and present regarding this West African nation which in the 1300’s was an empire that controlled the very lucrative precious resource trade in that region. As a standard liberal democracy of today, it was thought of as a good example of a nation. But just as we so often hear from around the world over the past decade, a coup emerges kicking out the president, and revealing that in fact – things are not ok in this ancient land. A chain-reaction of events kicks off, with not only a military group taking over the presidency, but a declaration of independence by an ethnic group in the north, which is of course followed by plentiful speculation about ties to terrorist organization and other possible horror stories.
The frequently repeated line in the press, when attempting to explain the frustration in the country and the reasons the north broke away- they felt ignored by the central government. Others, who support the coup, felt ignored as the government worked hard to appease international funding schemes and please foreign investors (particularly banks). Whether any of these reports are accurate or not, when it comes to describing how people feel in different parts of Mali – it is a familiar phrase – they felt ignored.
How often, throughout the world, despite all the communication and representation that is possible, do people say these same words when describing government. These systems are put in place, often by people who are long gone, and among their descendants – there are those who feel ignored or wronged somehow, by the very group that is supposed to address them. Some will point to economics. Some will point to regional conflicts and trauma. Then there’s religion and ethnicity. The list goes on and on when it comes to why. In a time where there is so much evidence of what we have in common across borders; needs, concerns, goals, maybe even values – we still manage to have groups who feel so ignored they would take up arms, put up borders, and make a new country despite all the hardships that may follow that decision. How did we do that, as a species, as a planet, how did this almost conspiratorial scenario take shape over and over again in various forms across the world? We seem to lose, rather than gain, the ability to live together in the same area, country, or region, regardless of differences.
While research about the planet and our history can and does reveal so many commonalities between people, people have created a reality that manages to divide us up in ever increasing ways. As a once famous fictitious kid on a Baltimore street corner once stated, “World going one way, people another.”