The Era When Things Changed

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The Era When Things Changed

Today marks the 38th anniversary of one of the most inspiring and peaceful revolutions of the 20th century – The Portuguese Carnation Revolution. It was the 25th of April, 1974 when unlikely groups of low ranking soldiers from around the country disobeyed orders and took members of the brutal dictatorial regime prisoner.  The soldiers had carried out and seen horrible acts during brutal colonial wars pursued by the Portuguese fascist state. The country itself was drained of its resources and had become a place characterized by poverty and a constant fear of being arrested, tortured or killed by the authorities.  Despite failed revolution attempts before the 25th, the low ranking officers along with regular people throughout the country, took to the streets, daring to march, speak out for human rights, and defy their government. A gamble that risked everything, but paid off – concepts like social justice, equality, democracy, and peace, seemed to win a wave of victories that day and in the days following. A level of success that few countries have ever known in the wake of revolution, then and now.

Having not been alive in 1974, yet still being surrounded throughout my life by people who were involved or who witnessed this unique moment in history, my understanding of the carnation revolution is shaped by the stories. And as we all know, stories can be inspiring, and yes – even exaggerated at times. But from all the stories I have ever heard of the 25 of April, what I am most left with is a profound awe and jealously for what people in those days lived through.  Awe for obvious reasons; the massive challenge and tremendous risk these soldiers and ordinary people undertook. The outpouring of love and care for one another in the streets, despite all the fear and pain that had so recently been a reality. Jealously; to never have lived in such a fantastic moment of action and initiative. To see and be a part of a movement that ended wars, experience the rebirth of freedom of expression, shaking free of the economic and political structures that held the country hostage for decades.

These days we point to the arab spring as a source of possible inspiration, though even the immediate future for those nations remains cloudy.  Some of us talk about occupy like the beginning of something significant, that could bring real change to a situation that is screaming out to be addressed. One day both of these may be looked back on as the verified beginnings of something great. But right now I would put them on historical probation, pending future developments and historical analysis. Overall I would say the 21st century (so far) is marked more by taking two steps back for every one step forward towards peace, love, and understanding. Perhaps there was a hopeful but cautious independent journalist back in the 70’s who observed the same thing.

Portugal in 1974 remains an era I wish I could have lived through. An era where things actually changed and you could see them change and run down the list of successes and of course failures. In the years and decades that would follow, some hopes and promises never came true. Others have been eroded by new economic and political waves.  Portugal now finds itself with a laundry list of problems that make it hard to cheer or sing about the goals of the past. But if we talk about significant moments in history, where the forces of open mindedness and social justice won the day and got to put policies into practice on a real scale-  for me its April 25th, 1974 that wins every time. What a fantastic time it must have been.

ctrp367 Reflections on Revolutions

by bicyclemark 3 Comments

It is a new day in Egypt. You’ve heard about the tools, you’ve heard about the youth, but what happened and what happens in not only the region but in places like the United States.  What do Egypt and the United States have in common and could youth in the US be inspired? And what can be said about Algeria, Iran, and other areas where something big might be happening and what is the nature of that something?

My guest is John G. Mason, professor of Political Science at William Paterson University (the same department and classroom in which I became socially and politically conscious).  He does not claim to be an expert with all the answers on Middle East or North African politics.  What John does know about is asking the right questions and keeping a critical eye on events even in a time when many have taken the focus off of the process now taking place in Egypt and Tunisia.

Liberation Square

Some of John’s recommended sources:

Juan Cole | Tom Dispatch | Courrier International

45 to 60 Days

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The world is fixated on Egypt for the last 7 days and for good reason. However elsewhere in the world things are also changing in different ways and it is important that good journalists and critical minds don’t all converge in one place.

Just over two weeks ago much of the attention in the international press was focused on Tunisia, again, understandable considering the powerful and historically breathtaking images from the streets of Tunis. The departure of the president/dictator was a great victory for anyone who favors an open and democratic Tunisia. The event is hailed as the inspiration of Egypt and possibly a growing list of nations where iron fisted rulers are suddenly scared of what fate may await them.

You’ve heard about these things, but what of Tunisia since January 11? An acting President and a whole new slate of ministers, including a political party and cabinet member that had been banned and jailed under the tyrannical rule of Ben Ali. According to the constitution, in 45 to 60 days from the moment the acting president steps in, an election must be held. At this point no date has been set, but that doesn’t deter the questions of who will run, what parties will come forward, how will they work together in an eventual government, and what will be their program. I‘ve heard analysts say left of center, or islamic left, but I still wonder how it will all play out.

In the meantime there is word of many new freedoms, especially when it comes to the press. This is of course a great and essential development, but it is important in such a critical aftermath of a revolution, when the world’s short attention span has moved on, that critical and concerned observers not sit back and assume all will be well. Part of what ensures this process really takes place and has long lasting value, is that we keep asking questions, and keep up the pressure.

New Day in Tunisia

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Photo from Tunis via AFPFriends around the world have been writing to me, urging me to cover the issue of the demonstrations and now revolution in Tunisia for some weeks now.  I’ve responded that I’m watching it all unfold like everyone else; in mainstream media, on twitter, on activist blogs in and around the country.  But as for covering it myself, I didn’t have anything new or helpful to add at the time.  Maybe now that the amazing has happened.. I will be able to look into these extraordinary events in more detail, by talking to individuals who have been instrumental in making it happen.

For now, I leave it to Global Voices and their great correspondants around the world, to explain the new day that has come in Tunisia.  Today’s headline from one blogger: Tunisia: Celebrations Welcome the End of Ben Ali’s Rule. (follow the link for details)

One more dictator down, a victory for the people of Tunisia and the world.