IF the “Arab Spring” aroused enthusiasm in fine weather, pessimism is now in season. In the media, a semantic shift has been made from the revolutionary theme to a register with negative connotations, where the triumph of the Islamists, the dynamics of civil war, disillusionment and powerlessness figure prominently.
Thus, the comments give pride of place to the cleavages of identity, the reactionary reaction of the reactionaries, the foreign interference considered necessary or disastrous.
It is not surprising that the flashing moment of lightning revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt gives way to a great deal of confusion. Almost everywhere in the Arab world, we are witnessing a renegotiation, more or less ambitious and violent, of a whole social contract. To the complexity of the individual cases are added their strong correlations, in a boiling region, where the “Tunisian model” is discussed until the end of the Syrian campaigns.
The articulation of deep domestic crises and crucial strategic issues, referring to the place of Iran and Israel on the international scene. Finally, in the face of historical upheavals, the scale and nature of which will only be understood after the event, the social and political actors – including the most rational and the most dangerous – are reduced to improvisation, making their errors of judgment a worrying factor of uncertainty.
What is striking is not so much disorder as a desire to clarify it. A year after the flight of President Ben Ali, many would like the time of balance sheets has already come. Rather than drawing conclusions when it is more difficult than ever to do so, it is rather a matter of tearing oneself away from a journalistic temporality – which, when it does not reduce historical processes to crises, is quick to call them impasse.
What makes the current transitions impossible to judge is that they reveal innumerable latent tensions within the societies of the region, at the very moment when they make disappear the traditional means of their management, since the usual processes diets are exactly what their subjects do not tolerate anymore.
The challenge of these renegotiations is precisely to recreate mechanisms for settling social conflicts, on new bases that are themselves sources of conflict. It is not surprising to see them spark disagreements or even violence. The real question mark is the emergence of political systems that attach central importance to popular legitimacy in a region that has so far been devoid of it.
In the postcolonial era, the powers in place in the Arab world have mobilized three forms of legitimacy, namely strategic, client list and authoritarian. First, they have established themselves in a certain relationship with the game of the great powers, as guarantors of their interests or, on the contrary, symbols of emancipation and resistance. In both cases, this posture derived from resources (political alliances, financial support, arm supplies) essential to the perpetuation of the regimes.
Then, they ensured a better distribution of available resources within their societies, after centuries of concentration of wealth in the hands of a circumscribed elite and looting by outside powers.
Finally, and in the continuation of an entrenched colonial tradition, all justified authoritarianism as the only cement fragile societies, threatened regression and burst by obscurantist forces of Islamism tribalism through the community splits. The state has thus been constructed as an apparatus of redistribution and control, against any notion of citizenship.
The few democratic experiments attempted in recent decades, likely to introduce a new relationship to the state, have all been scuttled. In Lebanon and Iraq, the institutionalization of the communal sharing of political prerogatives, under the French mandate and the American occupation reciprocally, locks voters into a system that strengthens ethnic and sectarian divides. In Algeria and Palestine, attempts to open the political game to popular participation fizzled after the brutal rejection of the Islamist vote, leading in both cases to clashes leaving lasting legacies.
Recent transitions naturally reflect this heritage. The regimes, challenged by popular mobilizations, have not hesitated to play on the usual registers: they call on their allies for help and cry out for foreign conspiracy; paternalistic, they distribute benefits and concessions; and they stir up the fear of chaos, referring in particular to Algeria and Iraq.
They suppress, but they try to scuttle expressions of citizenship that are nonviolent and socially transversal demonstrations trying to reintroduce the divisions they have always played. Societies, they instinctively try to overcome them, hard work given the deeply rooted anxieties and structures (social, religious, media,
It is therefore not a coincidence that identity issues – especially inter-community relations, regional particularities, and the role of Islam in the state – are crucial in the transformations that have taken place across the region act of revolutions or reforms. Because these stress regimes exacerbated, manipulated and controlled them all at the same time. Today at least, a chance is emerging to see emerging political systems that do not exclude any sense of citizenship. Already, a proliferation of citizen initiatives swarms throughout the region. It is the hidden side of history, overshadowed by the violence of repression, the electoral triumph of the Islamists and the major strategic issues.
For now, societies are exposed, transparent to themselves and to the rest of the world, and for the first time forced to face their own demons. It is no longer possible to ignore the quasi-apartheid that has emerged in Bahrain between the Sunni minority in power and the Shia majority. The secularism of the state and the Tunisian elites will have to live with a conservative society long despised. The plural nature of Syrian society demands a rethinking of the social pact rather than of banking, which on the supposed safeguard provided by the current regime, which on a mythical inter-community conviviality that the regime would be the only one to threaten. In Libya, the absence of a state, and even of a centre around which it could organize, is no longer retracted by the utopia of a tyrant.
And Egypt, where society likes to imagine homogeneous and consensual, cannot resolve its conflicts – on the place to be given to the army, Islam and Christians in particular – without first accepting their existence more and more blatant. The fault lines of Arab societies are now gaping and overt; it is now a question of recognizing them and assuming them.
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Sundar working in mippin.com, [mainly writes for Triathlon Watch] as a manager. He is a writer for more than a year. And also working as a freelancer SEO analyst. He helps his clients to grow their business by advising them, how to advertise and market.