December 20 2011
It has been a year since Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest his treatment by a corrupt and abusive policewoman in Cite Bousaid in Tunisia. In that year, the Middle East and North Africa has seen revolution, rebellion, repression, and reform. What has changed? How did it happen? What's next? And what does it mean, for America and for the world?
It's easiest to say what has changed: Populations in the region have gone from being "objects" to "actors" in their own history. From the Tunisians who discovered that their passion and mass peaceful protests could topple a supposedly impregnable regime, to the courageous Syrians who defy bloody repression even now, the "Arab Spring" at its core is seen as a change in popular attitudes. Arabs emphasize the importance of "dignity," or a rejection of the "humiliations" of their treatment by authoritarian regimes. Just the thought of self-determination is revolutionary, as such ideas have been at other times in history.