Now seems a good time for us to remind ourselves that the match that ignited the Tunisian revolution, and this Arab Spring, was lit by Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit seller who set himself on fire on December 17. It was an act of martyrdom that the Times considered at length last month.
He did this due to continual harassment and poor treatment by municipal officials, in particular by Faida Hamdi, who slapped him when he was unable to pay a bribe. The conditions had to be right for Bouazizi’s act to spark revolution, but that was the slap felt around the world. And that was some damn important fruit.
This time last year I wrote “where politics and due process fail, nature eventually wins” due to how heads of state seemed so beleaguered by ill-health. But there’s an ill side to that sick coin that I didn’t consider.
After a revolution, deposed leaders seem to only get sicker. Tunisia’s Ben Ali is seriously ill after a stroke, while others suggest he is in a coma. Egypt’s Hosni Mumbarak is rumored to be very unwell, holed up in Sharm el-Sheikh. And as WikiLeaks revealed, Colonel Gaddafi is hardly in rude health, always traveling with a Ukrainian nurse by his side. Libya is second highest on the Economist’s Shoe-Throwers’ Index, which ranks the potential for unrest across the Middle East.
I for one hope that there are more occurrences of PTSD (Post-Traumatically Stressed Dictators) as illegitimate leaders continue to fall. No-one can predict what’s next, but everyone is trying: Muslim Brotherhood slowly building power in Egypt? Anti-American regimes replacing our strongest allies? A cultural renaissance in free Cairo, where East meets West? Whatever it is, at least the citizens will have a choice.