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Tunisia: revolution is just the beginning

Tunisia Revolution

August 15, 2012
Tunis, Tunisia

rev-o-lu-tion (n)
1. a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.
2. the single completion of an orbit or rotation.

On the morning of December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi started his workday like any other. The 26-year old street merchant laid out the day’s produce on his cart, greeted his colleagues, and passed the first few hours of the day without consequence.

Then the police showed up.

This was a frequent occurrence in Tunisia’s corrupt society. Police and bureaucrats routinely found ways to plunder the hard work and savings of people like Bouazizi who spent all day in the sun trying to make an honest living.

That day, the police claimed that street merchants suddenly needed a permit to sell fruit. This was completely bogus, they were just looking for bribe money. Bouazizi obviously had no permit, nor had he the means to bribe the police… and before soon, the police had seized his property.

Angered, Bouazizi went to the local administrative governor to plead his case and get his property back… but the governor refused to see him.

While it’s difficult to say precisely what was going on inside Bouazizi’s head at this point, it’s clear the man had reached his breaking point. Tunisia’s corrupt system had taken away the only means he had to earn the meager $140 monthly wage from which he supported his extended family. He was powerless.

Bouazizi left the governor’s office and returned a short while later with a can of gasoline shouting ‘How do you expect me to make a living!?!?’. With that, he turned the gas can upside down above his head, lit a match, and roasted himself alive.

Within hours, people spilled into the streets of Bouazizi’s home town demonstrating against the corrupt government that had driven a man over the edge. The protests quickly spread to Tunisia’s major cities, uncorking deep resentment over rising cost of living, dismal economic conditions, and lack of freedom.

The protests soon turned into a revolution. Within a month, the government of Tunisia had collapsed, and President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a longtime strongman in power since 1987, fled to Saudi Arabia with his family.

It’s been over 18-months since Tunisia’s revolution, and I’ve been eager to see how the country has fared.

My experiences in Egypt last year taught me that revolutions usually come full circle; even the definition of the word ‘revolution’ in celestial terms means the completion of a full orbit, i.e. you end up right back where you started.

In the case of the Egyptians, the country traded out one dictator (Hosni Mubarak) for another (General Hussein Tantawi), ending up right back where they started. Tunisia is following a similar pattern.

Graft, corruption, and bribery are still commonplace. The conservative Islamist government is pushing for a Constitutional change that would turn the clock back on basic rights for women. Police are out in the streets once again clashing with thousands of anti-government protestors. The economy is still in dismal condition, the cost of living is still rising, and incomes are still failing to keep up.

This whole region reflects an important lesson that history has taught so many times before: the system can become so screwed up that it can take years… even decades to reset.

During the French Revolution, it took 25-years from the time that Parisians stormed the Bastille to when Louis XVIII was fully restored as the nation’s constitutional monarch. In the meantime they had internal civil war, war with Austria and Prussia, hyperinflation, genocide, etc.

Real changes don’t happen overnight. It takes time. Revolution is just the beginning. This is why elections that promise ‘change’ are completely meaningless. It doesn’t matter who wins, very little will change. As in Tunisia and Egypt, ‘change’, and even full blown revolution only brings you back to where you started. It’s just the beginning.

With the political theater now getting into full swing in the United States, a lot of people could benefit from this important lesson. Millions are investing their time, faith, and energy into a fraudulent political process that cons voters in every election cycle.

Today’s problems built up from decades of irresponsible consumption, unsustainable spending, unprecedented monetary expansion, and political folly. It’s foolish to think that the ship can be righted from a single event or election.

Rather than rallying behind the false hope of political idols, our time is much better spent investing in ourselves, safeguarding our families’ livelihoods, and becoming more self-reliant. Imagine if everyone were doing this… it would be truly revolutionary.

About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/owen.kinnan Owen Kinnan

    There is certainly an element of truth in what you say, Simon. However, weather it is called “changing direction” or revolution, it has to start somewhere, right?

  • tob

    Having taken the same tact, as Mohamed Bouazizi, 30yrs ago when street vending was being outlawed in Ottawa, getting arrested at gunpoint a couple of times, losing my license/permit and eminent domain, and, watching the full implementation of the Police State by 1984 through the hijacking of commerce, I can readily disagree with the summary and conclusions in your article.
    Instead of being more self reliant we need to be more reliant on community’s that support the basis of business without perverting or hijacking it. Without the Freedom of access to the mark, or market, their are no Freedoms.
    A community must have it’s own market free of taxation or fee, supported by the community/s own production in principle and labor, to facilitate trade with other communities and countries.
    This is the basis of business and freedom. The peoples and countries that facilitate this are the ones who will survive and thrive.
    Even silver, real money, will buy nothing where there is no market. Most markets are teetering on the edge.
    Otherwise a fine article.

  • karl88

    this is one of most sensible, reachable articles simon has written. speaks for everyone, not just those with the asses and means to buy gold, get a second passport, move to another country etc.

  • marysaunders

    This article seems to contradict another recent article, so I am left wondering.

    I live in Portland, Oregon, and I can say that residents of particular streets here can organize well and convert the city from confiscation mode to pandering mode.

    My example is Alberta Street, which started shutting the street down for a monthly street fair called Last Thursday (a play on First Thursday, which happens in an internationally chic part of town on the other side of the river).

    Last Thursday partisans closed the street down themselves, for safety reasons. People walk, dance, etc. in the street, and it was dangerous to leave the street open.

    People do things here and pretend that divas did it in the night, which could be an imitation of the art closure in Curitiba, Brazil, much discussed by Bill McKibben, who has a following here, except in Curitiba, the mayor himself organized things and did not deny that.

    Anyway, Last Thursday got so famous that people fly in to go to it. This tends to make city officials want to go there too. I have frequently seen the mayor on the street, being photographed with people who recognize him.

    I met the most wonderful Tunisian doctor in France in the 70′s. I also ate wonderful Tunisian pastries in Paris. I hope that Tunisians can adopt this Portland-street type of activism and overturn the mean-guy thing.

    Another form of this was the steel-drum conversion from gang violence to battles of the bands in Trinidad. The grand-daddy of that was working as a master steel-drum researcher in a university in West Virginia last I heard. Ph.D metallurgists seek his opinions.

    For greater peace and prosperity on earth, we must learn to convert mean old people by means of music, art, alcohol, whatever.

  • marysaunders

    I forgot to mention Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto. He is somewhat endlessly controversial for pointing out that marginalized people are priced out of being legal in some economies. To me, this is so obvious, I can’t imagine the idiocy of those who argue against this, but consolidationists and monopolists do argue against it.

  • Dude

    OT: Simon, what are your thoughts on Belize and the safety of its banks?

    Thanks.

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