Saturday, 15 October 2011

Tunisia, Egypt, Libya. Grahamstown?

by Tristan Gevers, The Daily Dispatch

TODAY - October 15 - has been declared World Revolution Day and various
groups have organised "occupation" in many cities around the world,
including in South Africa.

According to the Occupy South Africa webpage, "occupation" will occur from
about 8am on World Revolution Day, and there will be "movements" in
Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Grahamstown and East London.

Under the name "Operation Ubuntu", those involved argue "like our brothers
and sisters at Wall Street and in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan
to restore freedom in South Africa".

These "movements" are grassroots movements, with no visibly identifiable
leaders. These are the voices of the people, and they join many others from
around the world in raising a united voice against the elites who have been
overtaken by greed and corruption, and who use force to silence the voices
of those who resist.

Unquestionably, this year has been a year of upheavals and social protests -
and it does not seem as if this is about to end.

Since it all began in North Africa, the world has seen uprising after
uprising, such as the riots in England, the unrest in Greece, and recently,
even the "Slutwalk" protests that occurred in many areas of the world.
Graffiti found in Greece during their period of unrest said: "I was born in
Tunisia, I grew up in Egypt, I fought in Yemen, now I'm sacrificing myself
in Libya, with hopes of victory - my name is freedom".

Although these movements appear to be spreading like wildfire and are
appearing in different forms around the world, like the graffiti, they have
common goals: less corruption, less greed, more say by the individual in the
running of their own lives. More freedom.

What is perhaps most striking about these movements is, as social media
marketing guru Walter Pike says in "What Slutwalk, Occupy Wall Street and
the Tottenham Riots really mean" is that all appear to be spontaneous
grassroots movements, and all have shown that social media can be used as a
base of coordination.

We, in South Africa, have not been exempt. We have our fair share of social
movements - like the Unemployed People's Movement in Grahamstown, the
Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shack Dwellers) Movement in Durban, the Landless
People's Movement in Gauteng, the service delivery protest formations
throughout the country, as well as the "Slutwalk" protests and now, the
"Occupy" movement.

Joseph Heath, in his Ideology, Irrationality and Collectively Self-Defeating Behavior
argues that before acting, individuals will weigh up the risks and the benefits
and will only engage in action if the benefits outweigh the risks.
It seems obvious that if someone, standing alone, believes that raising
their voice will result in state repression, they will most likely not raise
their voice because they fear the risk is too high. However, what if they
are not standing alone? What if they are joined by many that feel the same
way in their own local area? What if they find they are not alone, even in
the international arena?

When an individual begins to feel that others will stand with him/her, that
they will not shoulder the risks alone, then the benefits begin to outweigh
the risks.

What social media has created is what Benedict Anderson calls an "imagined
community". Individuals no longer feel isolated. Those that wish to raise
their voices can - free from the dictates of a political party - and they
can anticipate that others will stand with them. As they join others in
raising their voices, the individual fear that at first overcame them
subsides. They become more than just a collection of individuals. They
become a movement with common goals. As the "Occupy" movement's motto says:
"We are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the

In addition, this "community" knows no borders. Much like the ongoing
results of the protests that were dubbed the "Battle of Seattle" in 1999,
people around the world are beginning to see the possibility of a united
front. These people, the "wretched" of the earth, are beginning to develop
the methods to unite on a global scale, and they are beginning to use them.
There has been a crescendo of voices around the world. It is a crescendo
free of hierarchical direction, the voices of the masses; the sleeping giant
now awakens.

These are the nameless individuals who do not wish to sit idly by while they
are exploited. They do not wish to keep quiet on corruption. They cry out
for a say in running their own lives.

To borrow from the analogy used in the speech by British Prime Minister
Harold Macmillan to the parliament in South Africa in 1960, the winds of
change are beginning to blow. The masses will not be muzzled, they will
speak, and the world shall listen.