Sima Barmania, The Independent
Fanon, Iconic psychiatrist and author of books such as “Wretched of the
Earth”, wrote that “literature increasingly involves itself in its only
real task, which is to get society to reflect and mediate”.
Paulo Freire’s landmark book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is a prime
example of literature that makes one reflect, cogitate and ponder all at
In addition, Freire’s “Pedagogy” is also the archetypal case in point
of a book, which is just as relevant today as it was decades ago.
Freire was a Brazilian educator, who grew up during the poverty of
the Great Depression in the 1930s and published one of his seminal works
“Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, in English in 1970. Freire’s book, rooted
in his experience of liberation in Brazil is equally apt in the context
of the Arab Spring, and particularly after the death of Gaddafi last
One of Freire’s central tenets was that “education is freedom” that
leads toward true liberation and that the “banking” concept of
education- where students are empty vessels to be filled, acts as an
instrument of oppression. He called on the cultivation of a critical
consciousness (conscientizacao), enabling those to reflect upon their
own reality and thereby transform it.
“How can the oppressed, as divided, unauthentic beings, participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation” Freire asks?
It is this concept of the oppressed initiating and participating in
their own liberation, as was the case in the Arab Spring, which was
central to Freire’s writing.
Freire explains: “Revolution is born as a social entity within the
oppressor society…Every entity develops (or is transformed within
itself, through the interplay of its contradictions. External
conditioners, while necessary, are effective only if they coincide with
It is a sentiment shared by many involved in the Arab Revolution,
including Ahmed Farid, an Egyptian lawyer and peace activist working in
Speaking with Farid he speaks optimistically and passionately: “For
centuries the Arab countries lived in an automatic and dictatorial
regime. People were yearning for justice and equality for democracy and
freedoms but with no effective result UNTIL the revolution came. It was
not a revolution of the hungry or the miserable, though lots of people
were in need, but it was a revolution for dignity and self respect”.
Farid continues: “from Tunisia when a police woman slapped Mohamed Bo
Azizi when he asked for his rights and he decided to commit a suicide
then all the Tunisians went out from their homes and demonstrated
against the regime and they succeeded. Then it [the revolution] came to
Egypt and the regime said Egypt is not like Tunisia but the Egyptians
made it, they made it in a peaceful and modern way that attracted the
attention of the whole world.
Freire also highlights the “culture of silence” and strategies that
are enacted in order that oppression of the people is maintained.
“Manipulation, sloganizing, depositing, regimentation, and prescription
cannot be components of revolutionary praxis, precisely because they are
the components of the praxis of domination”
Freire’s work, often cited in peace education discourses, also
highlights the real potentiality of the oppressed becoming the
oppressors, which seems particularly timely given the discovery of 53
bodies of executed Gaddafi loyalists, reported by Kim Sengupta.
Freire’s words seem almost like a forewarning:
“[Dehumanization of the oppressed] …is a distortion of being more fully
human, sooner or later being less human leads the oppressed to struggle
against those who made them so. In order for this struggle to have
meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity,
become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the
humanity of both”.
Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the oppressed” is timeless, as pertinent
to the revolution in the Middle East now as to those in South America
decades ago. Moreover, most importantly it makes one reflect and in
Freire’s words it is this “reflection- true reflection which leads to