Issandr El Amrani writes:
The elation felt across the Arab world over the Tunisian uprising is deep and palpable. It is not simply that, like most people, Arabs are pleased to see a long-repressed people finally have a shot at gaining their freedom. It is also that many recognise themselves in the Tunisian people and share their hopes, their fears, and also their guilt.
Living in a dictatorship is not simply about shutting up and putting up. It is a humiliation, an abasement of the human spirit, that is reinforced on a daily basis. Every time you lower your voice when mentioning a political leader, every time you shrug off rampant corruption as a fact of life that has no redress, every time you bend the rules in a country where connections systematically trump the rule of law, every time you consider emigration simply to get away from the ambient mediocrity and stasis, you forfeit a little piece of dignity.
Tunisians lived this way for decades, and the Ben Ali regime, which inspired such dread, turned out to be rotten and hollow. This small, well-educated and relatively prosperous country of 10 million – despite the rioting, looting and score-settling that has taken place over the past week – has a real chance at making an unprecedented breakthrough for this region and become genuinely democratic. And if successful, this breakthrough will have been made in spite of western support for the Tunisian regime, and without palace plots and military adventurism. It may yet turn out to be the genuine item, a progressive popular revolution.