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On waking up

2010-2011_Arab_world_protests.PNG: *Arab League: Serg!oEgypt. A revolution on the scale of the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution, the Women’s Revolution. Millions are changing everything because they can’t bear the oppression any longer; because they’ve captured the imagination of another way.

Iran, Yemen, Bahrain … Egypt’s imagination inspired by Tunisia. Tunisia inspired by … Facebook? Well, clearly Facebook is just one moment in a long history.

But whose?

@tomcopy’s tweet: ‘So glad Mubarak is gone. I’ve despised him ever since I read about him on Wikipedia two weeks ago’ might sound hideously flip, but in the context of the twitter stream, it made sense and clearly, plenty of Twitter users could relate to it.

Beyond a capitalist construct of lies I have long resisted, I don’t know much about the political history and even less about the modern face of the Arab nations. I am new to a first-name relationship with the leaders of the governments and struggled to name all the countries that comprise the region. Reprehensible, considering ‘my country’ is waging an unjust war on some of the locals.

I’d like to think it’s just me, but suspect I may not be the greatest of the least informed.

Remarkable, heart-rending Internet coverage of the (long overdue) fall of Hosni Mubarak has let any old tweetster get involved in the Egyptian revolution, even if it’s only to talk about it; to float ideas that challenge the theocracy/autocracy model the West seems so attached to for Arab peoples, to share thought and discourse, expose fearmongering and generally deepen understanding of international affairs. Live coverage by Al Jazeera (English) is riveting.

Tweeters, bloggers and journalists are writing about it, from within and without, and people are reading. And learning. And waking up.

It’s easy to feel we ‘should know’ this and that, be informed, stay informed and humans are quick to mock, to scoff, to look down on the asker of the ‘stupid question’, the poor fool who doesn’t know who the president of Yemen is. To admit you don’t know something, haven’t sought out an experience, have let the corporate media and the general malaise shape your thinking about the politics of the world, is to admit a failure and that is unacceptable: perhaps it’s easier to bury your head in the ground than risk facing the ‘known unknowns’. But for privileged Australians with access to the Internet, there are no more excuses for apathy and ignorance. If others can face down rubber bullets, teargas and worse, perhaps we can risk asking a question or two.

And it’s okay to start where you are in this self-education, this reprogramming, this adventure of the mind and heart. Isn’t it? I mean, where else can one begin?

I spoke part of Shelley’s poem ‘The Masque of Anarchy’ at an orientation day today, for students training to be schoolteachers. Ignorant and unworthy as I am, I dedicated it to the peoples of the so-called ‘Middle East’ and their risk of all for freedom; in support of a new way of thinking about what is possible in the world. Tonight, it seems just as relevant for the Australian public.

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you —
Ye are many — they are few

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Clare Strahan is a Melbourne writer and author of Cracked. She is also a drama tutor, a graduate of RMIT’s Professional Writing & Editing, a writer of fiction and poetry and is a contributing editor. at Overland. She is a freelance editor, creator of the Literary Rats cartoon, and flutters about the twittersphere as @9fragments.

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Comments

  1. Great post. It is so much easier these days to get our hands on information – internet search, wikipedia, etc., Instead of having to look up physical encylopedias at the library or whatever. So we do have a tendency to have a shallow knowledge of a lot of things (but that must be better than being totally ignorant on the subject). The poem is a great choice.

  2. Thank you, Gabrielle. You make me remember how important it is we find a way to promote and protect the integrity of Internet knowledge (and how grateful I am for my particular Twitter-community: excellent ‘gatekeepers’).

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