Zodwa Nsibande, from a post on South Africa’s Abahlali baseMjondolo, a shack dwellers movement:
In our days being involved in the struggle for change is no longer as popular as it was before simply because many people believe that because we had got rid of the oppressive government everything is now ok. But freedom was never just a case of replacing a white government with a black government. It was a case of building a different kind of society – a society that put human beings at the centre, a society in which there would be decent homes, decent work, decent schools and decent health care for everyone. It was a case of building a participatory democracy in which everyone’s voice and life would count the same irregardless of whether they were a woman or a man, black or white, gay or straight or poor or rich. In fact it was a case of building a society where poverty would be ended.
Those who think that the time of struggle is over are forgetting that we are still living under a kind of apartheid but that in this apartheid the difference is the people are divided by class. The gap between those who have and those who don’t have is huge and it is getting worse. Those who say that we must be patient are forgetting that things are getting worse for the poor and not better.
And here is a look at Spain’s days of protests in May of 2011.
By Siân Ruddick:
Mass demonstrations and protest camps have mushroomed across Spain as the young and the unemployed say “enough”. As many as 40 percent of Spain’s 4.5 million unemployed are under 25.
The economic crisis has brought further austerity and attacks on workers and the poor. But now the people are fighting back.
Unemployment runs at 21% in the country, 45% for those who are 18 to 25 years old.
Sokari Ekine writes about Uganda and Africa:
Uprisings continue across the continent, with Uganda being the latest country where citizens have taken to the streets in protest against rising food and energy prices.
[…]The protests have met with a violent response from the government of Yoweri Museveni, with police firing live bullets at crowds, beatings and mass arrests.
[…]Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah in the Southern Africa FBP likens Museveni to Egypt’s Mubarak with the same mindset and the same relationship with the West:
‘Typical of a mindset of a dictator, President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years, does not see the connection between the uprisings and his governing style. Instead his delusional mentality makes him see how indispensable he is to Uganda. Narcissistic is what he is, just like all dictators and autocratic leaders, and he does not care about what the Ugandan citizens think or want.’
In Egypt, here’s a peek at May 20, Tahrir Square:
Hossam el-Hamalway in an interview:
The revolution was against the Mubarak regime but all we’ve managed to do so far is remove Mubarak himself. The ones running the country right now are Mubarak’s generals, who were the backbone of his dictatorship from day one.
[…]Attempts are already under way by middle-class activists to place limits on this revolution and ensure it remains only within the realm of formal political institutions.
[…]But the main part of any revolution has to be socio-economic emancipation for the citizens of a country; if you want to eliminate corruption or stop vote-buying then you have to give people decent salaries, make them aware of their rights and not leave them in dire economic need. A middle-class activist can return to his executive job after they think the revolution is over, but a public transport worker who has spent 20 years in service and is getting paid only 189 Egyptian pounds a month – you can’t ask this guy to go back to work and tell his starving kids at home that everything will be sorted out once we have a civilian government in the future.So this is phase two of the revolution, the phase of socio-economic change. What we need to do now is take Tahrir to the factories, the universities, the workplaces. In every single institution in this country there is a mini-Mubarak who needs to be overthrown. In every institution there are figures from the old state security regime who need to be overthrown. These guys are the counter-revolution.
And in Greece, according to Matthaois Tsimitakis:
The village of Keratea is a conservative and peaceful place, about an hour’s drive from Athens. When, a few months ago, the central government decided without consultation to create a garbage landfill destroying antiquities, polluting the environment and defying the European Commission’s rejection of the plan as unsustainable, Keratea erupted into violent confrontation with the police.
[…]The Keratea resistance is part of a series of low or higher intensity confrontations with the government, its preferred contractors and the repressive apparatus of state brought in to protect the corporations. Such local movements have spread all over the country for some time, defending public spaces against privatization (this has happened repeatedly in Athens where the last remaining green spots are consistently given over to construction companies), natural resources (the Canadian gold mining corporation TVX is facing a strong resistance movement in the North of the country), or protesting against the repeated corruption scandals.
Palestinian refugees marched to commemorate Nakba on May 15, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands from their homes in today’s occupied Palestine and Israel.
Karma Nabulsi has this to say:
It was the moment for which we had all been holding our breath for decades – for 63 years to be precise. Palestinians everywhere watched the unfolding scene transfixed and awed. The camera followed the movements of a small group of people advancing from the mass of protesters. They were carefully making their way down a hill towards the high fence that closed off the mined field separating Syria from its own occupied territory of the Golan that borders historic Palestine, now Israel.
They were mostly young Palestinians, drawn from the 470,000-plus refugee community in Syria: from Yarmouk refugee camp inside Damascus, from Khan el-Sheikh camp outside it, from Deraa and Homs refugee camps in the south, from Palestinian gatherings all over the country.
Slowly, and in spite of the shouted warnings from the villagers from Majdal Shams about the lethal landmines installed by the Israeli military right up to the fence, these remarkable ordinary young people – Palestinian refugees – began to both climb and push at the fence. We were going home.
It was a profoundly revolutionary moment, for these hundreds of young people entering Majdal Shams last Sunday made public the private heart of every Palestinian citizen, who has lived each day since 1948 in the emergency crisis of a catastrophe. Waiting, and struggling, and organising for only two things: liberation and return.
[…]On Sunday, this moment of return was enacted simultaneously in Haifa and among Palestinians displaced inside Israel, on the borders of Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Gaza, in the West Bank near the Qalandia refugee camp – wherever the more than 7 million stateless Palestinian refugees now live, very near their original villages and towns. Just out of sight, over the hill, across the border.
Moe Ali Nayel writes:
things will not be the same as before 15 May. Just like after Muhammad Bouazizi, things are not the same as before he shook the Arab world. The Arab people, us, the Arab youth, we are not going to let the status quocontinue, we are not going to be humiliated by our own people anymore. We are not going to let Palestine and the Palestinian people be humiliated and tortured every time they breathe.
We are freedom-loving people and we won’t live anymore on empty promises from our corrupt governments who use Palestine as a pretext to repress us while they enjoy stealing from our pockets. We won’t let them continue to make sure Israel is safe and sound, enjoying the beautiful land of Palestine, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees live in inhumane conditions in the camps.
In Portugal, on March 12 ” Upwards of 300,000 people took to the streets in Lisbon and other Portuguese cities on Saturday to protest job insecurity…”
In the UK, there have been cuts to education, health care and social spending after providing massive ‘bailouts’ to financial institutions that continue to pull in enormous profits. This has resulted in direct action, protests, and occupations of universities.
From We are the Third Force by S’bu Zikode of Abahlali baseMjondolo:
The community has realised that voting for parties has not brought any change to us.
[…]For us time has been a very good teacher. People have realised so many things. We have learnt from the past – we have suffered alone. That pain and suffering has taught us a lot. We have begun to realise that we are not supposed to be living under these conditions.
And here’s a little song courtesy of Nina Simone:
Excerpt from and thoughts on Pablo Neruda’s I’m Explaining a Few Things:
And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.
Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.
Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.
And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.
Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!
I know this poem seems sad and stained by anguish, but I feel that at its heart is a beautiful thing, a movement for ethical action by unmasking the horror of too often romanticized or erased wars.
I remember quite clearly when I first read this poem. I was in my old office. It breathed new life onto an ember that had been for some time dormant in my chest. I remembered my own childhood, and heard again as if newly retold the stories of my family. I admire their courage. No, this is a dismissive term, and misrepresents. There is no courage in what those who came before me did, they simply lived. They lived within a pregnant moment and there was no tomorrow, and the days that had passed reverberated like the dull moan of a voiceless gong.
I listened to a professor at Tehran University speak of his protest against the arrest of students and faculty. He was asked if he feared for his security; no, he lived in the full bloom of life. Earlier this year, I saw a legless once-soldier during a meeting dispel the growing anxiety within the room with a calm speech on the need for understanding and respect not only for our enemies but for allies as well. He cut through the room’s tension with his short speech and brought bickering allies to common cause. What was going through my mind then? I realized how small I was, how petty I could be, at times so self-absorbed. I also thought, that could have been me; I might have lost my limbs in the human wave assaults; but I got away.
I remember the day of the black rain. A plague of fearful and grotesque rumours had infected my childhood city: chemical weapons were killing soldiers and civilians. It was true, in the west, but it did not reach us, we were too far away. But then it rained black rain. People’s clothes were stained with it, cars were stained with it, and the paranoid had to be reassured by the majority who were sensible (or simply had blind faith) that the chemicals could not be borne by the clouds, that this was nothing more than the too common pollution that clogged the city’s air.
This seems so very ugly; it is. And perhaps it should strain the very cord of our spine to bear the weight of this knowledge, to know that we can be so lacking in wisdom, so very flawed that we would kill for a fistful of dirt. Would I do this? Would I drain the blood of my fellow human in fear, blindness, and ignorance?
But there is beauty in this plight. The fog of human ignorance is thick, that is certain, but to look on this and pierce through it I can see the very many acts of kindness; there is a boundless and timeless moment that can hang within and between us, a no-space and no-time that can move the legless once-soldier to speech. So, I don’t wish to avert my gaze, I don’t wish to blindly believe in the ill or good of people, I would rather see the haunting beauty of it all and hope to gain some measure of wisdom in my life.