Reflections on the blogging experience.
I always felt I knew a good amount about the Middle East. The area had always fascinated me from the time I was a child due to the amount of history in the region. Great empire rose and fell, and it is the cradle of civilization. What I learned through doing this piece, is while I know a lot of the history, I’ve never kept up as well as I should have on the current events and how the region is changing so rapidly. I chose to focus on one country during this blogging experience so I could get more than just a very basic overview. For me it was important to know more than just one topic of interest different countries, I wanted to delve into more of what makes Tunisia so different from the rest of the area it is in.
I started where it all starts, at the beginning. Learning about our past, can help us see the future. Also as the famous saying goes, if we do not learn the past we are doomed to repeat its mistakes. In contrast, maybe we can replicate the good we did in the past as well. One of our controversies this semester was that of preserving a culture and if it is even possible to do so. I think Tunisia is a living example of how culture changes as time goes on. It has also chosen to pick and chose the good parts of the different empires that have occupied it to create it’s own spin on what their culture should look like. They’ve borrowed from the Ottoman Turks, who largely left them alone in Carthage as an independent part of the empire, the Romans, and the Arabs who has control of the region for a while. Most notably they have a strong French connection since up until 1956 they were still occupied by the French. While as a country they have take the time to preserve the historic sites and use them for their continued cultural and tourism benefits, they have not tried to force their society to stay stagnant or chained to past ways in order to remain “authentic” to their past. In many ways they are a surprisingly liberal Arab state.
In class we had a discussion about how Islam is being perverted in a lot of the Arab states to make the state’s repressive towards women. Women’s rights are another controversy we covered, and one that many of my classmates spoke of. One of my classmates made sure to state that he did not want us to confuse Islam with being this anti-woman. It is the one point we all agreed on. In fact Tunisia is experiencing some of this currently. As I noted in my blogging experience the women of Tunisia have been lucky for a very long time to be treated so well. In fact the women hold a higher status in their society then we women in America do. In Tunisia you truly have equal work for equal pay, you also have access to health care, preventative and otherwise when it comes to reproductive health. They were also given access to these services back in the 1950’s, when it was largely unheard of. If there is to be a “blue printing” of women’s rights for the Middle East, it should start in a Middle East country, and Tunisia is a good place to start. The only downside is that since the Jasmine Spring, radicals are starting to push a repressive Islamic agenda, instead of the secular government that the people of Tunisia have largely enjoyed in their history.
As for the 5 perspectives we covered this semester? I am honestly not sure. In a way I think the previous regime while totally autocratic in its running of a crony government that was corrupt in many ways, didn’t do much. To me you have to look at the first post French government that was put in place. That was more of a political liberal government. They knew enough to know they needed help, and so drew influences from other nations, their own history, and other learnings to build a strong country. Ben Ali’s government was just terrible, and it took radicals to overthrow it. I guess in a way you could say the first non French government was also Radical in that it wanted to be on its own and throw out the old rulers, but at the same time they were sort of cosmopolitan about it. Ben Ali’s overthrow his predecessor in a radical coup sort of move, it was bloodless, but still a throwing out of the old regime. He more implemented a political realist approach I suppose you could say. He took no advice except how to make himself, his family, and his friends rich. He was fairly isolated, and didn’t draw attention to himself or his country. He spoke softly probably hoping to avoid confrontation. The new regime, it’s sort of a wait and see sort of thing. Many people are weary of the current president as he did work for Ben Ali, and I believe they are distrustful of him due to this.His Prime Minister is sort of Political Liberal though, he realizes that they country needs the help of NGO’s and foreign GO’s to make his country profitable and stable again. He knows there could be hard measures taken to ensure the health and welfare of his people and has said so. The people may not be happy with it, as we have seen in the past, most notably with Greece. However, he may have caught it in time to not have a Greece type situation on his hands.
Overall Tunisia is sort of Cosmopolitan in its thinking. They have a wide and varied past, and because of that they are more easy going about the things they are willing to adopt and try. This makes them flexible and fixable in terms of their economy. But many people warn, it also makes it easy for their young people to be swayed into radicalism. One thing I learned for sure through this blogging experience is how worried the world is about Tunisia. The experts are worried to lose this open minded liberal oasis in the Arab world to radicalism, due to the liberal nature of the country. Students in Tunisia are free to express themselves and explore the world around them, about ⅓ of its youth plans to migrate to other countries for jobs in their lifetime. They also have to look at Libya and hope it stays under control because they could easily get lost in that never ending civil war if they are caught up in it. Libya is one of the main reasons the world is worried for Tunisia. One thing is for certain, this is a country on the precipice. It will either go down as a strong, forward thinking Arab nation who withstood the test of time, or we shall start seeing some very conservative religious changes come to the country as a last ditch effort to preserve its way of life, the unfortunate consequence of the latter, is that it will forever alter the spirit of that nation.