Libyan Protest A Real Popular Revolution?

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Al Jazeera is saying that rebels are moving closer and closer to taking control of Tripoli, with the fall of Zawiyah. Article can be found here.

More then any of the other mass protests, the Libyan uprising is beginning to feel like a true revolution. Within Egypt and the other dramatically changed national powerscapes of the Middle East, the protesters were largely able to work within their existing frameworks. Although there is significant changes to the ruling authority, it seems as if so far they are headed to what could be considered extraordinarily meaningful reforms. Egypt especially seemed to be an example of mass democratic protests within a fairly stable system creating change. Although we don’t know where the military authority will take them, the Egyptians seemed to have managed significant reform rather then revolution. By operating within the confines of stability, they took one false government and have the opportunity to exchange it for something more real and meaningful.

To me, this discounts them as ‘revolutions’. I don’t know that the term is important to anyone but me, but as I watch the Libyan unrest grow, and transform, I see more signs of what I perceive to be a popular revolution. And I might argue, one of the few in modern times.

I should preface all of this by saying that I understand that many of the nation-states encompass some form of ethnic, religious, or regional uprising, especially in Africa, S. America, and Asia. The boundaries of far too many countries were established by outside powers, without sensitivity to these complex relationships. As a result, few ‘developing’ countries seem to be able to have any sort of meaningful, satisfactory status quo. Some of these differences do foment revolutions, but these are usually territorially specific, and not broadly ‘popular’ in nature. I think terming these ‘revolutions’ has cheapened the term to some extent.

As an American, the concept of popular revolution holds significant value and meaning. My country, and many of the opportunities it affords, were crafted out of a violent struggle derived from a general consensus of a large portion of the population (I’ll leave the percentage/majority debate to historians). Seeing Libya overthrow Gaddafi strikes a chord.

Too often, the rebel is painted as a jungle dwelling, quasi-terrorist individual, and I feel like the term is too associated with ‘guerrillas’ .

In Libya, we see a mass of relatively common individuals, setting aside a certain sense of order and regulation, to protest, fight, and change their nation’s destiny. This isn’t a protest- they have a hard line strong man who had control of the military apparatus and the economy who is now barricaded in a major city, with his ouster imminent on the horizon. They’ve seized military barracks, fortresses, airfields, the significant economic generator (oil fields) and show no signs of stopping. As more and more elements of Gaddafi’s power base defect, this begins to really seem to be a true revolution. For all of the reports coming out of the region this is supported by a large majority of the population (of course, this is Western media, so embellishment is not out of the question).

What I earmark as the best example for this shift is the way that the old municipal governments are quickly being replaced by pro-revolutionary elements (or they were already pro-revolutionary) and working to restore normalcy to their population. Where else is this achieved? What other recent ‘revolution’ has had this type of COMPLETE transformation of governance, with most of the mantle of authority being so easily passed to the people? I would argue even Egypt hasn’t achieved this- most cities seem to be governed by largely the same people, and the military has assumed the role of justice and representation (it remains to be seen if this is a new Mubarak).

I hope that the Libyan situation is resolved soon, and I hope that we see a truly representative government emerge out of this- where they go from here may change all this, but this seems like an especially promising start.

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