By now pretty much everyone knows M.I.A. as the bad girl who flipped off the Super Bowl halftime camera. But her fans are more preoccupied with her new music video, “Bad Girls”, in which BMWs and Mercedes Benzes race in a desert we presume to be in the Middle East, tires burn in nameless oil states, Bedouin-styled men ride stallions à la Casablanca, brown rebel-types tote guns, and backup dancers appear in not-quite-accurate hipsterized niqab and hijab. Read the Post M.I.A. And The Real ‘Bad Girls’
The Arab Spring shattered everything that I thought I knew about the Arab world. As unrest broke out in the region, and regimes fell, I realised how little I knew. As a Palestinian-American, it has been routine to reference my heritage, from explaining why I do not look like Princess Jasmine, or distancing myself from suicide bombers. The politics of the land of my parents always frustrated me, and I suppose what I understood was mostly gleaned from exhausted conversations overheard in our home or headlines.
To my shock, even though I proved to know very little about what caused the Arab Spring, many seemed to automatically think that the first half of my hyphenated identity automatically made me an authority on the region. While I feel tied to and interested in the struggle for change across the Middle East and North Africa, this is not my Arab Spring.
Marshall Ganz calls Occupy a moment, but we have a history and a future. My generation, in North America, was birthed over 12 years ago, in the streets of Seattle, when trade unionists joined with anarchists to disrupt the workings of global capital, well, in this case, the meeting of a major player, the World Trade Organization. We refused to accept capitalism as a natural way of ordering our social world; “Another World is Possible” was a popular slogan. We manifested alternatives in organizing our collective refusal. Instead of relying on institutions created under capitalism, we created our own clinics, schools, decision-making bodies, and media outlets. Some of which have formalized into counter-institutions that exist today. The global network of independent media centers and community health centers, like the Common Ground clinic in New Orleans, started after Hurricane Katrina, are our legacy.
The Millennials may find inspiration when their peer, 26-year old Mohamed Bouazizi, educated yet unable to find a good job, self-immolated himself on the steps of the Tunisian governor’s office, sparking the uprisings of the Arab Spring. Or, when 24-year old Bradley Manning, in a fit of frustration with military bureaucracy and the war abroad, uploaded confidential documents onto the Wikileaks website. What is the future of the Occupy movement? Approximately a half-year in and many camps have been violently evicted from the land on which they pitched their tents. Many of us spent this late fall awake in an overnight vigil to defend a camp or recovering from being pepper sprayed by cops when trying to setup a new one. At the time of writing this, only Occupy D.C. remains intact. But, that is not the end of Occupy.
Twenty-year-old Egyptian blogger Magda Aliaa el-Mahdy rose to stardom after delivering a stick of dynamite via her blog, ‘A Rebel’s Diary’, in what she described as being in the spirit of the revolution.
(Editor’s Note: NSFW image is under the cut. – Arturo)
I lived through a revolution. I saw my 21-year-old brother holding a gun. I slept with a knife under my pillow. I have a close friend who was shot and is now blind in one eye.
I was lucky. I didn’t have thugs break into my house. I wasn’t tear-gassed. I wasn’t shot at. But I have friends who were. I have friends who have friends who died.
And compared to the revolutions going on in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and Libya, Egypt was lucky.
Today I heard a new song by Sijal Hachem, a Lebanese singer I’d never heard of before.The lyrics are a man complaining about his nagging, materialistic wife, who wants pearls and cars while he only has flowers to give her—nothing new. Here’s a sample: (Arabic lyrics here)
You nag and nag (Raise your voice) My heart and soul [are tired] of your nagging (Raise your voice) If people were able to build the Great Wall of China Then I can shut you up and not hear criticism
Chorus: Enough. Enough nagging. Enough Your nagging makes my livelihood disappear I’m killing myself I work day and night
I wouldn’t have given it a second thought if I’d heard it on the radio. But I was watching the music video, which features women as sexy riot police standing in formation behind barbed wire as men charge them: