The news changes the vision. It is what we feel in Tunisia, where we are living in an amazing speed all kinds of changes. Visitors to the “transition” are legion and if their number does not reach the millions of tourists missed by our hoteliers, businessmen, journalists and experts leave the country with impressions and observations that one wonders what their immediate or delayed impact is going to be like.
Internal mobility is slow to follow
Our politicians are traveling more than ever, more often abroad than to the interior of the country, to the point of irritating Tunisians who are worrying about public money and willing to change the habits of Tunisians rulers. The latter continue to make speeches in meetings while the country needs decisions to be made. Intellectuals, artists and scholars are often invited to take part in international events despite the crisis and budgetary constraints. Even if expressing oneself in the fields of art, ideas and knowledge is equivalent to taking action, internal mobility is slow to follow as it takes a long time to shake the inter-cultural walls as well as the separation between art, science and society. Solidarity and mobility are good but they also take us by surprise.
Thirty-three months have passed since the famous images of Ben Ali’s plane flying over the Tunisian sky and heading to the south-eastern Mediterranean. In the beginning we did not believe he left, then we feared a possible return, then we said he fled, then we feared it was a sham. We have long been suspicious of a scene. Finally, we were able to say : “Ben Ali , it’s over”. These images have been shared throughout the world in a communicative jubilation and they had to play in the process of future events, in Tunisia and elsewhere. Immediately, we had to live the “afterwards”.
The price of the terrible freedom
We have learned that this euphoria could not last. Events were diverted to a cacophony of situations combining the desire to get done with it and the race to fill in the power vacuum, the need to express oneself and the blocking of expression channels, the desire to break down barriers and the fear of change. Each episode makes one sense the price of the perceived terrible freedom. The inextricable complexity of politics constructed by several kinds of inhibitions (institutional and moral, individual and collective, mental and physical, local and global) would teach us that we were experiencing something that had to do with the look we cast at ourselves by ourselves.
The test is overwhelming, harder than to confront, to accept or to contradict the perception of others. These dikes cemented by all kinds of internalized visions make an unusual and painful work of debate, controversy and criticism, necessary. How can we follow up on the claim of freedom and dignity that captivated the world through the beautiful energy imparted by both anonymous faces and bodies? External eyes are tired but for us, to perpetuate the unexpected ‘revolution’ requires a new creativity, a mobilization of forces and an immeasurable junction of conscience. Whichever way it was, to question, to deconstruct, to bypass and to invent turned out to be crucial, infinite and difficult to get out of limbo, in the midst of turmoil.
The communication battle
The weight of economics and the social pressure have exacerbated the emergency of politics. Problems remain intact and visible but before solving them, how can one report them? Who is entitled to inform among this explosion of opinions ? How to translate information into action and how to construct the latter? The raging communication battle is not just a battle of power. The two thousand journalists in Tunisia are at the heart of an aggressive recovery, even though they are prisoners of professional uses still below the ethical basic needs.
The situation is the same in any other field : justice (in turmoil right now), health, agriculture, urban planning, sports, cinema and education. This affects daily life, intimate relationships as well as public morals. Profit, secret, injustice, fear, fatalism and habits dig the beds of the “counter-revolution”. Optimists invoke a deep resilience constituent of the “Tunisian model” that Tunisians appreciated so much at the time of the revolt. About 1000 days after the disappearing empathy, to remain on the cutting edge is increasingly marked by uncertainties and emerging dangers. No danger can escape a universal equivalent, a scientific definition or a historical comparison. But we need to identify risks, as well as to counter them and move forward. Towards what? Although disenchantment lurks, the Tunisian “revolution”, far from being complete, poses the question of its inclusion in our reality, here and now.
A bet that, for now, resists premonitions.
Hammam-lif, 18 October 2013
Translated by Leïla M’charek