Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tunisia

I won't pretend to understand what has happened in Tunisia, but France has hardly covered itself with glory in this episode. First, Michèle Alliot-Marie, the French foreign minister, exhibited a case of foot-in-mouth disease worse than her predecessor's when she had the temerity to propose that France share its "expertise in security matters" with the forces of repression in the former colony. Then, after failing to maintain Ben Ali's government, which made every possible blunder except that of accepting Alliot-Marie's offer, France refused to grant the fleeing ex-president entry. And now we have Jean Daniel pleading for a "velvet revolution" in Tunisia in the most confused terms:

D'abord, je me suis senti malheureux de voir à chacun de mes voyages un peuple se soumettre, des journalistes s'humilier et des élites se laisser domestiquer par un despote dont la famille se comportait de manière injurieuse, et qui leur procurait une économie prospère pour les riches et qui se disait un rempart contre l'islamisme. Les grandes voix ont manqué ou elles ont été pratiquement étouffées, car c'est le peuple qui a rendu aux élites sa dignité. Mais aujourd'hui, en ces moments de célébration, tous les gens qui ont appris l'histoire des révolutions savent que si le pire n'est pas toujours sûr, rien ne l'empêche d'arriver, pour le malheur de tous. Il faut que les révolutionnaires d'aujourd'hui pensent à Lech Walesa et Nelson Mandela, et à toutes les révolutions de velours, plutôt qu'aux émeutes sanglantes de la terreur révolutionnaire de 1793 en France et de 1921 en Russie. Il faut éviter les convulsions de la vengeance et la division tragique des héritiers, comme cela s'est passé un peu partout dans le monde arabe. Il faut revenir à l'époque glorieuse des dix premières années de Bourguiba. C'est de tout mon cœur ce que je souhaite aux Tunisiens.

Can anyone decipher this, or is Jean Daniel in his dotage?

8 comments:

massilian said...

Yes, Jean Daniel "sucre les fraises". I think Stephane Hessel though not any younger must have a better sharper vision. It is difficult for Jean Daniel to realise that the youth in Tunisia in 2011 is part of the globalized world and doesn't give a damn of what were the first ten years of Bourguiba...

Anonymous said...

Well, he's old and shouldn't be writing, a phenomenom that affects many old people in France these days. (When I watch TV for political discussions, I often wonder whether ALL political pundits and analysts are guys in their 60s and older. Apparently C dans l'air was even condemned for failing to invite women - the ratio was something like 1 female journlist/analyst for 65 male analyst/journalist, a trend that kept over 6 months...)

He's worried there'll be revenge and bloodshed, and another coup that will once again rob Tunisians from democracy.


I was really shocked by the way the French government reacted, even before Aliot-Marie!!! I honestly think Sarkozy missed a historical moment, one that may have saved his international status.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Careful, there. I'm a guy in my 60s and still in the game, as far as I can tell.

bernard said...

Actually, Jean Daniel is not in his sixties...But, anyway, had you watched TV5 last night (which J. Daniel may have), you would understand his reference to the first ten years of Bourguiba, an era apparently of freedom including of expression AND of socialist dreams.

I actually think that here, more than J. Daniel going tired, we have have an enthusiastic J. Daniel, who never thought he might witness this, who is from "there", whose words are coming out even faster than he can speak.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that's what I meant.
Daniel is in his late 80s, isn't he? And he criticized Julliard's decision as the folly of youth (he's in his 70s?)


Whereas, Art, when you appear on a panel, you're not the youngest person there. :)

I understand why he spoke of Bourguiba and all the end, but the beginning of this paragraph is odd.

Anonymous said...

place aux jeunes! ;-)


CP

Passerby said...

As per the evolution of the news over the past few days, it appears that this "velvet" revolution, should now be called the "Jasmin revolution".

After the "Roses", "Tulips" and "Orange" revolutions, North-African democracy activists should start copyrighting now the brand names "Palm", "Date" or "Karkadé".
You just can't make good headlines these days if a revolution hasn't been coined properly...

FrédéricLN said...

Many of the present dictatorships are fossilized (?) versions of previous young, progressive and enthusiastic people's movements. The Tunisian ruling RCD was a member of Socialist International.

Such as Laurent Gbagbo's FPI in Ivory Coast…

Jean Daniel and others of his generation mourn a "Hundred Flowers" time that perhaps never truly existed.

Well, they believed in socialism, and can't, really can't, leave it away for democracy. They say "social-démocrate" instead, a mix none of them really knows what it might mean in the 2010's, except perhaps being fair (which is not a small thing)… and hope the State can still help (and it can). Would they become Democrats, they would feel themselves traitors to La Gauche and to the hopes of their youth.

I can't help much.