Welcome to Thursday, where Emmanuel Macron has COVID, air pollution is guilty in the death of a 9-year old, and couscous is culture. Meanwhile we look at how "cancel culture" in India is a very different thing.
SPOTLIGHT: TEN YEARS LATER, THE ARAB SPRING DELUSION MUST NOT KILL HOPE
When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010, it first triggered a wave of revolts, then hopes of a historic liberalization in Arab countries. But the doors of democracy, barely half-opened, have been shut ever since, writes Dominique Moïsi in French daily Les Echos.
Exactly 10 years ago, on December 17, 2010, a low-key Tunisian fruit and vegetable seller felt so harassed and abused by public officials that he set himself on fire. Bouazizi's fatal act of desperation and revolt would mark the beginning of a wave of uprisings in the Arab world, that spread from Tunisia to Egypt, and then on to Libya and Syria.
A decade later, what remains of this immense flame of hope? It was of course very quickly followed — with the notable exception of Tunisia — by a wave of repression, sometimes fierce, as in Syria. How did we go from the Arab Spring to the Islamic winter? And then on to the deepening of the infernal dialectic between authoritarianism and corruption? It's as if the doors of democracy, barely ajar, had been summarily closed by those of the kleptocracy.
Was the hope unfounded, nothing more than a product of a far too Western reading of a culture that we did not understand, of images that we did not know how to interpret?
It is of course easier to destroy than to rebuild. The young people of Tahrir Square in Cairo were able to bring down President Mubarak, but they were unable to create a democratic, strong and stable Egypt. They were caught between a security apparatus — dependent for the maintenance of its wealth on its presence in power — and the Muslim Brotherhood, who would soon prove their mixture of incompetence and intolerance.
Over time, the Arab Spring has exposed the dangerous limits of Islamists and political Islam, but has not strengthened civil society and the cause of democracy. The direct, almost mathematical link between the extent of Egypt's debt and the wealth of the "Egyptian generals' was strengthened at a time when the voices that remained of freedom were being fiercely muzzled.
Was the expression "Arab Spring" – a reference to the 1848 revolution known as the "Springtime of the Peoples' – a deceptive illusion from the outset? Or is it still too early to judge whether it is true or not?
If the comparison between that revolutionary European Spring of 1848-1849 and the Arab Spring of 2010-2011 is to remain legitimate, is it not because of their respective failures In Europe. It was not the Frankfurt Parliament that unified Germany, but Bismarck's Prussia. And, in France, it was Louis Napoleon Bonaparte who was able to reap the benefits of revolutionary unrest.
In the traditional heart of the Arab world, in Egypt, after the very inconclusive experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in power, the army regained control of the country, even more brutally than in Mubarak's time. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi knows that he can count on the mixture of fear of radical Islam and the mercenary appetites of many Western countries to weld friendships that ethics should condemn, but that politics encourages. Read the full article.
— Dominique Moïsi / Les Echos
THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
- COVID-19 latest: French President Emmanuel Macron tests positive for COVID-19, less than a week after an in-person summit of top European leaders. The U.S. once again records the highest daily number of cases, as the spread rates soar "exponentially" in South Africa, and Sweden's king says the national coronavirus strategy has failed.
Charlie Hebdo trial: A French court convicts 14 people linked to the 2015 attacks in Paris on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which killed 17.
Pollution-asthma case: A London court rules unlawful air pollution levels as a factor in a nine-year-old girl's death, following an asthma attack.
China's Moon rocks: China's Chang'e-5 lunar probe has returned to Earth with 4.4 pounds of rock samples from a previously unexplored area of the Moon.
U.S./Taliban talks: Top U.S. military officers hold unannounced talks respectively with Taliban peace negotiators and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to try and reduce violence across the country.
Bitcoin breaks record: The value of Bitcoin jumped 4.5% to as much as $20,440 amid stock market turmoil this year.
- Couscous culture: UNESCO has added couscous to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, praising the dish (shared by Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) for its ability to bring people and cultures together.