Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Middle Class vs Martial Law

Since Musharraf declared martial law in Pakistan, we've been treated to striking images of soldiers hauling off lawyers dressed in suits to jail for speaking truth to power. The ever-intrepid Medea Benjamin is now on the scene and reporting on "flash demonstrations" being held in the streets of Karachi by lawyers, dentists, and other people who've never been in any way politically active in their lives. She begins:

Let me introduce you to a flash demonstration, Karachi-style. Since the police have been rounding up and jailing people protesting General Musarraf’s imposition of martial law on November 3, one of the new tactics is a “flash mob.” Today, people gathered along the waterfront at the McDonalds (yes, they hate gathering at McDonalds, but it’s a good landmark with a parking lot). The group was small–about 25 people–but they were men and women, young and old. Some women even brought their children. They were well-dressed, well-educated, English-speaking professionals. Most had never participated in a protest before martial law was declared, but they were quickly becoming seasoned activists.

Her report is titled This Revolution Will Not Be Televised (because Musharraf has shut down all of Pakistan's television stations in his effort to control both information and political expression). Reading it, I was struck by how the tactics these new activists are adopting are pretty much the tactics used by a typical civil disobedience affinity group. (How that made me smile with pleasure!) Anyway, the story she tells offers up one of those wonderful experiences that make activists joyfully "soldier on." I don't know if anyone who hasn't done direct action will feel the elation the people in the story (as well as myself, reading it) felt, but I'm happier than I can say to see the fight against the forces of oppression represented as more than a hopeless struggle doomed to failure.

Thank you, Medea Benjamin, for your uplifting report!

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