Irrational Mohamed Bouazizi is Time magazine’s Person of The Year
MOHAMED Bouazizi is Time magazine’s person of the year for 2011. Mr Mohamed Bouazizi was 26 when he set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. A female municipal inspector named Fedia Hamdi had stopped him from selling fruit off his unlicensed barrow. She slapped him in public, so the story goes. The officials then confiscated his goods – apples, bananas and apples – and his scales. They took away his hope.
That was December 17, 2010.
Mr Mohamed Bouazizi responded by setting himself alight.
He died from his wounds on January 4, 2011. Bouazizi’s death trigged the Arab Spring. Mohamed Bouazizi brought about the end of Mr Ben Ali’s 23 years as Tunisian leader. Colonel Gaddafi would also go from neighbouring Libya, murdered they say. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt would be forced to leave his job as Egypt’s President, only to be replaced by the military.
The Arab Spring brought change but not all of it for the good of the powerless.
And, then, what of Ms Hamdi, the spark? She is an unwilling baddie. As she told it:
“He was pulling my clothes. I said it’s not allowed because they are official clothes with the Tunisian flag. He was very angry. He was out of control. Swearing.”
Hamdi says Bouazizi scratched her. She says, “I never slapped him.”
But what cannot be disputed is that Mohamed Bouazizi wanted his scales and goods back. The officials refused. So Mohamed Bouazizi kept his word. Outside their offices, he doused himself with fuel and set himself alight.
Did he want to die? His mother Mrs Bouazizi explained:
“When he lit the lighter fluid he did not expect to burn that quickly. He thought he would burn and they would rescue him. But the fire went so quickly.”
The catalyst for change was an unwilling martyr. Mohamed Bouazizi had become a symbol, and many saw in him a kindred spirit. The powerless had a totem to rally around. But to what ends? We don’t yet know. But we do know that it takes the irrational to bring about true change. Without the irrational, debate with a small voice and no stick is futile…