The Western Spring

I’ve been following the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States intermittently but with great interest. I am deeply pleased to see people in my country finally express some indignation (indignation that, unlike the Tea Party’s, isn’t high-jacked by racism and right-wing millionaires) over the way financial interests have dominated and perverted our political system. And challenging the insidious restrictions on the use of public space and the freedom of assembly and expression that have proliferated since 9/11 (regarding which, please, please watch this video by genius British activists).  

I’m also fascinated by the fact that the protests in the US and in Europe are so clearly inspired by the so-called Arab Spring. 

It’s not just that the protesters in the US, just like the ones in the Middle East, have been subjected to inane, condescending media coverage. Or that they have been demonized as unclean, anti-Semitic, drug-users and criminals. Or that they are being violently dispersed by police using flimsy public order and hygiene excuses. 

April 6 activist Ahmad Maher has apparently visited the Occupiers in DC and New York to learn more about them and offer some advice. But the protesters -- in their use of signs to bypass mainstream coverage, in their refusal to have leaders, in their physical occupation of public space -- have already taken a page from the Egyptian revolution. 

Who would have thought that the Arab world would re-energize the idea of democracy world-wide? 

Let's see if Western governments congratulate their own citizenry for their courageous protests to call for greater economic justice and political participation. 



Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.