Tunisia: The Force of Disobedience


Sadri Khiari, Tunisian activist exiled in France since early 2003, is one of the founding members of the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR), of which he is currently one of the key leaders.  He has published, among others, Tunisie. Le délitement de la cité : coercition, consentement, résistance, éditions Karthala, Paris, 2003; Pour une politique de la racaille: Immigré-e-s, indigènes et jeunes de banlieue, éditions Textuel, Paris, 2006; and  La contre-révolution coloniale en France de de Gaulle à Sarkozy, éditions La Fabrique, Paris, 2009.

For many years I have been reading.  I read everything that is written about the political situation in Tunisia.  Almost everything, to be honest.

I have read analyses about the Tunisian economy that is doing well or that is not doing well, that “is doing well . . . but” or that “is not doing well . . . but.”

I have read articles about the omnipotence of the police, the attacks on civil liberties, repression, prison, torture, and the action of the defenders of human rights.

I have read articles about corruption in the highest echelons of the State, harsh facts, rumors, or simple gossip about the mafia-style nepotism of the ruling “families.”

I have read articles about the North American influence, the French backing, the European support, the connections with Israel.

I have read serious studies on the nature of the State and the Tunisian political system, on the existence of a “civil society” or lack thereof, on the existence of a “public opinion” or lack thereof.

I have read essays on the Anthropology of Authority, essays on the deconstruction of the most microscopic mechanisms of power, discourse analyses, culturalist studies exploring the Tunisian soul of the last century or two, in order to uncover the reasons for Ben Ali.

What is it that is missing?

The people.

The people who disobey.  The people who resist in the obscurity of everyday life.  The people who, when forgotten too long, remind the world of their existence and break into history without prior notice.

If there is something I have learned from the struggle of the Black American slaves, which I have studied a bit, it is that there is no voluntary servitude.  There is nothing but the impatient waiting that erodes the machinery of oppression.  There is nothing but pressure day by day, minute by minute, to overthrow the oppressor.

From afar they seem like unbearable compromises, and such compromises exist because they must survive; but they are almost always mixed with indiscipline, rebellion, molecular resistances that condense and explode into the view of all when the time comes.  To the opacity of despotic power corresponds the opacity of resistances; the shameful forms of loyalty and clientelization walk hand in hand with the construction of popular solidarities; the technologies of control and discipline are accompanied by devices for elusion, camouflage, evasion, and transgression that disrupt the established order.

There is no oppression without resistance.  There is only time stretching more or less slowly before unexpected — or out of sight — the collective heroism of a people arises.

Make the despot fall!

Sadri Khiari, 9 January 2011

The original article “La force de la désobéissance” was published by L’Islam en France on 14 January 2011.  French to Spanish Translation by Antonio Giménez; Spanish to English by Roberto D. Hernández.

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