North Africa is hot at the moment. It’s not the weather I am talking about but about people. Their blood temperatures have irreversibly gone high and it seems “no one can stop them now” as the great Bob Marley sang in “Real Situation”. The Tunisians have done it and the Egyptians are now at it. But there are a few questions I have been pondering all this while: At what point do people suddenly decide that enough is enough? Is it now a blueprint for getting rid of our dictators? What is it like to participate in a revolt/protest/demonstration or whatever you choose to call it? I will be looking at the last question in this post.
I somehow believe there is an inborn human desire for people to openly and collectively express their emotions whatever they are-joy, pain, sorrow, or victory. In my life, I have been privileged to be among a crowd of people wildly expressing their emotions both positive and negative.
As a kid marinated in Roman Catholicism, block rosary was a part and parcel of me. Every now and then we had our congress which saw a large crowd of the different block rosary groups in Enugu. This was usually followed by festive-like street parade with singing and dancing. As much as I now remember, it was so much about the fun rather than any religious aspect of it that most people enjoyed even though the street parade might have been intended as a statement of faith.
Nigeria being a football loving country, a game win was another big occasion for crowd celebration even for those who hadn’t watched the matches and had little interest in football. I remember my mum popping into the living room every now and then during televised football matches to enquire the scores, and on one occasion when we had won she was out there in the street among the crowd generating noise with a metallic cooking pot and spoon to celebrate the victory even though I wasn’t sure she knew who we had played against or the score.
However, there are other occasions when it is not all about enjoyment but expression of anger. In the late 80s when the divisive and corrupt military regimes introduced the hard-biting structural adjustment program and victimised its opponents, the university students felt they had to take to the streets. I was an outsider on the occasion as I was still in secondary school taking my GCE exams. However, I was once caught in the middle of rioting students and the military police scaring them away with tear gas. That was the closest I was at the resolve of young people to risk their lives to challenge the status quo of their countries. It seems it comes to a time when people realise that it is their life that are at stake and risking their lives to challenge authorities is a different extreme not necessary more dangerous than keeping quiet in the long run.
My conclusion is that group expression of our emotion, whatever it is, is a fundamental part of humans and many governments would actually benefit from creating a peaceful medium for people to do that whenever they feel like.
Has anyone here taken part in a demonstration, protest or rally? What was your experience?