TODAY, 17TH DECEMBER: A SPECIAL DAY TWICE OVER FOR THE CITIZENS OF THE WORLD
BRADLEY MANNING’S 25TH BIRTHDAY!
Today Bradley Manning is 25 years old. He will celebrate his quarter century anniversary in prison at Fort Leavenworth, where he awaits trial for being incapable of ‘passing by on the other side’.
‘apathy’ he said: ‘apathy is far worse than the active participation; I prefer a painful truth over any blissful fantasy’
‘IN HIS WORDS’ – A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
Today on his birthday, read again some of those words with which, at the age of 22, he poured out his integrity, unwittingly before the whole world, in a document that is the double edged sword of his commitment to truth. A document that made sense of an overwhelming response to an overwhelming world. And a document that led directly to his arrest.
Marvel at his vulnerability, his exposure, the battering from the authorities and the character assassination from the media which he has endured, and mark the strength that everyone who was in that courtroom saw when he testified for the first time, in person this time, since that written testimony two and a half years earlier.
I say marvel at this, because there is something sacred about such strength – strength in weakness – and it is a strength that our superficial society is starving for. A strength that few have the capacity to embrace because of the pain it involves.
‘I’m not brave, I’m weak,’ he said.
But he was willing. And that’s what counts. That’s what makes the difference between heroism and cowardice. It’s about not turning away.
SEIZING ‘A MOMENT OF MORAL CLARITY’ – J.A.
Julian has said this about WikiLeaks sources:
‘Usually the whistleblowers that approach us do so when they have a moment of moral clarity……that moment of moral clarity should be seized….that moment of courage…..should be seized and used…..’
These are the choices that define us. That is why we call Brad a hero. Not because he exhibits the plastic persona of a superhero existing on another plane, but because from right where he is in his own personal human situation he knows what he must do and he is prepared to allow that to determine his actions.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD
As David Coombs told us the other night, Brad, you said that you
‘want to make a difference in this world’
And David Coombs said:
I am convinced that Brad doesn’t have to worry about making a difference in this world; he HAS made a difference…..
We too are convinced of that, and we salute you today on your birthday, Brad! We honour your sacrifice, and we thank you for what you have given to us – you are an inspiration and a source of Hope.
‘There is a young man, named Private First Class Bradley #Manning, and he sacrificed everything for you, and for this nation. His day in Court is coming.
God willing, he will not spend the rest of his young life in jail, because he couldn’t live with consequences of just following orders,
just sending some innocent people off to be tortured by the Iraqi Federal Police,
just turning a bind eye to babies shot in the head,
just keeping his mouth shut.
He deserves your love, support, and prayers.’
Alexa O’Brien. December 2012
MOHAMED BOUAZIZI’S SELF-IMMOLATION
Today is also the second anniversary of the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a man who felt an urgent need to take a final stand against abuse, and who, it transpired, effectively took that stand on behalf of many others too.
A YOUNG STREET VENDOR WHO CARED FOR OTHERS
Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi (29 March 1984 – 4 January 2011), who died when he was only 26, a year older than Brad now, was a street vendor in Tunisia who sold fruit and vegetables as a means of supporting his mother and siblings, his father having died when he was young, and his step-father being in poor health.
The oldest of six children, he worked from the age of 10 and left school in his teens to be the main breadwinner for his family and to enable his siblings to receive an education. And he even funded one of his sisters through university.
It is reported that his generosity and compassion often led to his giving away his produce to those who could not afford to pay for it.
Plainly, then, he lived a life that was dedicated to the well being of others. Likewise, he died a death that brought great gains to others.
CORRUPTION, CONFRONTATION, CABLES…AND THE ARAB SPRING
Mohamed Bouazizi, as a street vendor who was bullied and harassed by local officials for bribes that he could not afford, struggled constantly with the corruption endemic in Tunisian life at that time.
And this came to a head on 17th December 2010, just over a fortnight after WikiLeaks’ Cablegate, which included cables making it plain that the United States were only superficially committed to the regime, and confirming the extent of the Ben Ali family’s gross wealth.
In a confrontation with an official demanding money, Bouazizi had his day’s wares (which he had bought on credit) and his scales confiscated. He demanded an audience with the governor in order to get these back but was fobbed off. Utterly frustrated, he threatened:
“If you don’t see me, I’ll burn myself.”
Bouazizi had clearly reached the end of the road with tolerating the impotence of his situation, and so, when this had no effect, he did just that. He went off for a can of gasoline, returned to the governor’s office and carried out his threat. While standing in the middle of traffic, he shouted,
“How do you expect me to make a living?”
He then doused and set himself alight with a match at 11:30 a.m. local time, and the whole incident had taken less than an hour.
Horrific, appalling, and in so many ways, incomprehensible. And yet this act triggered the entire Arab Spring.
The uprisings across the region in the Arab awakening, as people long oppressed by brutal dictatorships sought the overthrow of those regimes and a better life, spread outwards from this act; were informed by the leaks attributed to Bradley Manning; and were irrepressible. Tremendous and unimaginable upheavals shook seemingly immovable structures of power.
From Sidi Bouzid where Mohamed Bouazizi lived and worked and threw himself into his last act, it spread to Kasserine, Thala, Menzel Bouzaiene. Tunisians of every age, class and profession joined the revolution. And then on beyond the borders of Tunisia.
THE CHARACTER OF MOHAMED BOUAZIZI ‘GAVE FIRE TO THE REVOLUTION’
But what sparked it off was apparently something to do with the humanity and character of Mohamed himself, and the life he had led as a person known for helping others.
“What really gave fire to the revolution was that Mohamed was a very well-known and popular man. He would give free fruit and vegetables to very poor families,” Jaafer (his friend) said.
A profile which named him no. 6 in a poll of influential men of 2010 had this to say:
‘What this means is that a man who lived without the means to change his own life as he wanted, instead ended up sacrificing himself for the resulting betterment of millions of people around him.’
‘….on a level of pure humanity and compassion, Mohamed Bouazizi’s act of protest is immeasurable in its lasting political influence.’
DEFENDING DIGNITY AND LIBERTY: ‘SON OF THE WHOLE WORLD’
His mother, Manoubia, has said that she is glad that his death has not been in vain:
“My son died defending dignity and liberty,” she said “We are poor and they thought we had no power,”
“My son is lost, but look what is happening, how many people are getting involved. Nothing would have happened if he had not reacted against voicelessness and a lack of respect.”
“He is no longer the son of Tunisia,” she added. “He is the son of the whole world.”
MOHAMED BOUAZIZI Tunisia 17th Dec 2010
We all know that feeling;
the last straw of had it up to here.
But for most of us it’s not the final curtain when we flip, lose it….
and throw our all into the grand gesture.
For you every step led to that
incendiary act of a lifetime.
Did you glimpse through the first flash
the future you were drawing in upon your fixed point?
Your no return? Your consuming passion?
You did what you could.
From your limit you sent out
a last word into the frozen sky.
Your aureole circled the globe.
And tides turned.
TWO EXTRAORDINARY YOUNG PEOPLE CHANGING THE WORLD
Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, and Bradley Manning, 25; two ‘sons of the whole world’.
Two extraordinary people, young people, apparently powerless in their respective situations, and both up against seemingly impossible odds, have significantly changed the world we live in by their actions and their integrity, and the repercussions, in which we trace the Indignados and the Occupy Movement, are not over yet.