"An Enlightened One Believes He is God": A Critique of Widespread Tunisian Outrage About the Manouba Flag Incident

Analysis, posted 03.13.2012, from Tunisia, in:
"An Enlightened One Believes He is God": A Critique of Widespread Tunisian Outrage About the Manouba Flag Incident

Summary: Dr. Lilia Bouguira critically pulls apart the outpouring of rage directed at the Salafist desecration of the Tunisian flag at the University of La Manouba. Bouguira sees this rage as narrowly focused and intensely divisive, while other priorities, such as the stewardship of the emerging new Tunisian nation and care of the suffering and struggling, remain.

Bouguira writes, "An enlightened man takes himself for God and plants his flag in [place of] the [national] flag." Yet, Bouguira argues, it is the resulting polarizing public discussions that are most damaging, more so than this man's "certainly reprehensible" act; she writes that, in truth, "the others are worse, they want to make of it a Joan of Arc. Minds catch fire, furies burst, blow off steam, leaving place to mediocrity and exaggeration. Strangely, I don't feel concerned. On the contrary, I feel disgusted, extremely disgusted."

Bouguira asks her readers of what worth the protection of a symbol is when the symbol is in fact empty: "What does a State mean, when the State is wrapped in the blood of its heros, and with that takes long and interminable steps before caring for them [les soigner] or transfering them?"

Bouguira asks, "What do these passionate cries for a flag mean in front of those choking for lives that fade away bit by bit, because a man, diminished in dignity or honor, is no longer able to look at himself or to live?" And, "what does a flag mean, more than a piece of common cloth, when the children of the nation are [..] forgotten, mistreated, even tortured?"

She similarly criticizes the "rising tide of anger and the uprising yesterday at the Constituent Assembly, while, in all normality, worry for the health of our injured of the revolution has remained almost silent".

The public uproar and divisive discourse, the panicky, self-righteous, traded condemnations, push her to lament, "What is is that has pushed us since to tear each other apart, whetting the knives on the each others' backs, remembering little of our near past, returning only to empty, watered-down slogans and hateful, soulless words?"

Remembering the time of the revolution, Bouguira writes, "Our people, yours and mine, a little over a year ago, were among those most capable of self-restraint, while snipers fired and police officers worked on civilians." She continues, "We were then very far from differences of race or rank or intellect, but all united in front of our neighborhoods to defend our towns."

Bouguira exhorts her fellow Tunisians, "Let us not fall into the traps of counter-revolutionaries, let us not be the prerogative of mafiosos and especially not the very gravediggers of what we have earned, because there is nothing more terrible than the mad murder of our enemy-brothers [frères ennemis]!"

"Let us save ourselves, save our injured, regroup around them to help them emerge," she urges.

"Let your combat be their salvation, their survival, and their healing, otherwise to hell with this damned [foutu] flag and all others that will follow it."