What turns mere resistance into revolutions is emergence. What galvanizes people, brings tears to their eyes, sees the birth of resolve and the renewal of commitment is emergence. Moments of emergence define revolutions, are romanticized, and remain the stuff of memory when all else fades.
I watched a television program on the CBC’s Passionate Eye last night on what they called the Facebook Revolution, and what we call the Arab Spring. It may as well have been a chronicle of emergences.
It started with the emergence of the Tunisian fruitseller, Mohammed Bouazizi, who immolated himself in protest after being refused justice by the Tunisian government.
“The world knows Mohammed Bouazizi… as the poor and desperate young man, harassed by the authorities, who set fire to himself in this town in central Tunisia, inspiring a revolution that brought down the country’s dictator, an act still reverberating through the Arab world.” (1)
That revolution is still sweeping the world and may prove the act that resulted in the disappearance of dictatorship and enslavement from the planet.
It was sparked by the actions of people like the young Asmaa Mahfouz whose vlog helped cause Tahrir Square.
It worked its way through the Libyan families whose lawyer Fathi Terbil was arrested and who protested in his name in Benghazi.
“The [Libyan] protests were sparked by the arrest of lawyer and human rights activist Fathi Terbil, reports BBC, though anti-government and anti-Gaddafi sentiment has been growing for years, as the Libyan unemployment rate climbs past 30 percent and continued aggression and human rights violations by Gaddafi’s administration alienates more and more citizens.
“Terbil was the lawyer of the families of prisoners killed in the infamous Abu Salim prison massacre. A Human Rights Watch report on the incident claims that nearly 1,200 prisoners were killed by prison guards in under three hours.” (2)
It was aided by the sacrifice of people like Libyan Mo Nabbous whose fearless establishment of an independent news organization in Benghazi cost him his life.
“In the wake of the 2011 Libyan civil war, Nabbous founded Libya Alhurra TV, the first independent broadcast news organization since Gaddafi took power in Libya. Libya AlHurra TV was established in Benghazi, Libya on 19 February 2011 and started broadcasting online when Nabbous established a two-way satellite connection in the wake of a complete Internet blackout imposed by the Gaddafi regime subsequent to the 17 February protests.
”Nabbous was shot by a Pro-Gaddafi sniper and killed on 19 March 2011 while reporting on attempts by government forces to fight revolutionaries and attack civilians in Benghazi. In the hours following the death of Nabbous, UN Coalition planes entered Libyan airspace to enforce a No-Fly Zone approved by the UN Security Council along with a Resolution authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect civilians against Gaddafi forces. In the last weeks of his life, Nabbous focused on bringing international attention to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Libya. His death was widely reported by CNN and various media outlets. Prior to the establishment of Libya Al Hurra TV, Nabbous operated a number of businesses in Benghazi City.” (3)
The CBC showcased the so-called Bahraini Man in the Bloody Shirt who could be seen in photos and videos emerging after Bahraini troops shot to kill against demonstrators. (4)
We think of these as “highpoints” in any movement but they are so because they’re the moments in which an individual overcomes their fear and emerges from their shell of suppression and silence.
I’m not sure why fear disables us so much. How it is we dumb ourselves down and paralyze ourselves has been, as you know, a question with me all my life. Does fear have a physically-disabling action on us? Is it purely psychological? Is it a matter of agreement? Conditioning? What is the link between the experience of fear and our inability or unwillingness to protest, resist and revolt? I wish I knew.
But the opposite is also true that watching people emerge from their fear provides a key somehow, through inspiration, motivation, a remembrance of something, or some other process unknown to me that liberates people who watch it and has them emerge themselves.
And we discover that emergence from fear is not only possible but also easier than we might have expected.
Perhaps what holds us back is that we’ve become convinced that we’ll lose all the things we love if we step out of line – and in many respects that is true. Patrick Henry addressed this matter in a speech he made on March 23, 1775, which he ended with the words:
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” (5)
It’s even confronting for me to discuss this with you because even though I’ve emerged on many occasions in my life I fear that I may discuss the matter here but then fail to emerge when a critical moment arrives and be seen by you as a hypocrite.
Whatever we fear paralyzes us. Whatever we hide imprisons us. Whatever we’re unwilling to sacrifice binds us. In a sense unless we’re willing to stand owning only our own bodies and being willing to risk even that on one throw of the dice we’re unable to act. In some circumstances (not all), it has to be “give me liberty or give me death” or we won’t emerge from fear.
So these are all highflown words and I don’t know if in my own next moment I’m willing to risk all in defence of freedom. But, even if I were to fail you in the critical moment, this conversation is still valid and still needs to be had.
Some popular misconceptions that hold us back:
(1) Death is the end.
We’ve heard from our sources that the planet’s controllers shaped religion to hide the fact that we survive bodily death. We’re told that our bodies molder in the ground until the last trump, that we go from dust to dust, that we have only this one life so live it up, etc. All of this is nonsense. Life is continuous. We are immortal. We not only survive bodily death but enter a world more marvellous than this. And we have many lives, not simply this one, all of our future live enriched by what we do now.
Marine Sgt. Shamar Thomas risks a beating to emerge.
(2) Death is painful.
Death is not painful. The moments before death may be painful but there is no pain attached to death. (6) Many people who communicate back to us from beyond the transition we call “death” describe the moment of death as joyful, peaceful, liberating, etc.
(3) People only care for themselves.
People operating from dualistic conceptions of life, who hoard, compete, and see life as a zero sum may not care for others, but most people care deeply for others. Certainly the deeper self that is liberated or emerges by seeing the sacrifice of one for all cares deeply for others.
(4) Sacrifice is useless; nobody cares
Everybody cares for things like freedom and compassion. Human beings are divine by nature and it’s the very bondage that we fight against that causes us not to care, if in fact we’re in that place. Sacrifice awakens caring again and mobilizes masses of people who may only hear about the sacrifice.
(5) It is useless to struggle against power
Far from being useless, we can see by the Arab Spring and the Occupy Together movements that dictators and despotic regimes are vulnerable, that soldiers do not want to fire on their own people, and that mass movements can overturn the bloodiest regimes. What dictators fear most is the people losing their fear, the people emerging from their paralysis and we are seeing populations around the world doing exactly that right now.
So emergence is the process that will set people free from the only condition that truly imprisons them and that is fear. Franklin Roosevelt knew this when he said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (7)
Your emergence should not depend on my emergence. Even if I, in the critical moment, act like a craven coward, your emergence is solely your act alone. Emergence is always an action that has no antecedent, no justification, no rationale. It is an action that draws on an inner strength that went unrecognized up till that moment.
Emergence is not only stopped by fear but also by excuses, logic, inertia, attachment, by anything at all. But if we search for the well-spring of emergence, we won’t find it. It happens quicker than the snapping of fingers and where it comes from cannot be known, at least not logically or rationally.
It’s the ultimate creation of something from nothing, for no reason. It’s no respecter of persons. It’s not the province of one gender and not another, one age and not another, one race and not another. If you’re looking for the ultimate contribution you can make to what’s happening worldwide at this time, that contribution, in my view, is to emerge.
(1) “Mohammed Bouazizi: the dutiful son whose death changed Tunisia’s fate,” Guardian, Jan. 20, 2011, at
(2) Tasbeeh Herwees, “Libyan Writer Detained, Family Atrtacked as Protests Continue in Benghazi,” Neon Tommy, Feb. 16, 2011, at http://www.neontommy.com/news/2011/02/libyan-writer-detained-family-attacked-protests-continue-benghazi
(5) “Patrick Henry,” Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Henry
(6) See here on that subject: “Death is Painloess; Most People Do No Suffer,” at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/nmh/death1.html#painless
(7) “Franklin Roosevelt,” Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_D._Roosevelt