Some of the most significant political revolutions took place in the late 18th and early 19th Century. The American Revolution in 1776 and the French Revolution in 1789, which gave birth to democracy and outlined the idea of power amongst the common people. But Wait. We are still missing one major event. Its the Haiti Revolution, which took place in 1804. This event saw the rise of power of slaves to overthrow the colonial French rule and establish an independent empire of Haiti. If you probably never heard about the ‘Haiti Revolution’ until now, there is no need to be worried. You are not alone. Time and time again it has been overlooked by the western historians, simply because it was caused by the blacks.
Jeremy D. Popkin, in his lecture ‘New Perspectives on the Haitian Revolution’ discussed in detail about the Haiti Revolution, which took place in the ‘age of revolutions’. Amongst many things he discussed as to why Haiti Revolution is not talked about much. Possibly because, being caused by blacks, historians did not simply consider it a revolution. Maybe, for them, it was more like a black uprising. this also talks a lot about how racism in general has evolved over the years. By establishing an independent empire of Haiti, the black slaves had strived for liberty and independence. Yet they were not provided the glory of the American and the French revolution.
It is important that whole of mankind remembers the Haiti Revolution. For it is events like this which inspire people, encourage them to take on the world and bring about a change, a revolution.
What’s more fearful than a man with no political allegiances and access to millions of your citizens? To corrupt governments other than nuclear arms, nothing. Khalid Albaih encapsulates the way of the future for many activist around the world. Where once newspapers and television were the mediums to sensor and control through money, social media is a platform that is difficult to manage without overt censorship and as such is the meeting place for views that governments constantly try to stifle. Particularly in the Arab Spring, platforms like Facebook and Twitter were firestorms for the likes of the Egyptian government because events and posts would pop up without warning and be views by millions before the government could have it removed. Unlike a piece of paper of television broadcasting, the power of the internet is that without a direct blocking of global signals or global websites it’s almost next to impossible to stop people from posting what they like. Khalid knew this and other activist knew this and they all used their knowledge to their advantage.
In Khalid’s experiences he understood that the success of using social media derived from the fact that this platform was the only true and honest source of information left in the public sphere. There was a sense of immediacy and pressure that arose with this use as if it was the only way. In that he articulated the difference in the United States is that we still have faith in other platforms. That is half of us wants to believe in the information we receive from the government, cnn, the new york times, and our representatives. Khalid asserted that this is a privilege, and for him, everyone, and their mother knew that no public source of information was credible in Sudan or in North Africa because they were all controlled by the government and money. However, in this problem of legitimacy also was this problem of saturation and quality. With the use of social media in places where their is no legitimacy elsewhere, places like Facebook have become awash with tid bits of information that are supposed to educate, excite, and produce action, but how are revolutionaries supposed to acquire and hold that attention. While social media is the last free outlet to produce information, how do you assert yourself in a sea of frankly bullshit. With over 500 million people joining Facebook in the last four years, Khalid and other activist of the Arab Spring are trying to continue their fire but amidst a large and less active crowd.
Overall, Khalid conveyed how the difference in social justice movements here versus movements back in the Sudan, North African, and the Middle East is that theirs are done in a last ditch effort. That is they are done as if there is nothing left because doing that action can be life or death. For Khalid, social media wasn’t just an evolution in spreading news to inform people, but it was a revolution in enacting change.
In this talk we heard from Khalid Albaih, the famous political cartoonist from Sudan. Albaih’s cartoons rose to prominence during the Arab Spring. He continues to create comics that are controversial and eye opening. Looking through the comics that have made Khalid the most famous, I see that they speak the truth that no one likes to hear. I also see why they can be criticized because of their brutal honesty. One of the most startling comics I looked at was a comic commenting on the involvement of America and Isis in Iraq. In the comic Iraq is represented as a woman tied up with a terrorist and Uncle Sam standing over her. The terrorist is unbuttoning his pants as if to rape her while Uncle Sam holds a sword to the terrorist, saying “Hey! Its my turn again.” Such a cartoon can be shocking to see and I was taken aback at first. It is awful to see a rape portrayed in a cartoon, but this is exactly what makes Albaih’s cartoons so powerful. He is representing how terrorism and America have repeatedly terrorized Iraq over and over again. Iraq appears helpless in the cartoon, just as it is in real life. The country is stationary and helpless in defending its self. What makes Albaih so great is that he does not stray away from harsh realities, he embraces them. His cartoons can be shocking, with images of dead children, violence and rape, but he is only telling the truth of current situations.
It is interesting to see what a great influence cartoons can have over people, but I do understand why that is. Albaih said in the talk that he has very little time to grab the attention of people on the internet. He said that there is so much crap and nonsense that people have to sort through on the internet, that he needs to create something that will grab the attention of people in a second. Cartoons can be effective because they take about 10 seconds to read. If they have managed to pull you in in those 10 seconds they can take even longer to truly understand what they are saying. One cartoon that did this to me was a cartoon of an old, impoverished man with his hand extended outward (what I interpret as begging for help). Walking past him is a business man looking only at his cell phone. As if an after thought the business man has his hand extended behind him, dropping a face book “like” into the other mans outstretched hand. This sad exchange brings to life the idea that many people think it is enough just to share and like things on facebook. Many people nave go beyond social media to actually help, I myself am guilty of this. It is not enough just to share and like posts on faceboook, it can be somewhat helpful but not if you are missing what is directly in front of your face .