Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Vocabulary of Freedom

Sometimes, it's hard to look past the corruption and injustice facing people here in the Arab World. Especially since these two adjectives, "corruption" and "injustice," describe almost a century of this region's history.

But now, Arabs are writing a new history for themselves, with a whole new vocabulary. First in Tunisia, then in Egypt, then who knows where tomorrow, the words surrounding "defeat" and "oppression" are making way for "freedom," "equality," "prosperity" - and finally, "happiness."

The number of people pouring out into the streets of the Arab World, speaking the vocabulary of freedom, is rising. The new words they learned to say out loud in the streets of Tunisia and Egypt are echoing everywhere between Morocco and Bahrain. These words have more power than any found in the old vocabulary of defeat. That is why rulers' calls to end protests in the name of "security" and "stability" are falling on deaf ears. These words and phrases have long been the shackles used to keep a corrupt elite in power. They've been much too overused, and so, like any over-played song on the radio, have lost their effect.

Blogger Osama Romoh's amused surprise at Arab leaders' thoughtless parroting of this old vocabulary, even after the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, brought a smile to many a reader's face. "It looks like 'some' Arab leaders learned nothing," he wrote humorously, describing how these leaders are acting in a way that is making the new wave of Arab protests across the region follow the footsteps of their Tunisian and Egyptian predecessors. "I'm starting to doubt their mental abilities," he ended, thinking that perhaps their inability to comprehend the changes sweeping the Arab World signals that they should all go in for I.Q. tests.

It looks like the vocabulary piecing together today's new Arab history is incomprehensible only to some leaders whose interests lie in the old order. Everyone else not only understands the new vocabulary, but uses it too. And not just on the streets in protests. This new vocabulary is getting into the very heart of Arab culture, making itself heard at the dinner table, at the office, and in the songs celebrating the newfound sense of Arab freedom.

In fact, Arabic music probably shows one of the clearest examples of this shift in vocabulary. Once infamous for it's shallow "habibi, habibi" pop, Arabic music is now addressing peoples' hopes, fears, and questions about the future - like real art should.

I leave you with a song composed, performed, and produced by a group of young Egyptians who were in Tahrir Square. It is called "The Sound of Freedom."

Enjoy the sweet ring of this new vocabulary.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was amazing what you wrote !
I totally agree whith you especially about the songs

Leilo said...

Well, I think nobody can disagree with what you wrote. however.. I couldn't not keep my attentions on your last phrase about the arabic music and the "real" art.
Where did you hide Marcel khalife, saoud massi, fairuz, lena chamamyan, reyes beik etc.. ?
seems like all the arab music is resumed by those crappy singers, who are not worse than lady gaga, rihanna and co.
Sincerely I even found your last sentence a bit depreciating..

best wishes

Nour Merza said...

Thanks, Anonymous! =)

@Leilo - Your comments are well-put. I totally agree with you that there is good Arabic music out there. However, that music is not usually mainstream (how often has anyone heard Lena Chamamyan on the radio?). And if it is, it's usually older music from an older generation (Fairuz, Marcel, etc.). Today, we have very few mainstream young artists who make music that goes beyond shallow love songs. Hopefully, though, this revolution in Egypt can overthrow not just an political dictatorship, but shallow pop's dictatorship on mainstream Arabic music.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff!! ~radzi~

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Totally agree!

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شركة الماسة لمكافحة الحشرات بالاحساء
شركة تنظيف كنب بالقطيف