I’ve spent the last three weeks out of the country and just returned to Tunis. During my visits to South Africa and Washington DC I’ve had a chance to speak with bloggers, civil society representatives, government officials, and aid workers.
Tunisia has been the subject of so many conversations, discussions, seminars, and presentations in some ways it felt like I came from the center of the world. At the same time, it was remarkable how the discourse outside of Tunisia has differed from the reality of pre-election Tunisia.
To bloggers and civil society activists, the revolution has been a model of talking truth to power and has demonstrated the importance of unfettered access to information (the internet, wiki leaks, the government, etc). To aid workers, Tunisia is a guinea pig, more accessible than Egypt, less dangerous and volatile than Libya – a place to experiment with different aid policies. To government officials, depending on their authoritarian persuasion, Tunisia represents the best hope for democracy and an example for peaceful democratic transitions.
The reality in Tunis is far removed and much more complex than these perspectives. Mythologizing the Tunisian revolution did not stop with the myths around Sidi Bouzid, but continues from capitals to bloggingheads around the world. In the coming weeks I will explore these topics further through the lens of the upcoming elections, now less than three weeks away.