The month of love? Not quite- instead the month of February, both this year and in years gone by, has been a rough one! As I think about it, I’m conscious I’ve talked about both February and revolutions before, but you can’t escape its focus in the news right now.
We’re seeing, across North Africa and into the Middle East, an almost domino effect of political unrest. “Nations are falling in hopeless despair”, as people can no longer idly sit by and watch their political leaders damage their country’s economies, prestige and society. Tunisia was the first to go, but has been somewhat overshadowed by the ongoing situation in Egypt and the “clingy” dictator Murabak- considering it is St. Valentine’s month, if it was a relationship, then President Murabak would be stood on the Egyptian population’s doorstep in the pouring rain, singing ballads and asking for ‘one more chance’! I must say, not withstanding the tragic loss of human life, it has been fascinating to observe the revolution in progress- as historians we do study our fair few, so it’s nice to see one in the making! It should also be noted that this may well be the month where Sudan will split in two following its referendum last month.
We shouldn’t look beyond our own country too- cuts, tax rises and further squeezes from a coalition that can’t (no matter how hard it tries) mix ideology with reality. Now, despite our previous student riots, and the potential strikes that could still dominate 2011, it is highly unlikely we’ll go as far as these countries, but I do feel that ever since the expenses scandals that hit in 2009, our political system is in some form of transition that is yet to reach its climax.
History tells us that rapid change is inevitable. There have been many examples of iconic moments, changes in government and other resistance/revolutionary movements, all taking place in February. Yasser Arafat was appointed the leader of the Palestinians on the 3rd February 1969; on the 4th February 2003 Yugoslavia voted to disband itself as a country; Mary Queen of Scots was executed for treason against Elizabeth I on the 8th February 1587;and the 11th of this month, 1975, saw Margaret Thatcher elected leader of the Conservative Party, the first female British political leader. We could also include Nelson Mandela’s release from prison (11th February 1990); the formation of a republic in China (12th February 1912); Castro’s appointment as revolutionary leader of Cuba (16th February 1959); the execution of Hans & Sophie Scholl , the White Rose resistance group in Nazi Germany (22nd February 1943) or the publication of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ “Communist Manifesto” (24th February 1848).
We’re living in a time of change- it’s unpredictable, intriguing, fascinating, worrying and exciting all at the same time- and as a grey haired, tweed suited history teacher of old, I may write here again about the revolutionary times of 2011!