You Are Here

At bus stops and major urban intersections, the city places street maps furnished with red dots that help tourists or disoriented locals to identify their current location and figure out directions. "You are here," the red dot declares.

Geographically speaking, we can easily figure out where we stand today. We are here. But all we really know for sure is our location on this slice of earth beneath our feet. Everything around us has changed; life and death, the past, future and naturally the present. Everything is different; politics and morality, education and parenting, religion and values, and tactics and strategies. Even geographical boundaries are in constant flux. Some countries perish, others are formed. Maps blend together, and boundaries disappear.

Political analysis has become an act comparable to fortune telling. There are a million different potential scenarios for the future of this region. They might match predictions that are thrown around at press conferences held outside the White House, the Élysée Palace, the Kremlin, and 10 Downing Street, or assumptions made by political analysts and journalists. Then again, maybe not.

The real war here is not restricted to geography. It is not merely working to restructure the old world order and recharter state borders without a strategic goal or roadmap (besides carrying out a bottomless war that could either end in total victory or in total destruction). The real war has extended to the region's social fabric which, prior to the conflict, we thought to be intact. Nations today are segregated along religious and sectarian lines. All pretenses of love and tolerance have been abandoned. In one swift moment of truth, sense of freedom or onset of fearlessness, everyone let go of their standards, their culture, their values and principles, and rushed full force towards hate.

With regards to political views and ideologies, there is no longer a left and a right, an east and a west. Even distinctions between freedom and tyranny are now blurred. Those who had spent a lifetime embracing leftist ideas and fighting a war on imperialism, now volunteer as consultants to the U.S. military, willingly leading it right to their enemies. Then there are those who after spending half their lives in an autocrat's prison now long for that same autocrat's era, merely because he belongs to their sect. They speak affectionately of what's left of his regime as it savors its last few breaths. A revolution against tyrants is described as terrorism. And a military coup that topples an elected president is declared a revolution. The only acceptable recipe for democracy seems to be one in which an Islamist figure is not elected president.

What is happening here today is an event more serious than a world war, and only slightly less serious than doomsday. "You are here." We are all witnessing as this war takes off, but no one can foresee when or how it will end. Those who are now thinking or writing about this situation, or conjuring up analyses or predictions, are tackling this brand new scenario with old, worn out tools. They consider only the size and weapons of the armies involved. As a result, they predict that the strongest army will triumph. They fail to consider the weight of the ideas involved in this war, or how those might play out on the battlefield. They completely overlook the levels of injustice faced by everyone taking part in this war, who fight to the death in a battle in which the weakest weapons are tanks, jets, and missiles, while its strongest, deadliest weapon is a chronic history of oppression.

Today's battle is the product of oppression, faced by every group that has lived on this land; Arabs, Kurds, Amazighs, Christians, and Muslims (Sunnis and Shiites, Druze and Ismailis.) What has so far materialized of the battle is only the tip of the iceberg, and anyone who has not yet taken part in it is merely waiting his turn.

It is easy for you to label this as terrorism, and to prepare to fight it, as you try to forget about all the injustice that you have committed to help create this war, in an attempt to relieve yourself of any sense of guilt. But it will be hard for you to put a stop to it.

Bouazizi's breakdown was much bigger than an act of protest against the police, the president, or the regime. The match that he used to light himself on fire spread through the entire region. You are here.

This post originally appeared on HuffPost Arabi and was translated into English.