The date is December 17th, 2010 and the setting is Tunisia. Mohamed Bouazizi, a humble 26 year old vegetable seller is carrying on with his daily business. One of the municipal officials and her aides decide to confiscate his belongings as well as humiliate him publicly. It is important to note that this single event was not the catalyst, but it was the culmination of many abuses of Ben Ali’s regime. Bouazizi’s retaliation was amongst the most symbolic acts of protests in the 20th century, to light himself on fire, an act that would claim his life. Such an act is reminiscent of Tibetan Monks protesting the Chinese government or even the great Carthaginian Commander Hannibal who poisoned himself as a last act of defiance against the Romans. Unbeknownst to Bouazizi, this act would trigger waves of protest across the surrounding nations, the likes of which would topple regimes, including his own.
Fast forward to August 9th, 2014. This time, the location of the event is across the world in the American town of Ferguson, Missouri. Michael Brown, a young black man, is walking in the middle of the road and is confronted by officer Darren Wilson. An unarmed Brown is shot and killed, his body left on the ground for hours before it is removed. This event was not the first of its kind and certainly not the last. Years earlier, unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin is shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Florida. More recently, an older black man and Coast Guard veteran was shot in the back several times and killed while trying to flee from a police officer. The victim’s name was Walter Scott and the perpetrator was Michael Slager, an officer from North Charleston, South Carolina.
In examining the cases of Bouazizi and Michael Brown, along with many similar cases from both regions, it becomes evident that the two events share a common factor. This is that those charged with protecting their respective constituents have engaged in unfair and illegal abuses against those very individuals. Why compare two parts of the world that have been at odds for much of recent history? This comparison reveals that even in two areas that consider themselves radically different from one another, similar problems would reveal otherwise. The fact of the matter is that there may be truth in the fact that the international community is more linked than may be immediately visible. The common denominator here is police brutality and abuse of power, which is unchecked by governments. This is an issue that must be confronted internationally whether it be in America, Tunisia, or other areas such as Hong Kong or Russia. The belief that this issue is specific to one location is a very dangerous misconception and when it begins to be viewed as a global problem, it can be unilaterally targeted and solved. Until this is done, it is likely that the international community will continue to live in fear of the very people that are tasked with protecting them.