One element of the Tunisian uprising that brought an abrupt end to Ben Ali’s 23-year rule was the puncturing of the Tunisian elite ‘s ‘prestige’, as initiated most remarkably by members of the impoverished masses who began fighting for their rights in 2008 in Tunisia's phosphate-rich Gafsa region. Traditionally, the very few somehow well connected to the people in power had been admired and acceptable to Tunisian society, their interests consequently promoted. But “The people want the fall of the regime” became one the most prominent slogans, chanted at the peak of the Tunisian uprising.
Panic started to creep into their luxurious and somehow immunised lifestyles when they learned that they were losing the popular vote. After all these people are not used to failure. Instead of reevaluating their strategies and ideologies, reconnecting with the people, breaking the ice between them and reaching out to the oppressed, they reacted by making the gap even wider. In short, they abandoned their responsibilities towards their fellow citizens and failed the people once again.
Offended by the people‘s choice in the recent elections, they have now literally declared war on the people and their political rivals. They don’t miss a chance in a TV appearance to shift the blame to the general populace to cover up for their own mistakes. They bombard you in the national and international media outlets with boring lectures as to what they deem “uneducated”, “naïve” and “irresponsible” about the commoners who were manipulated by Islamists into voting for them.
But isn’t it high time to point out to them that this blame is just dead wrong?
The fact is that the narrow elite have monopolized education, culture, economics and every vital institution of Tunisian society. Thus, the Tunisian public‘s way of thinking, their preferences are deeply influenced by the choices already made by the self-appointed wise men and women acting like puppets for the ruling Family Mafia.
Admittedly, many of these well-bred elitists do face a certain linguistic barrier in crossing the communication divide, since their mother tongue is ‘French’. Surprisingly, in a radio show or a television appearance they tend to opt for the language of the former colonizer to convey their messages of a bright, prosperous and fairer future. But what about the illiterate Tunisian listener? Will a French discourse, or a hybrid one ( a mix of Arabic and French), appeal to the uneducated who still make up a large proportion of the Tunisian public?
The elite are the ones who mainly get to inform the western media about the situation in Tunisia because they are fluent in foreign languages, can easily get in touch with foreign journalists and consequently are readily classified as the mouthpieces of the Tunisian people.
Because of their privileged status of going to the most prestigious schools abroad, they manage to secure the same path for their children and because of their strong networks, they limit the opportunities of the European and American scholarships and training courses to the their narrow circles, thus preventing those who come from a modest background from climbing the social ladder and securing well-paid jobs in multinational companies.
The latest celebration of the Women‘s Day in Tunisia was another occasion for this arrogant faction to launch their complaints. Those ‘affronted’ elites chose to spam the crowds with banners that read “I am a Tunisian woman and the harizet of the Constituent assembly does not represent me” (the hariza in Tunisian dialect refers to the lady you might hire for a body massage in a Turkish bath-type massage parlour.) This sneering attitude towards the lower classes is another reason for the disenchantment of the Tunisian people with their elites.
The larger community in Tunisia are now much more aware than ever before that the exploitation and the contempt of some portions of the Tunisian elite is likely to be one of the chief hindrances to the development of Tunisia and its transition towards authentic democracy.