Why Yemen’s ‘hunger revolution’ has not happened
Had this situation been in any other country around the world heaven and earth would have turned upside down but in Yemen, people adjust and miraculously carry on.
The lack of electricity obviously affects business and education as well. From the dry cleaners who take weeks to clean clothes instead of hours to the carpenter who can’t use his electric tools and the computer programmer who can’t do any work at all.
Jobs have vanished and millions of dollars lost. Prices of very basic commodities such as bread and yogurt have doubled. Today’s inflation is at its highest with prices more than doubling in less than five months.
Yet with all these factors there has been no hunger revolution yet, which is puzzling for anyone who does not understand Yemen.
Today’s revolution is a political one. It is driven by political parties using the dissatisfaction of the youth as fuel for protests. The reality is that the protestors, although they believe that by toppling the regime their lives would be better – which is mostly true – they have no idea how or what “better” really means.
Among the banners and chants of protestors there isn’t a single one that reads “we want a decent life”, “I want a job” or “I want equality” – or even something as simple as “what about me?”
The general outcry is political and this is a huge problem because it empties the revolution of its connection to people’s lives and needs. This disconnection will blow up in our faces once the regime is gone because then the protestors will be standing in confusion not knowing what just happened or what their new role is.
If Yemenis had really become fed-up with their living situation they would reflect this in their protests and the normalcy of daily life would be gone. But despite everything, despite power cuts, disconnected education and lost jobs, Yemenis are still going about their lives. They have an amazing ability to adjust and do with the minimal without complaining.
The farmers who make up more than 30 percent of the country’s labor have gone back decades in time to what it was like when everything was manual and they cope with it. Housewives have compromised and resorted to physical labor to complete their chores in the absence of vacuum cleaners and electric mixers.
Butchers only cut what they can sell that day and shoppers only buy meat that they can consume immediately because there is no power for fridges. I personally know people who are cooling water in pottery like we used to do before Edison’s light bulb.
Even when the prices increased, Yemenis adjusted. They compromised and found means of cutting costs and saving money. The Yemeni collective sanity has not snapped yet and this is why the hunger revolution has not happened so far – and why, after 10 months of uprising, Saleh is still in power.