Years have now passed since one could use the term “Arab Spring” without deliberate irony, or at least quotation marks. Even the sad rhetorical spinoffs from the metaphor—the cold winter, for instance, that followed the spring uprisings—have gone stale from overuse. And yet there is one country where the hopes of the once-euphoric revolutionaries did not turn out to have been misplaced.
Dare we say it? Yes, the Arab Spring has bloomed; it has yielded something of a harvest in one country, the country of its birth, Tunisia, whose experience offers some hopeful lessons for a despondent Middle East.
Tunisia was the place where a man frustrated with poverty and bureaucratic abuse set himself on fire nearly four years ago, giving rise to a wave of revolutions across the Arab world. The trajectory of those revolutions has followed, for the most part, an arc of tragedy.