This revolution did not start on Twitter

by Instant Noodle

05-09-1855 Bomba

A lot of remarkable things happened in 2011. But perhaps most remarkable of was the Arab Spring, where hiterto complacent autocrats were turfed out by fed up countrymen; one by one.

I don’t think I ever heard a comparison made in the news coverage with the “Springtime of the Peoples” in 1848. Which is a bit surprising, given the similarities. Large numbers of people were tired of oppression from the rich governments, and led largely peaceful protests to end subjugation by autocrats and replace them with liberal democracies.

But, I guess one major reason is that, unlike the majority of the Arab Spring, the Springtime of the Peoples was a failure. Very few of the many rebellions resulted in an overhaul of the country’s politics. As Pierre-Joseph Proudhon put it, “We have been beaten and humiliated . . . scattered, imprisoned, disarmed and gagged. The fate of European democracy has slipped from our hands.”

There are a couple of exceptions, however. Austria and Prussia eliminated feudalism, and Denmark and the Netherlands underwent significant reform.

And Sicily kicked out it’s leader, King Bomba, and replaced him with a Liberal.

In fact,  this unprecedented event was the one that actually kicked off the Springtime of the Peoples revolts. It was a little like Tunisia’s role in the Arab Spring.

It’s tempting to leave it there, and say that this event is what the cartoon represents. But it isn’t. Just 18 months later, the former King Bomba came back to Sicily. With an army. He then reinstalled himself as King.

Many years of violent crackdowns later, the people were again angry, and he found himself ostracised by the international community. It is this subsequent unrest that the cartoon depicts.

As for Bomba, he was the victim of an assassination attempt in 1856, which severely wounded him. He died a couple of years afterwards, probably because on injuries sustained then.

Unfortunate indeed. But one lesson that can be brought from this is this: if you go to the trouble of toppling a violent despot, don’t let him wander off. Lock him up, or kill him, or you may regret it.

(September 5th, 1855)

If you haven’t had enough of King Bomba, then I’ve uploaded a little mini epic about him, which you can find in “Extra”, just here.