The Harlem Shake, Now An International Symbol Of Human Rights?

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Under oppressive regimes, even the most harmless, apparently inconsequential activities can gain import and gravity — once they become restricted by authorities. Gandhi's trip to the seashore to collect a few handfuls of banned natural salt became a watershed moment in the Indian self-rule movement. When African Americans sat where they pleased at lunch counters and on buses, it changed the national conversation on race. Thus, the meme of last month, "The Harlem Shake," is becoming somewhat of a cri de coeur in Tunsia and Egypt.

Yes, yes, we know — "The Harlem Shake" isn't really the true Harlem Shake. Nonetheless, when students in Tunisia and Egypt thrust and flailed to the beat for the sheer heck of it, authorities responded in a way that underscored the plight of human rights in both those nations. In Tunisia, the Ministry of Education is launching a formal investigation into a performance and recording of the "Shake" at a high school. The Minister of Education grimly and somewhat ominously said, "What happened is an insult to the educational message and whoever contributed will be held responsible." In protest of this attack on their civil rights, young Tunisians have been making their own "Harlem Shake" vids with a few students refusing to go to school.

Over in Egypt, police arrested four university students for filming the "Shake" in their underwear. The Egyptian public response mirrors the Tunisian — making and uploading a "Shake" clip has become a demonstration of resistance against authoritarian rule that could have real, dire legal consequences.

It's a weird world we live in folks, one without enough liberty, compassion, and justice. Just something to keep in mind the next time one of your friends turns on a video camera and starts thrusting his hips to the beat. As honestly dumb as the fad may seem around here; elsewhere, the stakes are strikingly high. (The Washington Post)

Video: Via YouTube