Revolution 2.0

Call out the instigators
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here,
and you know it’s right.

– Thunderclap Newman

Whether Mubarak really couldn’t see the writing on the wall or if throughout these last days he was negotiating his surrender, getting assurances or perhaps buying guarantees for his safety, arranging to shore up his money, is something we may never know for sure. It struck me today that Mubarak could have been a sort of hostage, maybe the money men behind him who had a lot to lose if he stepped down, wouldn’t let him go . . . well, that is the past now.

The hardest part of a revolution is often the aftermath. We’ve seen it before: the French Revolution was followed by the Reign of Terror; the Russian Revolution was followed by Bolshevik tyranny; the 1949 Chinese Revolution led to modernization but also state-sponsored terrorism and starvation for between 20 and 43 million people in the Great Leap Forward. Revolutions can be hijacked, the glorious ideals that sparked them can be betrayed, and freedom can be fleeting.

There are hard revolutions, where violence plays a key part, and there are soft, mostly non-violent revolutions. The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 belongs to the latter category, like Gandhi’s movement and Poland’s “Solidarity” in the 1980s. Yet, in many ways, I think it was truly unprecedented. It seemed to have transformation as it cornerstone. The peaceful, ground-level approach the protester’s took belied the idea that there was something covert and sinister going on. It may have had a transforming effect on the military, and from reports I’ve read, it has begun to transform the Muslim Brotherhood, the group so many fear may the primary hijackers of this revolution – it certainly transformed Egypt and its people.

We can also say that Revolution 2.0 changed revolution itself. It started with a Facebook page that quickly attracted over than 70,000 friends. It’s called We are All Khaled Said, named after an Egyptian businessman beaten to death by police officers in Alexandria on June 6, 2010. The young man who made the Facebook page is Google’s Middle East and North Africa marketing manager, Wael Ghonim. It was through this page that word was first spread about plans for the Jan 25th protest. On January 27, Ghonim disappeared – picked up and held by the police until February 6, when Amnesty International demanded that the Egyptian authorities disclose Ghonim’s whereabouts and release him.

That’s just a synopsis of the story. It’s a remarkable one, and I urge you to doing some searching on Google and learn the rest of it. I wrote about this “new” revolution on Jan. 31. but I didn’t know at the time it was Revolution 2.0.

You can read about the “film directors, protest organizers and computer whiz kids dressed in J. Crew and Ralph Lauren, men in their 20s and 30s who had come to embody Egypt’s restive, tech-savvy youth” and who have called themselves Revolution 2.0. in this Los Angeles Times article.

One member of the group says, “This isn’t like any revolution in history.” I don’t think that’s overstating it too much. Last night on CNN, Wael Ghonim gave a telephone interview and had this to say, “You know, I always said that if you want to liberate a society, just give them the Internet. If you want to have a free society, give them the Internet.” Ghonim, who shrugs off the notion that he is a hero, is 31 years old.

Technology has been the tool of revolution before, but never as powerfully.  For many Egyptian protesters, social media provided their first chance to be heard, to say what they wanted and needed to say – it gave them a voice and it fed their hunger for freedom.

Now, there’s something in the air . . .  the Egyptian people’s victory is being celebrated throughout the Middle East . . . Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Yemen have announced reforms in an attempt to stave off dissent . . . anti-government protests are scheduled over the coming days in Algeria, Bahrain, Libya, Iran and Morocco . . .

BLITZER: Wael, this is Wolf Blitzer in Washington. So first Tunisia, now Egypt. What’s next?

GHONIM: Ask Facebook.


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