Monday, February 14, 2011

This is what democracy looks like

Like many of you, I've spent much of my time in the last two weeks watching the revolution in Egypt unfold and flower, and reading as much as I could, because I want to know: how did this happen?  How were the people in Tunisia and Egypt able to succeed?

I've heard it was a revolution enabled by social media-- then I heard we (in the U.S.) arrogant to think social media could play such a significant role.  I've heard Egyptian activists saying that their revolution had no leaders-- and yet, as a community organizer, I know how nearly impossible it is for such well-organized actions to take place without coordination.

This morning's New York Times has the best article I've read so far about how the revolution in Egypt organized itself.  I'm sure we'll read more and better detailed accounts in the future, but for now, this is it: years of work that came about because of repressive conditions, lots of organizing, and a big role for social media.
CAIRO — As protesters in Tahrir Square faced off against pro-government forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia: “Advice to the youth of Egypt: Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.”

The exchange on Facebook was part of a remarkable two-year collaboration that has given birth to a new force in the Arab world — a pan-Arab youth movement dedicated to spreading democracy in a region without it. Young Egyptian and Tunisian activists brainstormed on the use of technology to evade surveillance, commiserated about torture and traded practical tips on how to stand up to rubber bullets and organize barricades.

They fused their secular expertise in social networks with a discipline culled from religious movements and combined the energy of soccer fans with the sophistication of surgeons. Breaking free from older veterans of the Arab political opposition, they relied on tactics of nonviolent resistance channeled from an American scholar through a Serbian youth brigade — but also on marketing tactics borrowed from Silicon Valley.
Poster from Nick Bygone's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

No comments: