I am watching La Jornada streaming internet video in Spanish from Central America about the Egyptian people overwhelming the last Pharaoh, Hosni Mubarak. At 82 after 30 years in power, he and his family accumulated $5B – $50B in family wealth and property, in a country where the $GDP/person is $1430. The Egyptian people cheering are being watched around the world. This could be bigger than the World Cup.
It should be. Everyone on the planet is getting connected to the web.
In our new networked age, we are on the verge of every human being on the planet affording a smartphone. A smartphone like the iPhone is not only a telephone but a camera, a printing press, a radio station, a tv station and so much more all rolled into one. A country can use the network to self-mobilize to make things happen. A tipping point has been reached when a critical mass of people have a smartphone in their pocket. All connected to the web of information greater than the greatest libraries.
With a trusted network of friends to spread the news, it is getting hard for a dictator to act against the public interest without the people exposing it.
Watching the Egyptian government try to get a handle on the rapidly deteriorating situation since Jan 25 with lies, shutting off the net, kicking out journalists, and making a few concessions that would have been momentous merely a month earlier…and with every move, nothing works, including the last ditch ‘Jedi mind trick’ at the end, to somehow put off the inevitable.
Tweet on 2/12:
“I resign as leader of Egypt. No, not RESIGN! I REIGN! REIGN! DAMN YOU AUTOCORRECT!” — Hosni Mubarak
The key to keep an oppressed population under control is to centralize and control the media. But it is the nature of the web to move control to the individual node. A closed society suddenly becomes impossible.
The tactics that used to work so well in secret now look foolish.
• Torturing and killing troublemakers no longer has the desired impact. As soon as such practices become public, the victims become martyrs, and 50 more rise to take their place.
• Putting lies in the newspaper or repeating them on tv only works if you have total control of the media to maintain that illusion.
When enough people see the illusion of their oppressive government and no longer believe in it, they imagine a better life and are empowered to act while they are still young. When one group succeeds in toppling a government without violence, others will dare to dream of change.
An open society is dependent on the worldwide communication network. To be part of the modern world the society must be connected. But being connected enables education and freedom of information. And that means transparency, which uncovers hypocrisy. When most citizens have a camera and broadcasting capability, it becomes difficult to maintain order by secret violence and intimidation.
Uncovering one area of corruption can lead to more. The Economist reports “With increasing openness, Muslims accuse some of their elders as being stooges for the government. Many Egyptians have been thrilled to see Christians and Muslims including their priests and scholars mingling cheerfully in Tarir Square.”
What’s next? The Economist published a shoe-thrower’s index measuring unrest factors such as population under 25, the number of years a non-democratic government had been in power, corruption, censorship and GDP per person.
The tipping point has been reached. We can expect more disruption of corrupt regimes.
With any luck, the United States will realize it can get by on a much smaller defense budget. There are fewer enemies in the connected network age.
“These are the days of miracle and wonder, this is a long distance call,
the way the camera follows us in slow-mo, the way we look to us all,…”
- Paul Simon, Rhythm of the Saints