Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No. 0981 #Jan25 and Social Media Rocked the World

Whatever the final outcomes of the Jan25 protests in Egypt, one thing is for certain: it marked the beginning of a new form of social mobilization led by social media. Leaderless, popular, transparent, united for a cause, the uprising in Egypt swept political pundits off their guard and was completely misunderstood by the officials the uprising aimed (and succeeded) in toppling.

For years now, we have realized that our democratic systems in the west are failing to be transparent enough, our electoral systems are not fully adequate and participation is lacking. We have known that transformation is somehow needed and that the Internet will play a large part in the birth of  newer, more open forms of governance. It is nevertheless quite extraordinary that these next steps towards political mobilization and openness through the Internet have been made - and are currently  being waged - in one of the most politically repressed areas of the world.

#Jan25 has shown us that Facebook can serve a much greater role than just "Farmville" or "Mafia Wars", and can actually serve as a powerful political tool in the hands of the people.

The extent of the Egyptian regime's threat from social media was felt on Jan 28 when the government misguidedly took an unprecedented step to block all Internet in the country in addition to mobile phone lines (following hampered access to social media sites in previous days). This action however, apart from jeopardizing the security of all Egyptian civilians, only served to galvanize the people more. Nor was anyone fooled when the Internet returned and there was a proliferation of "Pro-Mubarak" campaigns suddenly online.

In the Post-Mubarak Egypt, the flurry of mobilization through social media continues to grow. Everyone is deeply concerned about making a proper transition to a functioning democracy. How to do this is being discussed and implored, not only in meetings between groups in coffee shops and in homes, but in the online world as well through a proliferation of "causes", "events", "groups" as well as engaging twitter conversations.

What Jan25 has shown Egypt and the world is
1. With mobile phones and social media each and every one of us is a journalist. This goes far beyond the narrowly imposed confines of traditional media conglomerates.
2. Everyone who is connected to the net has a voice. Each and every one of us can politically organize, act, and make a difference in our community and indeed the world. The next important task is to reach out and equip each person with a computer and Internet access. (Already, in Egypt I've visited micro-finance organizations, where poor female entrepreneurs are learning how to create their own facebook pages to expand their client base. In Egypt, the power of Facebook and the Internet is well understood, moreso now than ever).
3. We can organize without a singular leader. The Egyptian revolution had no Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, and yet the impact and the outcome of this movement is surely as revolutionary as if it had such a leader, perhaps greater because without a leader, each person feels a sense of responsibility and an internal commitment to act. While western commentators keep searching for the political figurehead to attach to the movement, the people of Egypt are acting now to preserve their homes and country - doing anything from cleaning the streets, to rallying to protect the Egyptian stock market, to strategizing on how to politically educate and empower their fellow citizens.

“If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.” -- Emma Goldman

Recharging in Tahrir

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