Agnes Smedley, a great American heroine unknown here in the U.S. though known to schoolchildren in China, considered that The French, American, and Chinese Revolutions for Independence were not three wars, but a single revolution.
The Freedom Revolution.
Since written language began, nations have been formed by warlike leaders. These controllers have been better or worse for the people living within their domains. A rare few, such as the presidents of the U.S., have been relatively more dedicated to their people, which is as it ought to be. Nowadays most truly civilized nations have caught up to the U.S. in this and in other ways. Thank God!
There continue to be other nations that repress their people. Ten or eleven years ago when the Internet penetration slowly started to climb in these latter nations, betting folks would have laid odds as to when the revolutions would start. It was inevitable. Even Hitler would have known that, given his comment on media: “First, capture the radio station.”
Unlike broadcast media or any other media before it, the Web/Mobile medium now fascinating us all with its endless surprising unfoldments, is interpersonal, like conversation and sex. It is inherently social, and empowers both the individual and the group, informing their increasing interaction. This means that this medium is a democratizing tool. The human race is the pre-eminent tool-building race on the planet, and now we have invented a tool that feeds and feeds off our inherent ability to come together socially in synergistic and potentially win/win ways.
In the consumer electronics business, the leaders are already aware that the Internet/Mobile medium – let’s call it the Web for short – has democratized technology. What we are now seeing on a global scope is that the Web is also democratizing society.
The information flowing to the populations of repressed nations for the last ten or more years has created a pent-up pressure. When the valve bursts, the repressive governments can no more stuff the genie of freedom back in the bottle by shutting down the Internet (too late) than they could stuff toothpaste back in a tube.
It started even before the Web, with TV. TV brought a view of the world into these repressed nations. It was not always with positive effects. In January 1980, in Media Science Newsletter, I quoted Princeton’s top expert on Iran at the time, Jerome Clinton: “It was almost a caricature of our civilization as we know it. When I was there, it was embarrassing to see ‘Peyton Place’ in Persian. Movies and TV gave the impression that the West was totally materialistic, selfish and consumption-oriented. Conservative Iranian Muslims saw their sons and daughters corrupted by these influences from the West. They felt powerless.”
American TV, movies, and global websites subsequently poured much information, positive and negative, into the repressed nations of the world. The ultimate effect was to drive repressive and rapacious dictators out of Egypt and Tunisia. But look what’s happening now.
The pressure that TV, movies and the Internet have been building up in these dictator-controlled countries – letting in a view of the greener grass elsewhere – is still pent up in lots of nations. They now see the art of the possible. Look what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, they say, we can do that here – we must do that here – we would be cowards to stand by any longer now that we see it can be done. Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Yemen and even China are now feeling the ripple effect from the Egypt mindquake.
In the smaller nations where this happens and the government kills peaceful protesters, as happened in Syria on March 25, 2011 – yesterday as this is being written – the world community will tend to step in and declare the government illegitimate and aid the rebels – as is already happening in Libya. It remains to be seen what will happen if and when such incidents were to occur in China.
The net result of this process will be fewer and fewer dictatorships – obviously, a very good thing.
Another effect could be that the young and idealistic in the repressed nations will now have a positive cause for which to fight, as opposed to being channeled off into the crime-as-terrorism phenomenon. It should become harder for the Taliban, al-Qa’ida et al to recruit. Another very good thing.
Let it be.
Best to all,
PS – Working on a documentary about Agnes Smedley. Please email me [email protected] for further information.