Performing Democracy: What is Arab Spring?

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Wikipedia defines Arab Spring as:

“a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests (both non-violent and violent), riots, and civil wars in the Arab world.”

Wikipedia goes on to say that:

“The protests shared some techniques of civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches, and rallies, as well as the effective use of social media.”

I need you to stop and think about that for a second.

effective use of social media.

Throughout history, it has been proven time and time again that the most effective way to suppress any one people group is to make sure they never get their hands on one thing.

Information.

Without information, people can’t think for themselves. They can’t form opinions or fully understand what is going on around them. They are effectively forced into a single mind, a single story, because they do not know there is any other story to be told. In the dark ages, people were kept illiterate so that only kings, lords, and priests would have the information, and could keep telling the single story of their bravery and everyone else’s poverty . In Nazi Germany, contraband was banned and burned away so that people would not be allowed to access the information of different view-points and ideas than those the Nazis deemed “pure”.

In short, the one sure-fire way to oppress someone is to starve them of information.

And now here we are, in the beginning of the 21st century, in the middle of what historians are calling The Age of Information.

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Dictators, oppressors, and straight up power-hungry people have always fallen back on the fail-safe way of controlling large groups of people by withholding information. But no one person can control the internet. They can’t control the cat videos being posted in Canada and England. They can’t control the school presentation powerpoints on freedom being posted in America and Australia. They can try to block, ban and delete all the posts, blogs and videos the people they do control post, but the tide will keep flowing until their virtual dams break.

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The internet allows information to flow free.

And to me, that is what Arab Spring is really about. It’s about videos on YouTube displaying a government’s acts of violence for the world to see. It’s about entire people groups rallying as one community because one person with a laptop was willing to organize a Facebook group. It’s about Tweets that utilize Worldwide Trending to show the world where change is happening and how they can help. It’s about every blog filled with different viewpoints, different stories, different voices, coming together to make a cohesive unit. A unit that is not the single story the oppressors want people to believe, but something made stronger than a singular story because of the differences that make each story unique.

In the conclusion of Performing Democracy, Dr. Segall says:

“More than a mere twitter on the global screen of Western media, the Arab and African Spring provides a window into democratic desire. Not just a sign-up sheet for protest, the Facebook pages and public stages personify a sentimental citizenship, a communal voicing.”

I think she’s right. And I think that the internet and social media have changed the games of protest, revolution, oppression, and democracy for good. Arab Spring is just the beginning. Because now, the information is out there for everyone to read, like, retweet, and share.

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