As a retired teacher who has heard far too many spurious claims for the educational virtues of technology in the classroom, and a former activist from the thrilling protests of the 60’s, you might call me a skeptic about the revolutionary potential of the internet. Well, I’m not too old to admit when I am wrong.
Facebook, which I still refuse to join as a means of personal communication, has just enabled a youth revolution in Egypt that is completely inspiring. To see that this movement, largely led by the young, as were so many of the protests of the 60’s, spreading to all sectors of Egyptian society, from labor to farmworkers, to intellectuals and even capitalists who actually believe in democracy, has been nothing short of astounding. While we were able to build a powerful anti-war movement in the 60’s, it took years when all we had at our disposal were mimeograph machines cranking out posters that we affixed to lamposts at midnight- only to have them torn down. There is no doubt that that the instant communication afforded by Facebook, Twitter et al, have enable a rapid progression of events that would have seemed unthinkable to our generation.
I write this as President Mubarak appears ready to step down imminently. The future of Egyptian democracy is of course still in doubt, as Sulemein, a close ally of Mubarak is slated to take power, along with the army. Our media is still uncertain whether or not to call this a “military coup” or a “revolution.” Whatever the outcome, I will call it a revolution in the sense that it has mobilized the dreams and hopes of the vast majority of Egyptians. Also incredible, it has been largely peaceful- the only violence coming from Mubarak’s hired goons.
America, of course, has waffled. Do we support the genuine aspirations of the Egyptian people (a position apparently supported by VP Biden among others in the Administration)? Or do we stick with the dictator Mubarak, who has raped his country of billions and impoverished his people while crushing democracy, simply because he is friendly to America and Israel (Hillary’s position)? President Obama has waffled between the two, apparently not quite sure which horse to back. As he too often does, he leads with good instincts, then reconsiders under pressure, evidently now from Israel and Saudi Arabia among others.
Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Egyptian youth deserve a big bouquet of flowers this Valentine’s day for their courage, their hope and their initiative. Let’s hope their efforts spark even more youth movements throughout the world against dictatorships, as the youth movements of the 60’s spread and became world-wide. Long live the internet and all genuine democratic movements.
By Susan Jhirad