By Ryan Henson
It was revolution by Facebook. Could any other statement more immediately or profoundly capture the current momentum of the world? A decade ago we would have had no idea what Facebook was, let alone be able to conceive that a social networking site could or would be used to orchestrate the voices of the oppressed citizens of the world’s most misunderstood region into collective, harmonious song and action. The world seems, more than ever, a smaller and closer place. The veins of globalization have grown long and thick, their reach seeming almost unlimited now. And despite the ills we attribute, often excessively, to the binding connections being forged internationally we should rejoice in the people of Egypt’s triumph and its positive implications for the movement from isolation to integration.
So yes, the Egyptian people haven’t triumphed yet. At least in the sense that they have not achieved what they strive to attain: political freedoms, economic reforms etc. But the fact that they even were able to join together in such great numbers in the streets of Cairo under the very nose of the oppressive regime that has stifled their voice for three decades is a triumph in and of itself. Would this have been possible without Facebook and social networking in general? It’s hard to say. However, it’s hard to argue that it wouldn’t have been much, much harder.
The ability to communicate is paramount to public and community discourse, assembly and action. Without the apparatus for communication we find ourselves quickly isolated, whether it be on the side of the road without any bars for our iPhone or in a remote Egyptian town where telephones, radio and other media are government controlled. Isolation, on the scale of a countries population, lends itself to oppression. Indeed it is a far more effective tool of authoritarianism than the crude iron fist of the army. Its mechanics are far more myriad in their sinister subtlety.
An isolated population, deprived of the means to free assembly or even open discourse is a captive one, both physically and psychologically. The lone dissenting voice is quickly beaten into silence without the strength of others upon which it may lean. Indeed perhaps the greatest crime of this kind of oppressive governance is the way in which it starves the minds and hearts of an entire people. It deprives them, at the most basic of levels, of what they crave as human beings: the expression, physically and verbally, of their free thought.
So what is happening in Egypt and Tunisia, in all its chaos and uncertainty, is cause for global celebration. It has provided the international community with the unique opportunity to throw its support behind what seems the rarest of political phenomenon these days: an organic, ground up, heterogeneous, civilian led revolution. So how has the international community responded? Well it’s a mixed bag, with the Europeans being far more forthcoming with their applause then the United States. The West’s principle ally in the region and sole democratic stronghold in the Middle East, Israel, is responding with predictable apprehension and anxiety. Their concerns reflect those of many leading conservative voices in the United States: that this revolution is being driven by the Muslim brotherhood and will lead, inevitably, to the ascent of a theocracy. However, given the nature of the revolution, its scope and breadth in terms of social and cultural groups involvement these worries seem to be more the product of the Muslim Islamic paranoia, that has approached almost epidemic levels in the more conservative circles of American Politics, rather than reasoned analysis.
More dispiriting still is the meek and timid reaction of the American Government. We should have been the first to throw the full might of our international position behind the Egyptian people’s cry for liberty. Instead these events have exposed the true cowardice of the United States willingness to protect and advocate for the freedoms of the people of the world. We want a democratic world and yet refuse to support its inception without qualifications that serve only our limited, narcissistic agenda. It is very likely that the success or failure of the Egyptian population’s struggle for freedom, democracy and the right to self governance may in the very recent future come to depend upon the actions of the United States. This is a sad reality indeed for the people of Egypt.