What’s Fueling the Arab Uprising?

What’s Fueling the Arab Uprising?


Social media amplified
the message of these people which was “we want the right to determine our future. We
want justice. We want dignity.” [MUSIC] I think anyone’s a reporter. The term “Arab Spring” I find to be very problematic
because it, first of all, confines it to the, you know, the springtime and it frames the
whole thing in this kind of moment, you know, where these revolutions or uprisings emerged
and I think part of that is because it was such a domino effect and so much was happening
so quickly the world, let alone the media, was trying to contextualize and understand
it. This could have happened and should have,
frankly, happened long ago in terms of a popular uprising that would break this fear factor
that had been controlling and consuming these people. It was a mixture of timing and worsening
economic conditions and sometimes in life and in history, you know, one small event
can spark, you know, something that perhaps should have happened but had yet to happen
for a myriad of reasons and so when Mohamed Bouazizi that fruit seller, fruit and vegetable
seller, had his food cart confiscated by a police woman, not a man, ironically, a police
woman, for whatever that’s worth, he lost his ability to put food on the table and it
was probably a bit of shame. I feel like he felt like his dignity and his will to live
had been taken and so he killed himself by, you know, setting himself on fire and, you
know, it’s so symbolic on so many levels that he actually set himself on fire quite literally
because it really did set the entire region on fire. I really think that we wouldn’t have
seen or witnessed the Arab Spring, so-called Arab Spring, in the way that it played out,
the pace, the relentless pace, you know, had it not been for not just social media but
just digital technology and communication. It let people know that the world, to a certain
extent, at least pockets of the world, were watching. I mean what happened in Tunisia
wasn’t reported on by the mainstream media for a week I think, maybe two weeks after
he burned himself. All of a sudden these tools emerged as a way to validate and to connect
and to mobilize and not just challenge each other’s ideas but, you know, recognize and
realize that there are other people who might be brave enough or willing enough or strong
enough to take on their government. The Arab people are very patriotic, we’re very nationalistic,
you know. I think people just want to feel like part of the process and they don’t want
to feel sidelined and they don’t want to feel like pawns. I think you’re starting to see
social media, even throughout the revolutions, fill those voids and gaps in security, in
policing, in governance. The ruling military in Egypt wasn’t able to provide any services.
There was no police. The police essentially disappeared. And, you know, you saw certain
mapping, something called HarassMap that would basically document on a map and plot where
in the country and where in Cairo, for example, there were cat-calling or, you know, muggings
or you know, any sort of crime and I think that’s one example of how social media can
offer a platform for governance for better governance in the absence of political structures
or political authorities. You’re starting to see young people, entrepreneurs in the
region, recognizing that there’s a real opportunity to use social media to challenge the old ways
of doing things in the Arab world which is steal money, corrupt, and keep people happy
enough. I’m Ahmed Shihab-Eldin and you should subscribe
to THNKR.

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