Congratulations to courageous young revolutionaries of Egypt, and best wishes

by Rob Tiller

Yesterday a group of brave young people in Egypt accomplished something astonishing. They rid their country of a tyrant. They did so mainly through peaceful but strenuous protests. The group is hard to sum up. They didn’t fit into one of the few usual story lines that Western news sources normally recycle, such as radical Muslims or corrupt elites. The protesters lacked a clear leader or ideology.

But one thing they had in abundance was courage. They faced a security apparatus famous for torturing opponents and making them disappear, an awesomely powerful military, and leaders with no apparent humanity or conscience. The faced a very real risk of widespread imprisonment, injury, or death. No one before had ever done exactly what they did. But they overcame their fears and doubts, and changed the world. Their accomplishment bears comparison to those of Gandhi and King — but they did it faster, with less bloodshed, and without a Gandhi or King.

Was technology an enabler of the Egyptian revolution? There were early stories about Twitter and Facebook facilitating organization of the protests. However, the protests continued to grow after the government crippled the internet. It seems too simple (and suspiciously western-centric) to give too much credit to Twitter. Still, it may have played a role. Even this possibility will make dissidents, and entrenched dictatorships, think differently about the internet from now on. It isn’t hard to believe that new internet tools will help humans organize more powerfully.

Exciting revolutionary moments have often been succeeded by periods of monstrous brutality, as in France, Russia, and China. But it doesn’t always work out that way. The revolution generation in the United States somehow managed to fashion a fairer government. Plainly, the young revolutionaries of Egypt believe it can be done. So we shall see. Whatever the outcome, I honor those courageous young Egyptians and wish them well.