I’ve been fairly quiet on the developments in Egypt, preferring to let others do the blogging, especially when they know far more than I do. (Ethan Zuckerman, for example.) But I’ve been involved in many conversations, because it’s damned interesting, what’s going on. One of those conversations is with my sister Jan, by email. She’s a retired Commander with the U.S. Navy, and a veteran at international matters as well, having served as an exchange officer with the British Royal Navy and as a protocol officer with the U.S. one.
I liked an email she sent this morning well enough to ask her if it was cool to share it. She said yes, and here it is:
I can’t help but believe that at least half the educated and aware (not always the same thing, is it?) population of the world isn’t digesting yesterday’s outcome without thinking of their own government. I liked Tom Friedman’s line in his latest column Postcard From a Free Egypt – NYTimes.com Hello, Tripoli, Cairo calling. I can feel his optimism and I have it, too.
I don’t think this is going to be nasty to watch; I have been beyond impressed with the control the protestors have displayed in this process, and I just realized why: Facebook may have gotten them into the Square, but it was Twitter that kept them in hand. This was not the protest of the bullhorn, of the warping of direction by misinterpretation caused by passing the word along because the word was universally available in one shot! The age of reiteration is over. Now is the age of the direct thought going out to all ears vs the age old chain of mouth to ear to mouth to ear…. That is the power of Twitter.
So the message and the method stayed true. No one went off the rails, the whole thing was non-violent in intent and in execution. And – the hitherto unimaginable – the youth stayed true to that. Youth, who we associate with hooliganism in sports and overheated loyalty to their current cultural idols, they kept their eye firmly on the long-view. They led their elders – the professionals who had lived under the thumb and threats of a tyrant, the educated who were stifled and stilled by fear, the political who were passively waiting. The youth led, because they had a unity of purpose that was tightly held — or in this case twittered.
Today I am stunned, and smiling, and … wondering. Do our politicians realize that we, too, have an enormous disenfranchised population? That we have a large, youth-filled population who feel they have few options or opportunities? That we have an underclass in living in a poverty that should be unimaginable in a first-world country? That we have an eager and interested population that feels its voice cannot be heard by our government over the cacophony of corporate interests?
And this is not the voice of the Tea Party. I think it will become glaringly obvious that the Tea Party was a just a segment of the frustrated, found to be useful to and thereby fueled and funding by special interests, enlarged by bored and lazy media and will eventually be fragmented by electoral fulfillment. The population I’m thinking of has not been heard from yet. The Administration may think that Organizing for America gives them a voice, but it hasn’t, because it is too one-way. It is a fund-raising, message passing tool of the administration.
The voice heard in the square in Cairo and in the streets of Egypt did not rise up overnight or out of thin air. That voice that has been unheard because it was a voice shouting in a vacuum. But a vacuum cannot exist in cyberspace. Traditionally in revolutions the key is to take over the one-to-many vehicles of mass communication, radio and TV. But this time they were not taken over, they were ignored. They weren’t needed because it was the masses that were communicating.
So now we are in a new age, an age of leadership and governments being held accountable to the voice of the governed. And in this new age I am optimistic for Egypt as well as other oppressed people. I hope every autocrat and dictator is hearing footsteps in the dark. And I hope our government is paying close attention — people have voices and, no matter how disenfranchised, they have just learned a new way to make them heard.
Perhaps linking to this piece by Nicholas Kristof will help.