photo by Floris Van Cauwelaert
What is the magic elixir that transforms a whole nation of people into social activists, risking life and limb to oust a government? How does it work that in one week's time a whole country can fundamentally change itself after decades of seeming complacency? All eyes are on what's happening in Egypt right now, but we've seen it happen just before in Tunisia and years ago throughout Eastern Europe, and in the Phillipines. It almost succeeded in Thailand recently, and in Iran.
I'm sure that in all these places, for many years, there were opposition parties that spoke out as they could, recruited members, held demonstrations, published writings, and had some leaders imprisoned or even killed. But why did they have so little impact and how can it all happen in an instant like a match to gasoline? As though it were waiting to explode. As though everyone was a government watchdog all along. But what is the spark that sets everything in motion? Is there any connection at all between the years of opposition activities or speeches and writings and the sudden mass uprisings we are witnessing today in Egypt and in the aforementioned countries?
Did these massive protests in Egypt and Tunisia - literally spark from the young, unemployed Tunisian who immolated himself? Were there not other publicized tragedies before? Certainly the conditions of widespread poverty and the unfair divisions between rich and poor, the corrupt government officials - were there for years. Is the spark from a rash of sudden price increases or government subsidy pullbacks? What is it?
I'm sure there are thousands of dissidents and activists fighting for change and justice, in many corners of the globe, scratching their heads and wondering what the secret ingredient is in Egypt this week, that is usually missing from civic recipes for decades at a time.