Lessons from the Revolutions

Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 6, 2011 | Go to article overview

Lessons from the Revolutions


WASHINGTON

In different ways and in diverse places, many people who were believed to be among the most passive and docile among us and living in "stable" countries have discovered that they are revolutionaries. Provided that they act in sufficient numbers and with strong determination, these people have all the power needed to scheme and then impose their plans on everyone.

The people, they believe, have the opportunity to change the world.

Some, such as President Barack Obama, believe that this is "true democracy." Others talk in terms of "mob rule."

Watching the images on television of those seeking to midwife change, many of us become enchanted by the enormous energy, innocence and youthful faces of this new leaderless majority.

Or is it a yelling, screaming horde?

Others, seeing the same images but through a different lens, are thoroughly alarmed by those same elements. Among these others are the experienced tacticians who look for leaders or manipulators. Their question -- "Who is organizing this furor?"

In the last few months, the general balance of power has shifted in three far-reaching ways, which together might well transform not just the Middle East but also our world as a whole.

First was the economic recession. Second, and ongoing, are both minor and major changes in many political structures. Third, water shortages in the major grain-growing regions combined with enormous changes in the use of agricultural land mixed with the failure of distribution systems are a prelude to an inevitable global famine.

Trillions of dollars of public money has been spent by governments, blatantly, to avoid change rather than implement it. Contradictions in our economies have been neither eliminated nor addressed. There are still no jobs for millions and economic necessity is now a matter of deliberate choice and priority does not enter the minds of the street mobs.

In Washington, the Pentagon might still dream of winning the war in Afghanistan and launching attacks against Iran while failing to imagine a new U.S. war with a large and expensive military that has been made powerless by its own regulations and bureaucracy.

A combination of new technologies, new social media and new sources of information enabling new forms of association and debate are starting to make it more difficult for political elites to rely on a compliant press to set and limit the political agenda. …

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