While the final curtain was falling on Hosni Mubarak’s one-man show in Egypt, the Facebooks and the Twitters of the world — the phantom revolutionaries — were waiting to take their bows. On February 11, while Egyptians proclaimed the end of an era, we entered into a world, which was till yesterday being inspired and governed by social networks and today is being revolutionised in the very sense of the word.
But there’s hardly anything ‘21st century’ about all this.
Earlier, in the non-networked world, a Che, a Mahatma or a Mandela along with a fistful of luminaries motivated the slogan-shouting, foot-thumping obedient hoi polloi, tasked with intensifying the blare. It was a few that the many looked up to for guidance and motivation.
It took a while for the message to spread, but it did spread like ink in water. The results, gradual but definitive, today occupy a special place in world history; much like Egyptian Revolution 2011 will.
On the internet today, it’s still a handful of original thinkers whose thoughts are forwarded, shared and re-tweeted by the majority, which gets a kick out of just joining either a ‘I hate Mubarak’ or ‘I ª Revolution’ group and becoming passive revolutionaries.
So is it that in all the kerfuffle created around such watershed moments, we are missing the method for the speed? Is pressing an ‘I Like’ button to endorse someone else’s displeasure at the status quo the new qualification to become a ‘radical’?
The pace of life decides the levels of confusion that accompanies a grand change. One is instantly reminded of Czech writer Milan Kundera relating memory with the speed of movement — rapidness representing forgetting, slowness representing remembering — in his novel, Slowness. That kinship also applies to the various political gyrations over the decades.
In the past, a comprehensive and step-by-step ‘plan’ was formed before a change was sought, and ends decided the means. Today, in the rush to get what we desire — and courtesy speedy motivation via social networks — there is no plan B, let alone plan C.
People and the internet — the new monkey and the razor blade? — might be the best combo after fish and chips. But what use is unlimited power when it only provides partial solutions? Be it China, Iran or Egypt, pushing another person’s thoughts at broadband speed may be enough to spark a revolution. But once the dust settles, various questions will still be left hanging in the air. As they are in Cairo now.