The Arab Spring happened, once. Remember?
I don’t really either; I was in America.
So, this post is gonna be really short, but what I want to say is: I agree with Winner about the overly optimistic, and terribly imprecise, view that technology like computers is just going to radically re-structure our political and social systems and make us all equals and turn all our governments into democracies. Not gonna happen just like that, for an obvious reason: the computer doesn’t make us any better at wanting to participate in government.
So, after the Arab Spring happened, we saw some pretty crazy political battles going on. But the majorities in these countries sort of dropped out of the vocal outcry for change. The change happened, so why continue calling for it? It’s the whole 19th century European revolution drama all over again: the majority revolts, then the new minority takes power.
It sucks really, but that’s what happens.
In this work Toby Dodge notes that, of all the countries involved in the Arab Spring, only two appeared poised to make significant change to their governments at its “end”, Egypt and Tunisia. Others were still engaged in civil war, and most experienced little to no significant change.
Egypt has, more recently, been trying to remove Islamist principles from their government: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/01/us-egypt-protests-constitution-idUSBRE9800C620130901. Good for them, and for their people.
But it’s a constant uphill battle. Extremists always end up being the loudest, and typically gain the most support (see: Robespierre, Sam Adams, and Lenin). It’s because we still don’t have the impulse for collective sustained outrage. It’s hard to stay pissed off for such a long time, enough to see a democratic revolution through to its end, which is not when the old government is deposed, but when the new government is firmly established as democratic and representative of the people. It’s just hard. And technology doesn’t help to change that.
I’m pretty Hobbesian: people are motivated by fear and, as an extension, survival. People will act when their ass is on the line immediately and they understand that; once the immediate stimulus to act is removed, they slide back into ease and malaise. It’s the human way really. Computers don’t help to change that.