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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Turmoil in Tunisia

Most of the time I like to the keep the blog focused on the practical, things people can do for themselves that improve or protect their lives. Once in a while, something International catches my attention and I feel the need to shout out about it. Please bear with me.

By now most people who follow International news know that the Leader of Tunisia has been forced out of the country. Feel free to catch up:

President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali is forced to leave the country. His Prime Minister takes over. Less than 24 hours later, he gives up power to the Speaker of the Tunisian Parliament. At this rate, in a couple weeks the local dog catcher will be running the place.

There are some key lessons to be learned from this revolution. It all started when a student killed himself in a protest over the lack of jobs. Soon the streets were in an uproar over the lack of jobs and the high price of food. Discontent soon found focus on Mr. Ben Ali, forcing him out of the country.

It's a bit of an overstatement, but people are calling this the first Wikileaks revolution. The lavish lifestyle of Mr. Ben Ali and his family and friends did come to light from leaked US cables. Social media sites spread the word and help coordinate the response in the street. Perhaps the biggest technological aid to the revolution was the cell phone. Everything from where to meet, to the location of police snipers was quickly shared. The brutal police response was recorded on cell phone cameras for all the world to see.

This is a decentralized revolution. The country did not have a well organized opposition. This revolt was from the ground up. The big advantage of grassroots revolution is that the regimen can't decapitate the movement. It has the head of the hydra. The big downside is that there is no one with the authority to tell the protesters to stop. There is no one to negotiate a deal or to step into the power vacuum. It could remain a dicey situation for some time.

One big lesson here is that the revolution wasn't against tyranny -not at first. It's a revolt of hungry unemployed people. The world is full of hungry unemployed people. The powers that be must be shaking in their boots. Why do you think China's leaders are doing all in their power to keep their growth bubble going? They hope that if the people are fed and busy working, they won't make trouble for the government. The trade of economic prosperity for freedom only works as long as there is economic prosperity.

Keep an eye on the Tunisian developments. They aren't the first country in this economic downturn to have riots, but they are the first to collapse from them. I don't think they'll be the last.

Expect governments to attempt to control the Internet -especially anything that allows for peer to peer communication. They don't want to kill the economic activity the Internet brings, but they certainly would love to have it under central command. I don't think they can achieve both conditions for very long. If they shut down the Internet completely, know that they've lost. Revolutions happened long before there was an Internet. Word gets out.

What's happening in Tunisia is a big deal. Don't loose sight of developments there when main stream media turns its gaze onto safer subjects.



  1. funny, it has always been an insignifiet event to the media before blowing into a major conflict involving multiple nations.

    what occurs now in Tunisa; probally just the begining of a major world war in production..


  2. What's amazing to me is that we haven't seen more of this yet. I hope folks pay attention, because it's coming here too...

  3. Probably make the rounds of Africa first. However, since Tunisia was a surprise for me, there's no telling who'll go next. Iceland manged to change the government and stiff the bankers. That's didn't get a lot of coverage either. Interesting times.

  4. Our president said that he would shut down the internet for a period of time if he believed it necessary. Scarry!!!