On the Call for Dignity through Technology

We have been watching history take place in North Africa, thanks to the wonders of modern media. Without cellphones and cheap cell cameras, telephone networks and the Internet; would these revolutions have been possible? You need to sustain a certain amount of fire, and to know that brothers in arms on the other side of the country are fighting the same battle would surely give you more gist. Not to mention strategic information and when to flee and regroup.

During the relatively friendly Nazi occupation of Norway, keeping radios were forbidden, and for good reason. A colleague’s wife wrote her thesis on the role of Bill Board Systems (BBS) and faxes during the wars of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. How people on either side kept contact with each other despite the fighting fractions and threats of retaliation.

There may be many chapters yet in the calls for dignity in these countries, and Libya especially is very vulnerable to a future instability, but the significance of the past days and weeks will play a great part in the historical self-image later taught to children in schools.

Another feature of these calls for dignity that are common slogans in these particular events, is the content of the dignity so desired. , the dignity called for in these Revolutions is not the former social/communist or nationalist dignity — the dignity of the We — but a new individualist sense of dignity, that echoes in the halls of Western democracy. The individualism stemming from existentialism, the very corner stone of Western civilization.

This individuality, which has little and nothing to do with MTV, Hollywood and the riches of the USA and its judicial system; but everything to do with the Renaissance and European thinkers, is quite different from the individuality of the past, that of the We, so accurately portrayed by Chinese way of life. It is the child of experimental science, empiricism and scientific philosophy like that of Freud, Kant and Sartre; with all the crazy art that comes with it. In any case, it may prove to be a bridge across the gap between Europe and the West and the North African and Middle Eastern countries, a bridge traversable to a brighter future. Peace is not made by guns and blood but by way of thought.

EDIT: Please note that I do not want to play down the importance of the "Jasmin Tea revolution" that is the Twitter rumor of the week; e.g. that there is a similar movement in China these days. It is simply my observation from my travels there that the ideas so fundamental to democracy are very little known in East Asia. So we might find a non-democratic revolution in China, but still one "of the people".

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