Egypt 2/11: Start of a New Era Post 9/11?

Global Consequences: Why is the Egyptian Revolution Special? What Happens Next?

London, UK - 13th February 2011, 21:05 GMT

Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

Ab Initio

. Egypt isn't the cause, it is an effect of collective consciousness accelerated by self-assembling dynamic networks* now made possible by 21st century technologies that are enabling digitally driven leaderless revolutions*.
. Low and middle class groups have decreasing disposable income and increasing food-fuel-tax costs globally post the triple impact of:
1. The Great Unwind (2007-?) financial crisis which is leading to massive deleveraging or reduction in the debt overhang;
2. The Great Reset (2008-?) in world trade which is yet to recover to the peak before the Lehman Brothers collapse; and
3. Massive impact of Quantitative Easing or QE that has increased asset allocation and speculation in commodities significantly.

. Egypt is just the beginning of a complex digital and socio-economic chain reaction and more dominoes are likely to fall as contagion spreads. Why?
. Ideas now travel at the speed of light on digital networks and once released into the wild they cannot be deleted, blocked, or simply ignored.
. The recipe for creating digitally driven leaderless revolutions* is like the genie which has come out of the bottle post Tunisia and now Egypt. It cannot go back in.
. The entire world's digital networks -- internet, mobile and satellite TV -- are massive mind amplifiers that create a colossal echo chamber and the reverberations continue.

Democracy: Asymmetric Time Horizon

Europe and The West

. Throughout history, the West often took ideas and inventions from the shores of the Mediterranean: from agriculture to the alphabet and from soap to monotheism.
. Yet many feel that what is going on around the Mediterranean in North Africa and in the wider Arab world is somehow exogenous to them.
. Massive protests now unfolding in Italy demonstrate that the democracy-via-demonstration contagion is spreading to Europe and now becoming endogenous.
. Many of the placards being held in Italy's demonstrations against Berlusconi make references to "When will our Mubarak go?"
. At the same time, Italy warns of a humanitarian crisis as it faces a flood of Tunisians and Egyptians: 1,000 would-be migrants arrived in three days.
. Western graduates without work; gloomy prospects about social security; and ruling elites out of touch with reality; might trigger social movements earlier than we think.
. As a result, the mechanism of digitally driven mini-revolutions may spread to numerous Western European countries and parts of North America.

Significance of Egypt

. A secular popular revolt in the most populous Arab state, using nonviolent means, has humbled an entrenched autocrat.
. Given the intellectual and cultural gravity of Egypt, this carries the potential to remake the mould of the entire Middle East.
. The Egyptian milestone of 2/11, 2011, has the potential to mark the end of the era that began on 9/11, 2001.
. Egyptians have had a civilisation longer than almost anyone else in the world.
. Egyptians are pragmatic people who are emotional right now: we would also be emotional if we had been living for several decades under repression.

Al-Nahda -- Awakening or Renaissance -- Mark II

. History may record 2/11, 2011, as the start of Al-Nahda Mark II in Egypt in the 21st century.
. Al-Nahda -- is Arabic for "awakening" or "renaissance". It was a cultural renaissance that began in the late 19th century and early 20th century in Egypt.
. That awakening or renaissance then later moved to Lebanon, Syria and other Arabic-speaking countries across many parts of the diverse Islamic world.
. Al-Nahda is often regarded as a period of intellectual modernisation and reform:
. In opposition to 400 years of phlegm stemming from Ottoman dominance, intellectuals started to write multi-lingual Arabic dictionaries, fostered educational concepts and were passionate for new ideas to reinvigorate the stasis, ie, standing still.

Perilous Journey Towards Democracy

. If the promise of greater democracy is achieved, Egyptians will have dealt a stunning blow to extremism and radical groups.


. For the moment, it is slightly chilling that something called "The Supreme Council of the Egyptian Military Forces" now has complete control of Egypt.
. The military has been the mainstay of the Egyptian regime since 1952, when Nasser took over in a coup. So it has been the bedrock for over six decades.
. The military, very skilfully, appears to have manipulated the events of the last two weeks in order to ensure that it would remain in power regardless.
. The military has always been, is and will be in power for the foreseeable future until a democratic system can be mapped out.
. The role of the military, for good or ill, fills a vacuum. Whilst the police and security forces are feared, there is no other acceptable organised alternative.

Democracy: Asymmetric Time Horizon

. Will genuine democracy just "appear" in this land of one of the most ancient human civilisations?
. Whilst it can be relatively swift to see the results of digitally driven leaderless revolutions*, building a new democratic structure of governance takes a lot of time and may or may not materialise in the short to medium term.
. Differing examples of the United States in 1776, France in 1789, Russia in 1917, India in 1947, China in 1949, Iran in 1979 and Eastern Europe in 1989 come to mind.
. The need for instant gratification is such that whilst it may be possible to garner a digitally driven leaderless revolution* almost like the time to get a burger in a fast-food joint but that may not translate in terms of time for building a large mansion to live in, which could take years!
. This asymmetric aspect of the time involved to achieve a digitally driven leaderless revolution* and to achieve a stable and world class democracy may be lost on the digitally-enabled revolutionaries who may become frustrated or disillusioned along the way.
. Further, the military is a state within the state and it is prospering; it has many stakeholders that will not cede power too quickly.
. Constitutional negotiations between the people, the military, various organisations including the Muslim Brotherhood, business leaders, and foreign powers need to take place before anything approaching a stable and responsive political system emerges. This could take time and the outcome may be work-in-progress for years.
. Even though military rule will only be in place during a transitional process leading up to the next election, there is always the possibility that the military's top general could change his mind and start loving the presidential palace and the trappings of power a little too much!
. However, even Mubarak could not cut off Egypt's digital and mobile communications for too long because of the cost to business.
. Digital networks -- internet, mobile and satellite TV -- are the most powerful "democratic tools" the citizens of any country have at present to safeguard their rights in the face of ruthless autocrats and their military might.
. The scenario of the relatively slow process of "constitutional negotiation" is the most realistic, which makes it a slow journey towards democracy at best and a perilous one regardless.

Fundamentalism and Extremism

. Polls are beginning to show that the Egyptian population largely rejects fundamentalism and extremism.
. Islamist propaganda argues that violence and a puritan form of Islam is the only way to save the Muslim world. Egypt now points to a clear alternative.
. However, if Egypt slips back into a new dictatorship or anarchy, extremists could find a fresh foothold and a new lease of life in one of the most critical Arab populations.
. The stakes for the US in particular, and the West in general, in a region that has long confounded it are extraordinarily large.
. Everything hangs in the balance: the Egyptian revolution could be a huge defeat or a huge victory for extremists. It depends on what happens next.

Demographics and Economic Constraints

. The Egyptian economy needs to grow at least seven percent a year to create the jobs necessary for the mass of underemployed.
. Often-over-educated young people, who have been crowding the streets in recent weeks, are overwhelming the system.
. Simultaneously, economic issues such as widespread illiteracy and the youth bulge that troubled Egypt prior to its revolution remain intact, and are not easily overcome.
. Economic power is still in the hands of military-linked plutocrats and oligarchs, who are not terribly interested in reforming the system that has made them obscenely rich.

Digital Constraints

. It may take decades to turn the national socio-economic structure around whilst digital social environments breed impatience and demand immediate action and change.
. It is much less clear that the existing digital social media will be useful for organisation of groups managing effective long term projects to fix what is broken.
. There is a possibility of revving from one digital revolution to the next rather than ever getting to a stable state. This could breed chaos and become highly dangerous.

Redefinition of Ally, Stability and Freedom

. World powers will have to redefine what they mean by an ally's stability.
. We will also also need to decide whether we stand for freedom -- so long as others don't get it and we can remain 'stable' -- or we stand for it without any caveats.
. Politicians everywhere will need to make decisions to choose between: standing for allies with entrenched interests; stability and/or freedom. For many, this won't be easy.

Copycat Revolutions

. Exit of the 82-year-old president Mubarak puts new pressure on other long-sitting rulers in the Arab world and elsewhere to reform or to meet a similar end.
. Which top 11 countries are at risk of becoming the next Egypt? Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Saudi, Iran, Pakistan, Venezuela and China.
. It now seems that populations in European countries like Italy are being galvanised into action by what has transpired in Egypt. More countries in the EU could follow.
. Although China is located a long way from Egypt many Chinese would have watched events in Tahrir Square through the prism of Tiananmen Square -- and wondered where and why their own revolution went wrong?



ATCA 5000 forecast the possibility of several Egypt- and Tunisia-like digitally driven leaderless revolutions in the following Socratic dialogue:

1. 2011: Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks and Boundary-less Tribalism [ATCA, 29th December 2010]
2. Why does Facebook matter? Innovation and Revolution [ATCA, 11th January 2011]
3. Tunisia: A Digitally Driven Leaderless Revolution [ATCA, 15th January 2011]
4. How to Achieve Peace? Digitally Driven Asymmetric Conflict [ATCA, 23rd January 2011]
5. Egypt Revolt post Tunisia: Is a Dam breaking? What happens next? [ATCA, 26th January 2011]
6. New Age of Revolutions and Lord Howell - The Edge of Now - Leadership in the New Paradigm [ATCA, 28th January 2011]
7. Could 2011 be Middle East's 1989? Global Consequences: de Carmoy [ATCA, 30th January 2011]
8. Information Revolutions: Joseph Nye of Trilateral Commission on 'The Future of Power' [ATCA, 2nd February 2011]

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