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Middle East Uprisings: The Short Version

Posted by Josh Rothman  February 20, 2011 11:51 AM

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If you haven't been dutifully reading the hundreds (thousands?) of articles and blog posts about uprisings in the Middle East, you can catch up quickly with the BBC's primer: "Twenty Reasons Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere," by the economics journalist Paul Mason. To boil Mason's twenty reasons down to three: it's all about (1) young people who are (2) educated and technology savvy and (3) looking down the barrel of decades of economic stagnation:

[O]ne of the historians of the French Revolution of 1789 wrote that it was not the product of poor people but of poor lawyers. You can have political/economic setups that disappoint the poor for generations - but if lawyers, teachers and doctors are sitting in their garrets freezing and starving you get revolution. Now, in their garrets, they have a laptop and broadband connection.

But Mason's informal analysis is more interesting than that quote suggests. In particular, he points out the role of technology and revolution-specific education in the uprisings ("The activists have read their Chomsky and their Hardt-Negri") and points to the aspects of the unrest that should serve as warnings for political systems around the world. The whole thing is worth a read.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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