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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