Paul Mason has written a sweeping post here based upon some notes he made in preparation for a Newsnight package that didn’t go out in the end: It’s his analysis on why 2011 is starting to take on the hues of 1848 and 1989 with it’s gathering storm of insurrectionism. Like the very best blogging, its worth reading because it’s a scratchpad rather than an article. It doesn’t lead us to a conclusion – it just dumps a pile of subjective observations (filtered through a very well-read mind) and then offers the antidote to anyone who has been swayed towards a concrete conclusion at the end: He lists the flaws and don’t-knows that apply to many of his observations.
I’d rather not get in the way of you reading the whole thing (really – please do, it’s worth it), but here’s a few tasters:
“Horizontalism has become endemic because technology makes it easy: it kills vertical hierarchies spontaneously, whereas before – and the quintessential experience of the 20th century – was the killing of dissent within movements, the channeling of movements and their bureaucratisaton.”
“This evaporation of a promise is compounded in the more repressive societies and emerging markets because – even where you get rapid economic growth – it cannot absorb the demographic bulge of young people fast enough to deliver rising living standards for enough of them.”
I’m finding it common among non-politicos these days that whenever you mention the “Big Society” there’s a shrug and a suppressed laugh – yet if you move into the warren of thinktanks around Westminster, it’s treated deadly seriously. Dissing the Big Society has quickly become a “meme” that crosses political tribal boundaries under the Coalition, yet most professional politicians are deaf to “memes” as the youth are to the contents of Hansard.
… and (most interestingly IMHO)
“I can’t find the quote but one 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.”
Mason sees a perfect storm stretching from Dublin to Cairo, combining dashed expectations, the sociological changes brought about by social media and the new impracticality of supression and censorship. As an oblique illustration of his point, the pic I’ve used here is from a Facebook friend of mine – a very non-hierarchical Asian-Londoner who – the moment I met her – struck me as the sort of person to run towards the gunfire. She headed off to Cairo as soon as she could once she heard what was brewing….