Iran and Other Countries

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Simon Rosenberg asks a very interesting question, given all the coverage given to the Iran protests today:

As the “world watches” what is happening in Iran, I’ve been wondering how the extraordinary images coming from Iran are going over in Caracas, Riyadh, Beijing, Moscow and the corridors of power of other less than democratic governments.   The events of the past week have raised the issues of political freedom and liberty in ways that are not always easy for the West to do.   My sense is that whatever the outcome in Iran – and we have to hope for the best each day – these events, coupled with the rise of Barack Obama in the US, are putting some issues on the global table that may be uncomfortable indeed for many important nations in the world today.

This is dead on.  Which then leads me to two observations.

1.) Barack Obama is a powerful man.  Yes, the events in Iran would have happened with George W. Bush at the helm, but given the citizen-centered campaign he just ran with that incessant use of global technology, and the speech he just gave to Muslims all over the world, is there any doubt that at least a piece of this was generated by Obama’s rise?

2.) Iran is still a headache, as it’s part of the perpetual pain in the ass that is the Middle East.  But what many hardliners might think of as “soft” foreign policy seems to be the most effective here.  All of a sudden, Obama’s refusal to interfere takes away Iran’s ability to blame things on the U.S.  It has to live with its own mistakes.

Talk about a difference in approaches.  Bush would rather go into a sovereign country with guns blazing.  Obama would rather back out while observing the sovereign nation carry out its own processes.  So far, the latter seems to be more effective than the former.

Millennial Activism: The Quiet Revolution

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Andrew Sullivan’s coverage of the Iran election mess has been fantastic. One of his posts touched on something I’ve addressed before in many a blog post, and that’s the comparison of Millennial activism to the Boomer activism of the 1960s.

Sullivan put forth the observation that Millennials are revolutionary – causing healthy societal turmoil when needed – and doing so quietly, with the use of technology. Tom Friedman – eat your heart out:

It’s increasingly clear that Ahmadinejad and the old guard mullahs were caught off-guard by this technology and how it helped galvanize the opposition movement in the last few weeks. That’s why they didn’t see what those of us surgically attached to modems could spot a mile away: something was happening in Iran. If Drum is right, the mullahs believed their own propaganda about victory until reality hit them so hard so fast, they miscalculated badly and over-reached.

The key force behind this is the next generation, the Millennials, who elected Obama in America and may oust Ahmadinejad in Iran. They want freedom; they are sick of lies; they enjoy life and know hope.

This generation will determine if the world can avoid the apocalypse that will come if the fear-ridden establishments continue to dominate global politics, motivated by terror, armed with nukes, and playing old but now far too dangerous games. This generation will not bypass existing institutions and methods: look at the record turnout in Iran and the massive mobilization of the young and minority vote in the US. But they will use technology to displace old modes and orders. Maybe this revolt will be crushed. But even if it is, the genie has escaped this Islamist bottle.

Maybe that’s what we’re hearing on the rooftops of Tehran: the sound of the next revolution.

Somewhere around 2008 folks began to understand what this quiet revolution meant. No longer do revolutions solely consist of walking the streets of our small towns and big cities with placards while chanting. No longer do revolutions solely consist of conducting sit-ins and supplanting order with chaos. Instead, this new revolution transforms the subculture from within. Millennials actually trust institutions to make change. And in Iran, perhaps this whole election debacle wouldn’t be so alarming to us in the West if the youth hadn’t turned out in such record numbers. But they did. And they were able to partly because of their knowledge of and proficiency in using technology.

Yes, this is the same technology many a critic has lambasted as ineffective, because it seemed so passive to them. Perhaps they should take a note from the past year and a half and read Sullivan’s coverage of Iran’s election this week.

This is a quiet revolution. But be assured – the transformation will be breathtaking. And Sullivan’s right – we owe a big thank you to technology.