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That story is still bothering me (see yesterday). I have received many links and articles from colleagues and people in Latin America in particular about the role of Gene Sharp or AEI or the Einstein Foundation. But all this is so irrelevant. Even if US foundations brought youths from Egypt and even if they distributed translated works about non-violence, and even if some attended workshops all this affect a dozen or so of those youths. This is a movement by hundreds of thousands of people and would not have succeeded if people who are NOT facebook or twitter generation did not join in.
Or rather, I tend to view a revolution as a consequence of a lot of factors. In Egypt we have as fundamental factors at least demographical change, a US-backed brutal dictatorship, food prices driven up by environmental destruction and liquidity booms, IMF-induced poverty and labor conflicts. Adding up, you have a lot of desperate people.
We also have local factors relating to the particular uprising, like the revolution in Tunisia, innovative leadership to get that first big group onto Tahrir, the unwillingness of the tank commanders at Tahrir to commit massmurder, Mubarak's inability to understand what was going on, and a bunch more that might emerge in the aftermath.
The factors I call fundamental explains why there was a potential for uprising, the local are why it succeeds or fails.
Since western press can hardly start to write any of the fundamental factors, except possibly demographics (as in lots of youths), they have to focus on local factors. Essentially doing liberal history, focusing on the few individuals that are supposed to run the world. This is the standard narrative of the Western press all the time anyway. And these individuals tend to have very little pigmentation and have a Y chromosome.
A history could be written about the woman who - inspired by islamic teachings on non-violence - convinced his husband not to fire, thus saving the crowd and the revolution (has to be at least one). Or any other individual whos actions added up to a succesfull revolution. But that is more likely to be featured on Oprah. Any single-person analysis is going to leave most of the history aside to shoehorn it into the liberal tradition of history-writing.
So without an opinion about Sharp, I understand the frustration at the narrative.
("Liberal history" as a technical term among historians, should be seen in contrast with the conservative history it challenged were history was a morality play run by God, and the Marxist tradition that eventually mostly displaced the liberal one. Liberal history was a huge advance at its time, but is by now seen as hopelessly reductionist.)
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