Monsieur Guillotine, or viva la revolution (#56/365)

This one goes out to all of my dark and hairy north African and Middle Eastern revolutionary brethren!

I used to discuss the Middle East with friends and acquaintances, back when I was a lot younger, back when the Twin Towers had just been blown up. Being (kind of) Jewish, I was considered some kind of authority on the region’s incessant, unending and tumultuous warring.

My answer, back then, was rather simple: ‘They’re following the same path; they’re just 200 years behind.’

Those of us in the West can’t comprehend how, when we have these amazing(ly ineffective) bureaudemocracies, that tribal savages continue to blow each other up like uncouth and uncivilized curs. Don’t they understand that, you know, tyranny is a thing of the past — that parliamentary democracy is the way forward?!

To put it bluntly: no.

If you scroll north to Europe and the United States, and rewind 200 years, there are tribal, fragmented kingdoms in Germany and Italy, and monarchies and empires almost everywhere else. Then, in 1773, some silly BritsAmericans threw some tea into Boston harbour, and the world changed for ever. France revolted in 1789, and by 1848 Europe was starting to really get into the swing of it.

The revolutions of north Africa and the Middle East are simply history repeating itself. 200 years have passed, but freedom is still just as contagious. We’re in for a few very exciting years as the last few dictatorships fall and power is spread amongst the people.

The more interesting question to ask, though, is why a huge part of the world is only seeking emancipation 200 years after everyone else. Geography certainly plays a role (it is the Internet that enables disenfranchised citizens to see what the world is like beyond its borders), but it’s also down to religion. It took 1500 years for Christianity to run its course and for the Pope to lose his vice-like grip on the West — and now, a couple of hundred years later, Islam is celebrating its 1500th birthday, too.

Anyway, it’s a meaty topic that I could talk about for ever. If you want to dive in deeper, you ought to read my thoughts on civilization from 2009. Or… just watch the news over the next year or two :-)

A fairly bad week (#56/365)
A bit naked (#58/365)

Sebastian

I am a tall, hairy, British writer who blogs about technology, photography, travel, and whatever else catches my eye.

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