New social movements: The difference between sheep and starlings

Bahrain Pearl Roundabout Twitpiced by AymanB

The unrest in the Arab countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East are rapidly spreading (see here for a well done overview on 21FEB2011).

Day by day more young people are inspired to demonstrate, mostly peacefully, for basic human rights or free elections in the face of longterm despotic leadership. Yes, mostly young people.

Even in China unrest among the young is brewing. They are calling for their own  “Jasmine Revolution” (see here).

What is happening here? How can we rap our minds around the fact that within the last two months at least 13 countries in Northern Africa are experiencing various levels of unrest amongst their young people? That two countries have lost their longterm leaders, and more are on the brink of loosing theirs?  How come this unrest is spreading like a contagious virus?

One common factor among the 13 countries is that 50% of the population in these countries is under 25 years young. These young people are hardest hit by unemployment, rising food prices in our worldwide climate of recession, and stagnating economies, often due to longterm corrupt leadership.

But isn’t it interesting in all these uprisings that there is no clear leadership associated with it? Have we ever had uprisings without leaders?

What if we are seeing a clash between two kinds of societal movement here? Old style and new style.

To me old style social movement looks like a shepherd tending to his flock of sheet with the help of a few dogs. The shepherd literally has the overview over his herd of sheep, assesses any given situation and instructs the dogs to move the herd out of danger into safety or into a direction the shepherd deems appropriate. The sheep only go bah and follow the shepherd via the dogs prompting.

This is pretty much the way leadership has looked for the past several thousand years. More or less benevolent shepherds tending masses of sheep.

Even in 1980 Eastern block uprisings like the Polish Solidarity movement had its leader in Leach Walesa, who later became president of a communist free Poland.

But this is different, as we are seeing no leaders emerging in these latest social uprisings in Northern Africa.

They actually remind me more of flocks of birds gathering and flying thousands of miles without a leader, without a hierarchal structure, than like a flock of sheep following a shepherd. A good  example are these starlings getting ready to roost.

It always amazes me how cohesively thousands of starlings can move without any discernible leadership.

Back to the uprisings in Northern Africa.

These youths also have  in common the ability and affinity to use internet communication as a means to know themselves connected with the whole world, if they choose to and have access to it (click here for an article about Facebook in Arabic). They see what other youths in the world have, as in Europe or the USA. and they want the same basic rights.Very understandably to me.

Arab Girl On Cell Phone

What if this social movement is connected and actually only made possible by the role the internet is playing in these uprisings. It is creating the instant link between masses of people expressing their grievances to each other, and thus realizing that they are feeling united in their concerns. The internet then also facilitates the possibility to act upon their grievances by coordinating mass gatherings within hours.

What if we humans are actually changing. What if we are becoming more like birds, growing our wings and our ability to fly into more freedom in these strange times full of so many changes? What if the internet is providing the common link between those of like minds and hearts, just as birds are linked in a collective consciousness driving them to fly thousands of miles into warmer climates, and back into cooler climates. All of this without any discernible leadership.

What if we are seeing these changes in humanity manifest themselves in our young ones? Can we older ones honor them for expressing a new paradigm in their choices? Can we cheer them on and support them in their legitimate demands for free election, no more torture, and an honest body of governance?

Can we trust these new times bringing new ways of being? Ways of focusing on what unites us rather than what separates us?