Monday, February 7, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Egypt, Wael Ghonim, and the Information Age

"Google executive Ghonim released in Egypt: report"
Edition: US, Reuters (February 7, 2011)

"A Google Inc executive who had gone missing in Egypt was released on Monday and was on his way to Tahrir Square, the center of two weeks of anti-government demonstrations, Al Arabiya television reported.

"The station did not give details, but Orascom Telecom Chairman Naguib Sawiris said on Sunday authorities promised him Wael Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, would be freed.

"Google said last week Ghonim had not been seen since January 27 and began a public search for him, giving out a telephone number for information about him.

"Activists said Ghonim had been involved in founding 'We are all Khaled Said,' an anti-torture Facebook group named after an activist who rights groups said was beaten to death by police in the port city of Alexandria. Two officers now face trial...."

The Lemming's discussed - ranted? - about what's happening in Egypt quite a bit lately. Part of the explanation is in yesterday's post about Wael Ghonim and the Information Age.

Ghonim, Egypt, and All That

Looks like the Google executive is free - and alive.

Hats off to whoever made the decision to release him - although not snatching Ghonim in the first place would have been smarter.

Maybe, of course, he kidnapped himself. To embarrass Egypt's President Mubarak. The Lemming doesn't think that's very likely. Mubarak and his people have been doing a pretty good job of besmirching their reputation - and don't seem to need any help. In the Lemming's opinion.

Although Wael Ghonim being (apparently) alive and free is good news for Ghonim, his friends and family, and folks who are trying to turn Egypt around: The Lemming isn't entirely sure that it's all that important in the 'big picture.'

The Lemming isn't one of those folks who think that individuals aren't important, and that all that 'really' exists are economic classes and/or ethnic groups. Benjamin Franklin, for example, put his stamp on a fair percentage of the politics, culture, and technology of 18th century America.

One Person Can Make a Difference

Wael Ghonim may be one of the pivotal players in changing Egypt from an old-fashioned autocracy with a permanent president, into part of the Information Age's global culture.

But, in the Lemming's opinion, change would have happened anyway. Maybe later - but inevitably. Since Wael Ghonim and others are acting now, dissent in Egypt is taking a particular form.

The Lemming hopes that Ghonim and others use their influence to reform Egypt into a nation that's not run by control freaks. Or, on a more positive note, that allows folks to disagree with whoever's in charge - without disappearing.

Change Happens - We Deal With It, or Get Dealt With

The Lemming's discussed change on geological and cosmic time scales quite a bit in this blog:
Let's put it this way: There's a reason why you won't find a recipe calling for fresh trilobite. Change happens.

Mubarak's Wake-Up Call: It's Not 1981 Any More

President Mubarak was elected in 1981. There are plausible claims that he's arranged election rules that pretty much guaranteed his reelections ever since.

Can't say that the Lemming blames Mubarak, in a way: It's nice to have a regular job with steady pay.

On the other hand, the Lemming learned in each new job - and the Lemming didn't hang on to control of a country for almost three decades. And mismanage the place, apparently.

The Best Form of Government - Is One That Works

Someone leading a country for decades isn't, in the Lemming's opinion, a bad idea by itself. Provided that the leader is competent.

And has the good sense to pay attention to the folks he or she is governing.

Mubarak and his party don't seem to have been doing that.

That's a very bad idea, in the Lemming's opinion: because complaints, as annoying as they can be, let leaders know that something may not be working as it should.

And it's easier - again, in the Lemming's opinion - to let folks complain, and then check out what's happening, than to constantly monitor a system for glitches.

The 'Good Old Days' - Weren't

Back in the 'good old days' before the Information Age, someone like Mubarak might have been able to get away with ignoring reasonable complaints. For the autocrat's lifetime, anyway.

The folks who had better ideas than the president could communicate with their neighbors, and maybe even print pamphlets and write letters. The American Revolution got started that way - but England was, as the Lemming recalls, distracted at the time: and that's another topic, almost.

In a place like Egypt, back in 1981, a 'troublemaker' like Wael Ghonim could be dealt with by snatching him and either holding him in a cell somewhere: or simply killing him and quietly disposing of the body.

That approach can be tried today: but state-run newspapers, radio, and television aren't the only way folks can get - and share - information. Even in places like Egypt or Iran. (remember Neda Agha Soltan - Another War-on-Terror Blog (June 26, 2009))

Between video cameras in cell phones, voice-to-text software, and the Internet, it's getting downright difficult to keep 'the masses' from finding out what's going on in the rest of the world - and keep them from updating the rest of us.

The Lemming doesn't mind the 'divisive,' 'chaotic,' sort of global culture that we're getting. Partly, perhaps, because the Lemming hasn't been on the same page as 'the establishment' for a very, very long time.

Partly, perhaps, because the Lemming thinks it's a good idea for folks to be able to speak their minds - and live.

Sort-of-related posts:
The Lemming on Freedom of Speech and Other Untidy Ideas

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