The Oscars, civil disobedience and Libya

So The Social Network didn’t win the big awards last Sunday at the Oscars, but the civil disobedience inspired, encouraged and organized through the creation of social networking depicted in that movie is looming larger in our world all the time.

The uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya changed those countries, and Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and others could be next. It is certainly changing how governments, especially repressive and unpopular governments and leaders, are replaced and/or threatened. But whether it’s Mubarak giving up power in Egypt or Nenshi becoming mayor in Calgary social networking is here to stay as a powerful tool of political change. And it will only become more powerful as the technology and the skill of those using it improves.

Martin Luther King is probably smiling somewhere. Mahatma Gandhi (wherever his simple soul abides) must be smiling too. King learned his tactics of civil disobedience that changed life for black people in the United States from Gandhi (King was probably smiling even more when Barack Obama became president).

And Gandhi learned his peaceful civil disobedience tactics that freed India from British rule from Count Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy, while better known for writing War and Peace, also apparently developed early techniques of civil disobedience from 16th century French philosopher Etienne de la Boetie.

Now protesters and organizers around the world are using those civil disobedience tactics combined with social networking to rid themselves of tyrants and dictators like Moammar Gadhafi.

However, we still don’t know how much of this is going to turn out. Not too many would disagree that Gadhafi should go, but his battle to stay in power is costing many lives. It could lead to civil war in Libya and the deaths or misery of too many more. Someone even worse could replace him. When tyrants fight to hold power protesters die and “peaceful” civil disobedience becomes wishful thinking. People died for independence in India and for civil rights in the United States. They died in Egypt and are dying right now in Libya.

Tunisia is obviously struggling with its regime replacement while Egypt is looking good, thanks to their army doing most of the right things so far. But power vacuums are dangerous times in any country, especially those lacking a tradition or history of democracy. Someone, or some group, will eventually come to power whenever a government or dictator is toppled, but there is no guarantee the new power will be more democratic or treat its people better. But social networking at least offers a better opportunity for the right things to happen.