Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interesting times

These are remarkable times we are living in, with revolutions sweeping the Middle East. Living in England, our neighbors and friends frequently travel to destinations we would have thought exotic back in America. Morocco, Sharm-el-Sheik, Thailand, Singapore. My association with the Cumbria Multicultural Women's Network has developed into friendships with women from all over the world.

This week I was able to catch up with an Egyptian friend. She marveled at the younger generation back home which is excited about voting on constitutional changes (yesterday, March 19, 2011). Research has shown that children who go to voting places with their parents are more likely to vote as adults. But the young adults of Egypt never accompanied their parents to vote, because it was considered a futile exercise with corruption rampant in Egypt. Now the younger adults are not only voting, but also participating fully in civic operations.

An Egyptian teenager living here in Barrow went to Cairo for school term break in February. From the airport she went directly to Tahrir Square, where she could see for herself how a "free Egypt" looked. Each morning she joined groups of young people in cleaning streets and parks. How did she know where to go? Facebook. Times and places were posted on Facebook, along with supplies needed.

Egyptian parents, like American parents, used to nag their children to "Get off the computer; go outside." During the revolution, often the children knew what was really happening in the Square, through their Facebook and Twitter connections. So, parents would ask their children for news updates. "Go on Facebook." It is a strange world we live in. I'm interested in the university courses that will develop on social networking communications and revolution.

[photo of jubilant Libyan woman firing rifle, from The Guardian; tassel made in Egypt]