While dictators ruled in self-satisfied paranoia for decades, however, a few things were changing. With cell phones, the Internet and satellite television, it was no longer possible to prevent the population from communicating with the outside world, and eventually, with the rise of social media platforms, with each other. A nation, no matter how authoritarian, could not cut itself off from the world - if it had natural resources to trade or cheap manufacturing labor to offer, it needed access to banking and and the international business community, and that left the door, however narrowly, ajar.
But people have a tremendous propensity to talk, and a fairly strong bias to the status quo. So every revolution requires some kind of triggering event, something powerful enough to overcome the inertia and fear and bring people en masse into the streets. Let's go back to the end of 2010, where there was a powerful restlessness among the people of Tunisia, the loss of any hope for the future translating into a genuine fear for the well-being of the next generation, of the children and grandchildren being born today. On December 17th, all that hopelessness and fear of a dark future overcame Mohamed Bouazizi, and in an act of anger and desperation he set himself aflame, and a revolution was born.
Since that day there has been revolution in the Middle East, uprisings with unpredictable outcomes amidst the smoke and fire, the blood of those killed in the streets and the cries of the tortured, all suffering a brutal dictator's attempts to hold on to illegitimate power. All hearkening back to the desperate act of a single individual who had nothing left to lose, a defining moment in the lives and futures of millions.
So, why bring this up now? Because of this. Even more than the US, Europe is unstable and unsustainable. Even more than in the mid-east, there is an ugly mood of ethnic and sectarian hatred in Europe, a cruel anger at and distrust of others, whether they are across southern borders or right at home in the inner city. Europe has become economically dysfunctional, politically unstable and prone to extremist solutions. And Europe is not without some history in these areas. And if martyrdom-by-suicide is all it takes to bring desperate, fearful people out into the streets, then Europe may have much greater problems than we know.
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