Rev 2.0: A revolution of the minds

Let’s get straight to the point: What Algeria needs the most is a revolution in the minds of Algerians! What? Another one? Haven’t we heard that word enough this past year? Haven’t we already gone through that in the land of the 1.5 million martyrs?

In an amusing scene of Akli Tadjer’s “Les A.N.I. du Tassili” Omar, the hero of the story, is explaining to an older Algerian immigrant the symbolism of Maqam Eshahid (The Martyrs Memorial), the monument they can see towering over the city of Algiers from the deck of their ship as they leave for France. The three palms, explains Omar, represent the three revolutions: The industrial revolution, the agricultural revolution, and the cultural revolution.  The old man listens patiently then bursts with a complaint: What happened to Our revolution? The real one, the one we fought for?

Algerian public discourse is of course saturated with tired and tiring references to revolution, so why suggest such a “stale” idea as a way forward for this DZBlogday 2012  when the theme is to “act for Algeria”? Didn’t the hundreds of riots and protests of 2011 demonstrate that  Algerians, betraying their revolutionary heritage, were taking a pragmatic/materialistic approach, demanding jobs, housing, and pay raises while Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans were demanding the heads of their leaders?

True, but the revolution suggested here is not about violence, chaos or destruction. Whether we aim for political action to bring about regime change,  or whether we prefer to improve living conditions through innovations, we need first a radical break from the many mental blocks that stand in the way of successful initiatives.  We especially need to realize that whatever change we hope for has to become OUR business. That change can only come through US. We need to stop waiting for someone else to do things for us. No “providential” politician, no zaim  will come to save the day. No motherly government will come to solve every little problem we face. No single group, however organized and dedicated it may be can alone improve things. Not the politicians, the bureaucrats, the youth, the elders, the intellectuals, the students, the workers, the peasants, the men, the women or the imams. Everyone needs to get involved. Trivial or highly utopian you will say. Probably. But also fundamental. Transcending our doubts or  fears and helping others do the same should be our first act. Overcoming the poisonous and destructive “It will not work, don’t bother trying” is the first step in this Rev 2.0. To borrow a cliche, history is not destiny.

But it will take more than goodwill. Who is going to lead that effort? Why should THEY be trusted? After all, if we are in such a predicament it is in part because following a successful revolution 1.0 we put our faith in our leaders and hoped for the best.  See where that got us. Let’s not make the same mistake twice. Centralized planning and mainframe computers are a thing of the past for a reason. Distributed computing, decentralized administrations are vastly superior. The network is today’s organizational paradigm.  The same should be the case for this Rev2.0. No central vanguard revolutionary party to lead the charge. Instead, committed individuals acting in groups on the issues that matter the most to them. And a network to connect these groups.  We can’t all be doing the same thing or be interested in the same things, but the synergy from all those efforts could be the key to unlocking the untapped human potential in Algeria. Luckily this is already underway. Numerous groups in and out of the country have organized themselves along those lines and are busy changing things. There is more to do so and everyone should consider joining or creating a group/association/organization.  Becoming involved is the most important action a single person can take. While working, groups should also make a conscious effort to contribute to the building of this Rev2.0 network. Supporting and collaborating with other organizations, sharing, advertizing , publicizing, celebrating  the work of others is what we need to build a dense and robust network.  We have wonderful tools to do this today. We should take advantage of them.

We just need that first act: To break those mental shackles.

This post was written as a contribution to DZBlogday 2012. If you find it interesting and worth your vote, consider voting for it at Bloginy.com

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Rev 2.0: A revolution of the minds

  1. You won’t believe this but I didn’t read your post before posting mine! My DZBlogDay (late) post suggested the same thing. I didn’t know you have to post it on Bloginy – too complicated! I give up (already lol).

    I am looking forward to read all the contributions, I suppose I will need to open a Bloginy account to do that. Although I agree with the general gist of your idea, I think it is risky. Too much diversity is not a good thing, at some point, you can’t get away from the need for some core leading principles around which all contributions coalesce. I don’t buy into the Randian idea that these will emerge spontaneaously via networks of free individuals no matter how committed they might be. The Web is a great facilitator for communication and exchange of ideas, but if there are no mechanisms to translate these into concrete unertakings on the ground, then it will be pointless. Also, the penetration of the Internet in Algerian house-holds I think is amongst the lowest in North Africa, add to that the exhorbitant cost relative to the abismal quality of the services.

    I am not advocating a centralised super powerful authority which oversees everything, far from it. But I do aknowledge that we have a serious authority crisis which needs to be resolved. The State has completely lost its credibility and ‘hayba’ and this has created a huge vaccum that is easy to fill with any dangerous ideology which happens to be in fashion.

    Finally, I think we will need a very long time to get used to people expressing different opinions and striving to establish a respectful and constructive debating culture. Even a culture of collaboration is severely lacking in Algeria, even at the highest intellectual levels of the country (eg. universities).

    Have you noticed how Arab debates almost always end up in punch-ups and go nowhere? It is also true for most debates I must say, but at least, you get a few good quality debates on non Arab channels. I think it will take us a long time to get there, but we will need to make a lot of efforts educating people to the value of constructive dialogue.

  2. You are right, strictly virtual (web-based) groups or networks won’t get us very far. As the saying goes, at some point the rubber has to meet the road. The advantage of the web as an initial stage is that can facilitate exchanges in that early phase at a minimal cost (even if we factor in the low Internet penetration.)
    The lack of collaboration among Algerian intellectuals is probably what saddens me the most. They are wasting a tremendous opportunity to leave a lasting contribution to the country and the way things are going they are not even ensuring the possibility of having a new generation of intellectuals. While I admire the burgeoning spirit of enterprise among the younger Algerians I am rather concerned by the decadence in the quality of education.

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