Decisive Authority

Oct 182010

By Wael Al-Ansary

Translated by Aisha El-Awady

I realize that on first reading the title of this article some people may do a double take, since most of us are used to the official lingo which only refers to a governing authority and not a decisive one.

Let’s say, for example, that I was sitting with the audience watching a play, with the officials and politicians watching from their balcony seats. In this case, the audience members would be expected to be mere observers while the latter would be more concerned with what was being presented. This would be the case if the play was a one way channel of communication.

However, if it was a two way channel of communication, the audience would have control over what was being presented and would be able to influence it according to their general mood and to what they deemed suitable, as they would be more concerned with their needs rather than their desires.

A similar picture to the one painted above can be observed, for instance, when examining the rapidly growing phenomenon of expressing opinions through e-mail, blogging and social networking sites by a large number of young people in the society. This technology is being used to discuss their needs, as well as regional affairs, and as a means to create change in their everyday life.

I’d like here to mention two examples that demonstrate this viewpoint as we closely examine their outcome. The first example is that of French journalist, Ignacio Ramonet, the former editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique. He began a blog which proved to be an effective tool allowing the expression of opinions away from the influences of money and government.

Ramonet was able, within a mere two years, to influence a wide sector of the nation’s younger generations, by clarifying concepts and shifting convictions. The outcome was a strong opposition to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s policies which lead to a strong blow to Sarkozy during the 2010 regional elections.

The second example is one that took place in Egypt and became known as the April 6 Youth Movement. This movement was launched by a group of young Egyptians, in solidarity with the workers strike which took place Al-Mahalla. Together they set in motion a form of civil disobedience in the form of a “stay at home” initiative, much to the ire of the Interior Ministry, which in turn declared it would put an end to all civil disobedience.

These two bona fide examples prove that the observer can have power over what he sees and what he is being presented with. He can also have a say in the timing and implementation of change, in other words, he has decisive authority. Thus, one does not have to be a silent observer claiming that the batteries of his remote control for change have run out and need to be changed. Perhaps we are now merely in the intermission period between these two extremes.