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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

10/07/2004

Bottom up change

For many Muslims, including those in Iran, modernizing despite the regimes they are saddled with is in direct contradiction to the command and control "from the top" modernization of the Shah of Iran or the Saudis. Which is what makes it so threatening to the theocrats and the despots.

The tools of modernity carry their own agenda. You and I are have conversations which are virutally impossible without computers and the internet. In another tab I am reading an article on Bush and Kerry's mutually exclusive vision of how to deter terrorism. If I want to find a quote to support my position I go to Google. At every turn the net offers connectedness and transparancy -- exactly the opposite values from those embraced by top down tyrants and mullahs interposing themselves between their people and God.

Quite intelligent people have argued that the Reformation and the Enlightenment would never have happened without the invention of the printing press. That technology made information, if not free, then available without the intermediation of the Catholic Church. And, in disperseing the control of information, the printing press carried a significant agenda. It said to the Church, and to the monarchs who claimed to rule by divine right, "There are limits to your rule."

To take another example, before George Soros lost his marbles, his Open Society organization did amazing work in bringing about destabilization of the then Russian satellite states. One of the key tactics was to offer universities and public libraries photocopiers. Lots of photocopiers. So many photocopiers that it became impossible for the state to monitor their use. All of a sudden the underground press, which had been relying on clandestine mimeo machines, was able to publish as quickly as the state controlled newspapers. Once again, the capacity of the state to control and regulate information was compromised and then destroyed.

Satellite dishes, DVDs, computers, cell phones, cheap video recorders and the internet all compromise Middle Eastern regimes' and theocrats' capacity to control what their people think and what their people want.