Google’s Middle East and North Africa Marketing Manager Wael Ghonim, who helped enable the demonstrations in Cairo from his laptop computer, would have found common mind with abolitionist and master orator Frederick Douglass, who escaped from slavery, on how to rid yourself of an oppressor. Douglass would say, “Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will.” And Wael would nod in agreement that he has found the same thing to be true. Then Douglass would look down and inform this earnest young man with that glowing contraption, that the thing to do is “Organize, organize, organize” and Wael would smile and say, “Yes, Mr. Douglass, watch this.”
What the Egyptian example has shown is that many young men and women who themselves had been working in progressive groups over the years, began to coalesce through Facebook around an expertly marketed message that resonated with hundreds of thousands of people at once. What they achieved resulted from years of anonymous hard work by people not yet thirty, communicating with others who also thought that self-determination was worth their time, energy and more.
Speaking on CNN, Mr. Ghonim said, “I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook) one day and thank him…. I’m talking on behalf of Egypt. This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook. This revolution started in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians started collaborating content. We would post a video on Facebook that would be shared by 60,000 people on their walls within a few hours. I always said that if you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet…. The reason why is the Internet will help you fight a media war, which is something the Egyptian government regime played very well in 1970, 1980, 1990, and when the Internet came along they couldn’t play it. I plan to write a book called Revolution 2.0… that will highlight the role of social media.”
The next lesson from Wael Ghonim and the Egyptian revolution is that here in New York an instrument of social change is in the hands of virtually every man, woman and child over the age of 12 and as Mr. Ghonim said on 60 Minutes, that should “freak out” authoritarian rulers, which brings us at last to Mayor Bloomberg, the Department of Education and the refusal to allow African-Americans the human right to control the education of their children.
All statewide education rankings of schools have New York City African-American districts clustered at the bottom of listings of thousands of schools. The DOE responds by closing schools, privatizing others and teaching to rote tests so that they can have some “metrics”. In a world where a creative, analytical and in-depth education is the only thing that will allow full participation or even survival, then what is happening now is a genocidal emergency and should have been responded to as such and the question is “why not?” Has the “dumbing down” and poor parenting succeeded, has the social anesthesia taken hold?
Because by now it should be painfully apparent that neither the mayor or the DOE care one whit about the pleas coming from community hearings. And demonstrations of several people, or several hundred people in front of the Tweed Courthouse are only background noise for the mayor, and then only when he’s in town. What would catch his attention is 50,000 people in the theater district on a matinee day carrying signs in many languages with the number doubling until the message gets through that the right to control the education of your child will apply in New York.
When legendary congressman Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. asked, “What’s in your hand?” He was exhorting people to look at what God had already given them to accomplish the undoable.
Were he given the tools we have today, what would Frederick Douglass do?