Assad’s regime finally did it and recognized the power of the Internet and Social Media, the way the regime responded however strongly indicates that it is running out of options and could be approaching its collapse.
How is that good news? May be its time for Assad to head to Venus as the Swedish rock band says.
The Final Countdown
As I was driving my car last Friday, June 3rd listening to one of my favorite 80’s song, “The Final Countdown“, by Europe, I switched to NBR to catch up with some of the world news and to hear that the Syrian government has just shutdown the Internet and mobile communication access. What a coincidence, huh?!
For some reason my mind immediately drew a parallel between the song and Assad’s actions. The Internet is not a luxury item anymore, it is increasingly becoming an essential way of communicating and a main source of information. The Social Media is also becoming a way of life now and taking that away from people is like taking away their loaf of bread. Oh well, maybe not a loaf of bread, but by blocking the Internet, you are denying one of the essential needs of human being. Let me explain!
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Let us just get a little bit academic here and take a peek at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Forgive me if this part gets a little boring, but I believe it is important to talk about it to recognize the significance of the Internet in today’s world. Look at Maslow’s Pyramid. Where do you think the Internet and Social Media fall in the hierarchy?
SOURCE: Wikipedia, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
I could argue that the Internet and Social Media easily fall in the top four need categories. The Internet is critical to most businesses nowadays and the absence of the Internet could severely damage businesses and employment, a main source of income that secures food necessary to satisfy the basic need of human living. Food clearly falls under the Physiological needs category of Maslow’s law.
In today’s connected and flat world, Social Media and mobile communication are your ticket to maintaining existing or creating new friendships, communicating with distant family members and staying socially connected within your community; that’s how the Internet falls under the “Love/Belonging” Maslow’s needs category.
Human nature dictates a personal feeling and sense of achievement. Why do you think there are that many blogs out there? Personal pages? The wealth of information sharing throughout the blogosphere, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.? In my opinion, sharing this information is built within human nature to fulfill the social need of love, belonging and sense of achievement which all drive the needs of self-esteem specified in the Esteem layer of Maslow’s hierarchy.
The information sharing instinct we have is a critical driver and an essential pillar in the foundation of creativity and problem solving. The Internet itself is a creation to satisfy part of the human needs that are listed on the top three layers of Maslow’s hierarchy and later, of course, extended to fulfill the security needs as described above (employment and income).
So, with all that in mind, do you still believe it is a wise decision for a regime to block the Internet and Social Media access?
Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family – United Nations’ Press Release SG/SM/6268 23 June 1997.
“Information is liberating“, yes indeed Mr. Annan (Former UN Secretary General). Let me add to that, “and the Internet is a major source of information”. By using a simple transitive equality, this means that the Internet is liberating; hence, the Internet can be the worst nightmare of any dictatorship regime, and to me, blocking the Internet is a clear evidence of conviction of dictatorship.
The Syrian regime unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) found itself on the horns of a dilemma: either leave the Internet access intact and eventually face the people liberating themselves from a regime that ruled Syria with a rod and iron for over 40 years; or block the Internet and deny the people one of their main living needs, which will eventually increase the level of tension, revolts and regime isolation nationally and internationally that will later result into the inevitable regime change.
To Block or not to Block, that is the Question!
When I am in a position to chose between two types of poison, I would just pick the less painful one. From the Syrian regime’s perspective, this is exactly what it choose by blocking the Internet. Any other wise or unwise regime would do the same exact thing. The former Egyptian regime did it during the Egyptian revolution and the Libyan regime did it during the current Libyan revolution. But hold on, a wise regime won’t put itself in a situation where it has to pick its poison! A wise regime would read the current changes taking place in the world, the changes in the political sphere, the transformation in the Information era and steer accordingly. A wise regime would protect the people’s freedom or at least listen to the people’s cry for freedom, and a wise regime would have carried out enough changes in its government to absorb the surrounding dynamics in order to become agile in responding to the needs and rights of its people.
Let the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, Yemeni and Syrian situation be a lesson to other regimes in the region and elsewhere. The Internet is too powerful to block. Avoid a situation where you really have to pick between two poisons, listen to your people rather than dictate, protect not subjugate, serve not be served, rule with wisdom and justice rather than tyranny and oppression, and always put your people’s interests first over your own interests. That’s how you gain people’s trust, that’s how you gain people’s respect and that’s how your people defend you instead of fight you.