Sunday, February 20, 2011

Crowd Power according to Gene Sharp

We’ve never put politics on our site before. But after listening to Gene Sharp, who you say? On Radio 4 this morning we couldn’t resist but to link his ideology and crowd sourcing? Crowd Power has toppled the dictator and is spreading like a hacker’s virus through the Middle East. The power of the crowd from Gandhi, to Tunisia and now to Egypt, Libya and Bahrain has used Gene Sharp’s writings as a blueprint to topple absolute power that corrupts absolutely. If ever there was a training manual on how to topple a regime Gene Sharp has written it. What makes it interesting is that the crowd has demonstrated peacefully and you can’t silence that only with death and violence and in the end the dictator loses power against it. There is crowd sourcing, crowd funding and now crowd changing. Changing the political landscape of the Middle East from within…

BOSTON — Halfway around the world from Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, a U.S. intellectual shuffles about his cluttered brick row house in a working-class Boston neighborhood. His name is Gene Sharp. Stoop-shouldered and white-haired at 83, he grows orchids, has yet to master the Internet and hardly seems like a dangerous man.

But for the world's despots, his ideas can be fatal.

Few Americans have heard of Sharp. But for decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution — most notably "From Dictatorship to Democracy," a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages — have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Myanmar, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt.

When Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement was struggling to recover from a failed dissident effort in 2005, its leaders tossed around "crazy ideas" about bringing down government, said Ahmed Maher, a leading strategist. They stumbled on Sharp while examining the Serbian movement Otpor, which he had influenced.

When the nonpartisan International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago to conduct a workshop, among the papers it distributed was Sharp's "198 Methods of Nonviolent Action," a list of tactics that includes hunger strikes, "protest disrobing" and "disclosing identities of secret agents."
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