In 2011, I was working third shift in a retail store. I did a lot of work, but the world was also in turmoil so I also spent a fair amount of time sneaking into stockrooms so I could check in on the goings on in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. My social media feeds weren’t filled by just the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN or even the BBC (though the last was certainly better than the American three – granted that’s a low bar to clear in my opinion). Somehow, from behind the scenes was Andy Carvin (@acarvin on Twitter) the man who would live tweet a revolution.
From the beginning he would retweet what folks on the ground – the folks literally in the line of fire – were saying. He wasn’t doing so in any studied, propagandizing, biased way. He was just hitting the “retweet” button in a manner which got someone’s words from their phone or computer located in Libya into my phone or computer in Maine.
Just think about that for a minute.
With or without him the Arab Spring would have happened. Men and women – young and old – found themselves despairing of the status quo. They may not have known for sure – hell, they still may not know – but they knew enough to know it couldn’t continue as is.
They had the presence of mind and principle to say, “We can’t live under this dictator anymore. It’s time for us to fight back.” And they did. And it was excruciatingly glorious and exultant and heartbreaking and tragic.
It would have been all these things without social media and people like Andy Carvin bringing news of North Africa and the Near East’s plights to Western attention. We would have just let it happen. Not that Western influence did a whole lot even when the powers that be and the general public were made aware, but the Western awareness at least stemmed everything from being completely apocalyptic.
Too many people died. Too many people were injured. When it comes to people dying or being hurt at the hands of their government it’s always one too many.
Why am I bringing this up three years down the line? I Just picked up Andy Carvin’s book recounting his experience helping curate and commemorate the events that happened in 2011. I’m remembering all the feels and fears I felt watching the events in the Near East and North Africa unfold. I remember crying the day Muammar Gaddafi was unseated. Cheering the day he was assassinated. Through Andy Carvin’s work I felt I had gotten to know some of the people who lived in those areas. In some cases I even became friendly with them and we would tweet and message each other (another sign of social media shrinking the world).
When the twenty-four hours of any particular news cycle is up we – particularly we in America – tend to adopt an, “Out of sight out of mind,” attitude. This is dangerous. Not just for us (please reference hysteria regarding ISIS), but for those who live in the Middle East and North Africa. Like my feeling that if we’re not talking about mental health issues then we’re missing someone who’s suffering if we’re not talking about what’s happening in the Middle East and North Africa then the sacrifices of those who fought throughout the Arab Spring have been wasted.
Let’s not forget those who sacrificed everything so that all could live the lives they want.