Editorial: Knowledge is power

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Arab world isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago.

That doesn’t mean the United States is safe from the blind hatred that sparked the 9/11 attacks. We still have much to fear from terrorism in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden’s death.

However, it is notable to see the Middle East and North Africa change partly because better information about their rulers was finally in the hands of the people who live there.

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Some call it Arab Spring. It is the wave of demonstrations, protests, uprisings and revolutions that call for the ousting of despotic regimes, all started when a fruit vendor in Tunisia set himself ablaze to protest continued government harassment.

The hatred that brought followers to bin Laden and al-Qaida had its roots in how autocrats in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries would control information and keep the populace poor and struggling. Simply put, the people were told, often by clerics, to blame the West, not their leaders, for their woes.

In some countries, a generation grew up being told this. Some believed it to radical levels and joined jihad groups.

Using social media, news media and information networks, more people became aware of suppression, corruption, discrimination and censorship and more aware of how Western societies truly operate. Information alone wasn’t why they demonstrated, of course. Two major reasons were rising aspirations and unemployment.

But any Western news consumer surely can appreciate the power that can come from knowledge, whether it comes through news, cyber media, films, magazines, books or word of mouth. Knowledge is how we keep tabs of our government. It is how we keep power in the hands of the people.

Who knew the rest of the Arab world would even learn about the Tunisia uprising?

It remains to be seen with the Arab Spring uprisings if power will end up in the hands of the people when all is said and done. The new bosses could be worse than the old bosses. But the protests and uprisings do provide hope for a more democratized, more open, more educated and safer Arab world — eventually.