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Iran: 'Beware the People Weeping'

Saturday, June 20, 2009 at 07:08 PM EDT

by .faramarz

I try to stay away from some topics because they can be too divisive to discuss. I've held off on what is going on in Iran because some things needed to become clearer.

The power of technology in the hands of the people changes the dynamics tremendously. I would imagine that the information from Iran is simultaneously inspiring people and frightening power-mongers around the world.

The ability to get pictures and video out means that authoritarian approaches can not easily choke off information flow. Instead of just relying on first-person accounts, even incredible ones like Roger Cohen, we can read and watch for ourselves directly what people are doing.

Leaders can also speak directly in ways that both resonate and deceive. They can say ‘Do what I say or else!" or they can take a different tack. We can read Mousavi or Obama and see that they recognize that the people lead

What Cohen can do, as can also be seen with Andrew Sullivan's work, is put a context around this data, provide perspective. They can create poetry and prose that makes these chaotic events so much clearer.

I think that is because humans get through the world by telling themselves stories. And when the stories no longer match reality, then the stories have to change. The Iranian people are changing their story and some of our writers are helping that happen here.

But it is the tremendous role of technology to get information out that requires these stories to change. I've mentioned the flow of innovation through a community. One thing I did not mention is that in in some areas, the laggards are the ones in power. That is, they may have been early adopters at one point, the real revolutionaries.

Power tends to make a group less open to change. They want to keep their power so they resist change that may reduce it. Thus they eventually become laggards. It has been called The Innovator's Dilemma.

When this happens with political leaders, and they fail to adapt to the innovations rocking their group, when they remain laggards, then revolution happens. In the US, our political system has generally allowed this to happen peacefully. Iran appears to be an example of the more common outcome.

How long will the laggards continue to maintain power? We shall see over the coming weeks. I'll end with a quote from Andrew Sullivan:

Empowered by new information technology, chastened by the apocalyptic conflicts of the last few years, determined to shift course away from civilizational warfare, the people of many countries are grasping for a new order and a new peace. It will not be easy; and it will not be short. But it is the only path worth taking.

and a
poem he quotes from Melville (the link has a picture that may be hard for some to see but has already become a symbol of the laggard's response):

There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand:
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand.