Protest Analysis (6): John Robb’s take on recent open source protests

Republished from John Robb:

“We’re seeing protests everywhere. From Brazil to Turkey to Egypt.

What’s going on? Here’s some thinking.

Once ignited, open source protest is hard to stamp out.

Open source protest is usually focused on a single overarching goal. In most recent cases, it’s a call for a government that isn’t corrupt.

“No corruption” is the type of goal everyone can get behind. To get a protest going, all there needs to be is a successful trigger event (a plausible promise).

Often, that can be as simple as a successful protest call by some group (or someone) on Facebook that takes off virally.

However, the motivations that actually get people to show up in the street day after day are more specific. Every individual or group that turns up has a very specific gripe/goal for protesting (some elements are often violent, but that’s to be expected since there is so much diversity of motive). Yet, despite that diversity, everyone is still onboard with the simple overarching goal of the protest.

This diversity of motive makes it very hard for a government to tailor a response/action that will diffuse the protest.

It also make it nearly impossible for any single group or individual to sieze control of the protest and use it to advance their own agenda. In our post ideological world, agreement is difficult to come by. That means that most people wouldn’t agree with any protest leader’s agenda (be it political, enviornmental, social, economic, or cultural).

Governments, particularly big governments, are becoming dinosaurs.

Governments, particularly governments of big countries, are finding it harder and harder to deliver meaningful results to citizens (particularly economic). As big as these states are (politically and militarily), the global, communications and financial system is MUCH bigger. Political and military power got stuck at the national level, and the rest went global and it integrated (people often miss this important fact).

This imbalance of power is made worse by the fact that citizens are directly connecting with the global economic, financial, and media system. A direct connection between individuals and these global systems, turns governments into expensive/corrupt overhead/middle-management that provides less and less value with every year, rather than necessary leadership, protection, and support.

It might have been easier for big countries to deliver leadership, protection, support, and opportunities to citizens if they were actually economically and socially cohesive. But big countries aren’t. They are extremely arbitrary economic and social containers, since the boundaries were set by warfare/politics rather than organic economic growth. Further, in a world where economic and social connections are network overlays, citizens bound together merely by geography is not only archaic, but increasingly ineffective at certain scales.

In contrast, smaller states (particularly city states) tend to be more effective in navigating global opportunities to the benefit of their citizens.

So, the protests will continue as big governments become less and less relevant to individual success, even though they demand more and more support to function.

People are learning to take care of themselves

The final step is that people are starting to understand that open source networks that connect people horizontally are extremely powerful. We are learning an entirely new way of interacting. It will accelerate.

I’m sure we’ll see MUCH more interaction in the future, particularly in regards to P2P economic platforms that bind people together economically in ways that are more effective than what a government can provide.”