If you’ve paid any attention to the news in the past few years, you’ve seen the videos of mass demonstrations all over the world. Revolutions, civil wars, and mass unrest the world over. Occupy Wall St. Tunisia. Yemen. Libya. Egypt (twice). Syria. Thailand. Russia. Bahrain. Ukraine. Kyrgyzstan. Lebanon. Venezuela. The list goes on. And on. And on. The world is changing, and with the internet, we all have front row seats to watch it unfold the moment it happens.

Recently, Thailand has been teetering on the brink of a revolution. In 2008, business tycoon and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra fled the country, convicted by Thailand’s supreme court on corruption charges. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became prime minister (as she was second in command in the ruling political party in parliament, the Pheu Thai Party). In Thailand, corruption is endemic, perpetrated by every political party that has gained a majority in parliament in recent memory. On November 1st of last year, parliament passed a bill that would grand amnesty to Thaksin, clearing him of all wrongdoing’s committed since 2004. People filled the streets of Bangkok, protesting the amnesty bill. They opposed the amnesty, saying that it would set a terrible precedent for future instances of corruption. Several days later, the senate (Thailand’s upper legislature) rejected the bill, but the damage was already done. The people called for immediate removal of the Pheu Thai Party from power, saying that they had abused their power long enough. From a western prospective, the corruption is clear. A leader granting amnesty to her brother. The conflict of interest is clear and obvious. The protests are ongoing, and the chances for meaningful reform looks grim. The people of Thailand have a long and bloody fight ahead of them.

Late last year, Ukraine blew up. The president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was expected to announce a trade deal with the European Union. A sweeping, far reaching trade agreement that would potentially set Ukraine a course to join the EU. Then, on November 21st, Yanukovych announced that the talks suspended, and that Ukraine would establish closer ties with Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (similar to the EU, but comprised of Russia and it’s allied post-Soviet central Asian states). Thousands of Ukrainians filled the streets of Kyiv, criticizing the government for being a corrupt puppet regime controlled by Putin’s regime. Vitali Klitschko, former heavyweight boxing champion and opposition leader in parliament, called for new elections and for Yanukovych to reconsider the trade announcement. These requests were ignored, and relations between the opposition and the government deteriorated further. On December 17th, Russia announced $15 billion in interest free loans that would be provided to Ukraine to prevent them from the country from defaulting on it’s debt. On January 16th, anti-protest laws (dubbed ‘the dictator laws’, by the protestors) were forced through parliament, giving the government vast and sweeping authority to ‘deal with the situation’ in a forceful and apolitical way. This incited an incredible amount of violence. People in the maiden (the name for Independence Square, where the protests were centered) began launching fireworks and molotovs at the police, now calling for the resignation of president Yanukovych and his government. By the 18th of February, Kyiv was on fire. The country was in revolution, looking at a full blown civil war between the Russian east and the Ukrainian west. Over the next few days, police began using live ammunition, firing at the protestors with AK-47’s and shotguns loaded with buckshot. It looked grim. On the 23rd, Yanukovych fled for Russia, convinced that his regime was on the brink of collapse. He was right. Parliament impeached him in a unanimous vote. Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison. The gross corruption and excess of the Yanukovych government became as clear as day.

 

The internet has fundamentally changed how these conflicts unravel. In a technological society, no longer can an oppressive government suppress information to the point where it can prevent the spread of the truth outside of it’s borders. The internet exists outside all borders. Outside all prior notions of political and ethnic boundaries. As the events in Kyiv were unravelling, me and my boyfriend were glued to the video streams that were being broadcast from the maiden. As the people in Ukraine fought against their oppressive regime, they were not alone. Far from it. The entire world was watching. Listening. Hoping. Praying. Years from now, historians will look back at the early days of the internet. Mass unrest. Protests on a scale never before seen. Oppressive governments fell. Toppled like dominoes, one after the other. Spreading like wildfire from America to the Middle East to Eastern Europe to Central Asia to South America and beyond. Who knows when it will end? No one knows. Gil Scott-Heron was right 40 years ago: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. It will be live streamed.

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