Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Parenting Lesson From the Egyptian Government

"If you don't stop that Right Now, I will take away your internet access!" said President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, to his people. That should teach them to respect me and stop all this protesting, he thought as he pulled the plug on the internet for the whole country, just wait until they see how powerful I am.

Here's the problem: when you put on big, ugly displays of power over other people, it doesn't make you look good. This whole thing just made Mubarak look like even more of a jerk than the people already knew he was. The people of Egypt were rightly pissed about the whole thing, but fortunately, being cut off from the internet did not slow down the protests. How naive of Mubarak to think that it would! People were organizing protests long before blogging, Facebook, and Twitter. As this blog post points out, the social media activists of Egypt figured out other incredibly effective ways to connect with others. In fact, one protest had 250,000 people gathered together a few days after the internet went out. So it would seem that Mubarak's plan has backfired.

Now, while drawing a parallel between parents and governments is not exactly right, the two groups do have some obvious similarities, especially in the areas of power and relationships. And an important parenting lesson can be taken from this failed attempt to shut down the uprising in Egypt. Many parents punish their kids' transgressions by "taking away the internet" for a certain length of time. But even if they can't go on the web at home, kids can find lots of other ways to get to the forbidden fruit (cell phones, friends' houses, libraries), all the while thinking about how terrible their parents are. What good can possibly come of such an arrangement? A child is inconvenienced by having to find ways to "sneak" onto the internet to do the same activities he would normally do in the comfort of his own home, and after the term of the punishment is over, things probably go back to normal, with only some added strain on the relationship between parent and child to show for it.

What Mubarak failed to see was that no possible good (for him) could have come from him shutting down the country's access to the internet. However, the stunt he pulled definitely intensified the spotlight on the problems in his country and increased the global outcry for his resignation, so maybe it did do some good after all. This is one place where the parent-government analogy breaks down though, because an uprising in a country can actually lead to regime change. Not so much for the kids out there with tyrannical parents.

1 comment:

  1. As a child, I was always looking for ways to overthrow tyrannical parents. A kid's gotta try something, right?