Monday, February 14, 2011
Revolution at the Nail Salon
We've all watched breathlessly the incredible story of relatively non-violent revolution in Egypt. From our American point of view it was thrilling to see young people finding a new way to begin the voyage down the road to democracy. After the Tunisian overthrow of their dictator it was clear that other countries in the Middle East would be looking at these successes and hoping the wave would continue to build. I didn't realize quite how far that hope might spread.
On the day that Mubarak conceded defeat I had a manicure appointment in Berkeley. As I sat down facing Thuy, the Vietnamese manicurist, we exchanged a few words about the weather before she asked me if I had been following what was happening in Egypt. Her eyes were shining.
She told me she was incredibly excited to see the possibility of a revolution in a country thought to be an unchangeable autocracy. She was living vicariously, she made clear, because she didn't believe such a thing could happen in "my country Vietnam." Explaining that since the Internet in Vietnam was tightly controlled and computer access less available, she thought social media wouldn't be as strong a weapon as it appeared to have been in Egypt. The police control, she said, would tamp down any movement toward freedom. She used the word freedom repeatedly. And in spite of her pessimism about the possibility of change in Vietnam, she was thrilled at the idea of freedom coming as a result of the actions of a people anywhere.
So Eastern Europe in the 1990s, North Africa in 2011... Southeast Asia in...?