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Sunday, January 30, 2011

That SOGOP moment

It just occurred to me: All popular revolutions reach a SOGOP moment. "SOGOP" stands for "Shit Or Get Off the Pot."

At that point, the rebels have have done everything that they practically can do to demonstrate that they are pissed off. Yes, the ruling authorities say, you're mad as hell. We get that. And now...?

For the rebels, the next logical step is to storm the palace. That is no easy decision. Although bloodless revolutions have occurred, an actual attempt to seize control could well create thousands of cadavers, and the end result may be a new Head Bastard who is no better than the old Head Bastard.

The Decembrist revolt in Russia should have been that nation's version of the American Revolutionary War. On the very cold morning of December 14, 1825, 3000 rebels stood in the snow, facing 9000 czarist troops in Senate Square. For the longest time, nobody knew quite what to do. The Czar sent Count Mikhail Miloradovich, a beloved hero of the war against Napoleon, to talk to the rebels. A hothead shot him. The sad sight of his corpse in the snow left everyone depressed and disgusted, and the revolutionary fire quickly cooled. The Czarists made the crowd disperse with a few bursts of gunfire. The Decembrists missed their SOGOP moment.

The Tiananmen protests of 1989 had no leader, no unified ideology, no easily-defined goal, and no belly for the gruesome task of seizing control. For weeks and weeks, 100,000 protesters garnered world attention by marching and shouting and marching and shouting and marching and shouting. At some point -- the SOGOP moment -- everyone around the world sensed that the protest would never amount to anything beyond marching and shouting. The Army moved in and stopped the demonstrations by shooting a relatively small number of people: The low estimate is 400 civilians; the high estimate is 3000.

Is it ghoulishly insensitive to describe the loss of 3000 people as "a relatively small number"? Perhaps. But if you want to force governmental change in a large country -- especially one the size of China -- you must be willing to suffer a high casualty count.

For perfectly understandable reasons, rebels often balk at suffering or inflicting a mass slaughter. And so the moment slips away. The Head Bastard smirks and says to himself: "Okay, so they don't like me. So what? What are they gonna do about it?"

Has Egypt reached its SOGOP moment? If it has not yet come, when will it arrive? And will the Egyptians recognize it?
Interesting thoughts, and thanks for the historical parallels. All we can do is wait and watch. It's their pot to shit in or get off of.
In China, the armed forces abandoned the people. This should not be surprising because of ancient Confucian cultural norms. In Asia authority wields unquestioned obedience. Political repression systematically destroy leaders and fragments organized opposition. It's then not surprising to see Egypt fall into chaos. We've seen similar situations in the past, such as during the French Revolution and the fall of the Roman Empire.
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