What lessons are we beginning to consider as worth learning from the uprising in Tunisia that has prompted such change from the grassroots to the rulers and back again in the Arab world? I doubt we've actually 'learned' much yet, except the advisability of paying attention, not to mainstream assessments of what might be afoot, but to think about the causes and correlates to civil society uprising. I would imagine self-immolations are on the Pay Attention Screen by now. The normal assessment of hot conflict likelihood is tied to indices that are basically relevant to those who carry or command guns. So, for the standard political scientist or CIA analyst, the tea leaves they read told them Tunisia was stable, highly unlikely to experience hot conflict. Boop! Missed the Tunisian Trigger, but thanks for playing!
So, we need a nonviolent civil society science discipline and a Decentral Intelligence Agency if we hope to be out ahead of that curve in the future. By we, I don't mean the intelligence apparatuses (nor apparatchiks) of the nation-states, I mean global civil society, which ought to be tuned in enough to see these things coming over the horizon. There are, of course, individual examples, the lone geniuses whose civil society noses are so sensitive they can sniff it coming long before the rest of us. Johan Galtung has shown that, and Stephen Zunes and a few others in the world of those who study civil society. Thomas Homer-Dixon showed how to set up a systemic set of predictors with regard to environmental or resource conflict, but we need to institutionalize all the Conflict Early Warning Systems in order to facilitate our effectiveness in supporting civil society, civil rights, human rights, nonviolence and justice. The days of US intelligence peremptory credibility should have been long gone since they sort of missed the Philippines nonviolent overthrow in 1986, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and a few other Big Deals, but more importantly is that we of global civil society simply have our own interests that we share and we need to learn to operationalize meeting those interests.
When we begin to learn to see the factors that produce a sort of Tunisia Trigger we can learn to get out ahead, to focus support where support would tend to enable nonviolence and attenuate violence. This ought to be a UN goal and a UN mandate, but the obvious problem is that a United Nations is an organization of nation-states, not a UGCS, a United Global Civil Society. The interests of nation-states are not a great overlap with the interests of civil society and it's almost fatuous to bemoan that. We need to simply see it and create our own parallel institutions that serve our needs. Yes, many of the markers are studied and reported out by the UN and that should make our work a bit easier--what is the Gini coefficient, what are the public health flags, how healthy is civil society in an area, who are the social capitalists, and so forth. But peace and justice by peaceable means as a driving directive is otherwise missing from our structural radar.
It would be a good starting point project if we want a nonviolent world.