The News on Sunday interviews Ziauddin Sardar, the author of Mecca

Ziauddin-SardarZiauddin Sardar on the catalyst for the Arab Spring: The truth is that nobody likes to live under a dictatorship. It’s a wrong assumption that the Arabs were happy with their dictators over the last forty years. They were agitating for democratic reforms in various ways.

The question is why did they succeed now and not before. This is because we are in a very specific epoch of human history, made unique because of a number of things. Now every generation says its era is unique. In the swinging 1960s, they claimed to have discovered environment and sex etc. But we have to look at it in a slightly longer term and see things that are peculiar to our times. One is the whole question of change. Earlier on, things changed over centuries, then decades, but now things are changing very rapidly and the rate of acceleration is very fast. The speed of change that we are seeing now is phenomenal and, in some cases, breathless.

Second, we have never been so connected as a human community in our history. Almost everyone in the world is connected to everyone else through various communication technologies like media, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the 24-hour news channels.

Third, everything is globalised and the globe in a sense has shrunk. So this scale, speed of change and connectivity are unique phenomena of our times and together they make up a complex system. Most of our problems are complex, whether they are political, social or economic.