Wasn’t supposed to happen

From an anonymous student, in the NYT:

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Until last week, Mr. Moussavi was a nondescript, if competent, politician — as one of his campaign advisers put it to me, he was meant only to be an instrument for making Iran a tiny bit better, nothing more. Iranians knew that’s what they were getting when they cast their votes for him. Now, like us, Mr. Mousavi finds himself caught up in events that were unimaginable, each day’s march and protest more unthinkable than the one that came before.

Is this the hallmark of a revolution? That events sweep away intentions, that actions inspired by old models have unexpected consequences (and become new models themselves), that the people involved are thrust into roles that seem only afterward to have been cut for them like gloves?

Moussavi is a member of the loyal opposition, being driven into rebellion against a regime, but not initially or intentionally against a state. The students and tech-savvy Iranian citizens on Twitter are reinventing political organizing on the run. with the help of western hackers. Everyone, on both sides, is groping through the fog.

Blood has already stained the streets, and was shown immediately around the world, thanks to cell phone cameras; and yet there is a disturbing triumphalism on the part of western Twitter observers, crying that “The revolution will be Twittered” — perhaps true, perhaps even a moment of radical significance in the history of political organizing and communication — but it is easy to forget that we aren’t revolutionaries ourselves, that our blood and families and lives aren’t on the line; and that others, the students and football players and the now-millions of protesters, face potential torture or execution in the coming days.  This isn’t YouTube, this is real life.

It’s a strange thing having a ringside seat at what seems genuine revolution. I re-tweet what seems important news. I tried and failed to set up a proxy server to relay Iranian traffic (but new instructions are out, I will try again).  Yet it’s not about me, or the Westerners watching.

But the fact that we *feel* otherwise, and that we can talk or hear directly with the participants, is another step toward the eradication of borders. In his speech today, Khamenei blamed the protests on the interference of the Enemy, the United States, Europe, Israel. That message will certainly resonate; but Twitter has allowed real people to work together, to speak to each other despite the impositions of prejudices and propaganda, to feel each other’s similarities and humanity in a visceral way.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, on the streets, online, or in history. But we can only learn from the past, not predict the future from it.

Good luck to the people in the streets, and in #IranElection.