The big issue of 2012 will be more of the same: rolling protests across multiple countries that will morph into revolutions in many. This is the result of “disruptive technology” – which means that disruptions in the lives of individuals – arrest, beatings, torture, rape and murder – are much more likely to disrupt entire societies.
The immediacy, apparent veracity and power of words and images instantly transmitted to millions of people can transform existing currents of dissent into a raging flood, and fuel determination that lives lost shall not be in vain. Success in one country fuels a sense of possibility and competition across a region.
In 2012 we should see many more protests in sub-Saharan Africa. Zimbabwe and Sudan are obvious candidates; Nigeria could rise up en masse against corruption; Ethiopia, Uganda and others are possible. In Russia, shame among educated classes that Vladimir Putin is just the latest czar, combined with growing economic desperation and corruption in rural areas, makes another revolution plausible if not probable.
Revolution is the ultimate disruption; it is an overturning rather than a reshaping through reform. Rolling disruption is somewhere in between. Wise governments will preempt and respond with rapid and meaningful reform. But wise governments are few and far between; wise governments able to act quickly far fewer. Expect a very turbulent year. Read more