Similarities between the French Revolution and the Arab Spring
There are many social, political and economic reasons for political revolutions. The sudden radical overthrow of existing social and political structures can provide a leap in the historical process as opposed to a quantitative gradual social change that occurs in history, a war causes a revolutionary leap. There are many similarities between the French Revolution in the late 1700s and the Arab spring happening right now.
Social Causes of the Arab spring include a wide gap in income levels, economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, a large population of educated but dissatisfied youth in the population, a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of aristocrats, increasing food prices, rising aspirations and lack of government reform. Add in ruthless absolute monarchies and the hopelessness of everyday people and you can expect a revolutionary wave of protests and demonstrations both violent and nonviolent. The Arab spring is different than the causes of the French Revolution because of the Internet and social media and the weaponry used by the government in charge. When you can get information instantly from many new sources with video and glossy pictures it's difficult to deny that abuses on the people are happening when there is photographic evidence that it is true. During the French Revolution there were many newspapers and pamphlets being written and word-of-mouth spread stories far and wide but it's a very different thing to actually see pictures of people being beheaded for petty crimes then to read about it in a pamphlet. Television coverage of mass demonstrations throughout the world meant that the government's could not use violence against protesters without looking barbaric to the world so it afforded the protesters some protection. The second difference is the use of weapons. In the late 1700s people were beheaded and killed individually with guns. In the Middle East weaponry today is incredibly sophisticated and people can literally be mowed down by the thousands or chemical weapons can be used, like in Syria.
Political reasons for a revolution in both the French Revolution and the Arab spring include long-suffering, enraged and increasingly hopeless people who had little or no say in the political national process. In both cases they didn't trust those in power because of incredible corruption and brutality. During the French Revolution the church and aristocracy ruled all aspects of society. In both the French Revolution and many countries in the Arab nations Kings ruled by absolutism and had great power. Arbitrary arrests and imprisonments without trials and executions were commonplace. Both had victims of exploitation, police harassment and harsh or unfair punishment for crimes that were either unjust or that they did not commit. The Arab spring is a response to significant prolonged oppression of the people just like the French Revolution. During the French Revolution weaponry was pretty simple, a guillotine and guns, of course these are capable of killing people but not at the rate chemical warfare or bombs can cause. The Arab countries have many weapons at their disposal that were unavailable hundreds of years ago. The technology and instant access to information and weapons capable of killing thousands of people at a time is a major difference between the Arab spring and French revolutions
Economic conditions today in Arab nations are similar to the French Revolution. In France there was hunger and malnutrition and inflation caused a 50% increase in bread prices. The gap between the rich and the poor was vast and ever widening where 98% lived at the poverty level where food and jobs were insecure. Crushing poverty in France was similar to the poverty in many Arab nations. As the youth in many Arab nations become more educated they find they have no opportunities for jobs. Many Arab nations have a 60% unemployment rate for educated men. In both the French Revolution and the Arab spring people felt that the aristocrats and Kings were undeserving and over privileged. They were living a life of excess luxury and wealth off the blood sweat and tears of those just struggling to survive. The people have endured excessive taxation and were victims of job insecurity and indebtedness with no end in sight to their plight. In Arab countries many youth are educated but unemployed, as basic job opportunities do not exist. The youth have time to protests because they have no jobs. Educated people are more likely to be exposed to ideas like democracy and they understand from history how governments can be overthrown. Today in Arab countries economic corruption includes bribery, kickbacks nepotism and embezzlement. Massive corruption meant that friends of the people in charge controlled huge monopolies and then because they're aware of how corrupt economic system was they invested their money in foreign banks and projects not in their own country. The gap between the rich and the poor is vast and the vast majority who are at the poverty level were hungry and their jobs are insecure with no access to affordable healthcare and no way to get out, they felt hopeless.
Political revolutions are complex mix of issues including dissatisfied youth, a weak economy, unemployment, underemployment, inflation, poverty and social inequality. Each of these factors alone is probably not enough to start a revolution but when you bring these factors together you can bring down the government of an entire country. The nature of political revolution is all about information and anger. When 2% of the population rules over the other 98% as in France in the late 1700s and in Arab nations today it is difficult to avoid a revolution when the vast majority of people feel hopeless. Revolutions occur because of a complex mix of social, economic and political issues. A change in political structure as a solution to the problem will only happen if a majority of people want a change. In countries where everyone is wealthy and relatively happy perhaps having a monarch for your leader isn't such a bad thing, like in Saudi Arabia. In poor economic times having an elite few rule your destiny while you can't afford to eat bread will cause a revolution, as was the case in France and in many middle east nations today.