When I went to Montreal for the CUP conference in early January, I went for a walk alone up Ste. Catherine St. on a Saturday afternoon and stumbled upon a massive protest going through the city. The protests had to do with the ousting of a leader in North Africa. But the flags being flown weren’t the tricolor of Egypt, but the Red half moon and star of Tunisia. My Tunisian cab driver on the way to the casino the night before said that president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was “the biggest asshole since Geroge Bush.”
What does this have to do with Egypt? Other than being a sign of Montreal having more than the two languages you’d expect, it shows the best way to stumble into international relations stories is to see the anger first hand.
But since the Egypt protests began long after I left that multi-cultural melting pot, there wasn’t a protest in the streets to stumble into. Before this began I didn’t know a thing about Honsi Mubarak and Egyptian policies because my international interests are exclusively in Italy, France, Spain and Germany. So when I came home late on Jan 26 from class and turned on my tv the last channel that was on was CBC and I immediately saw the chaos in the streets.
I switched to CNN when I saw that Obama was going to speak about the situation. Wolf Blitzer was upping the drama of the protests saying that this was a cultural revolution and that they were trying to take their democracy back and some more blah blah blah’s that did nothing to lower my impression of CNN being a news station for sensationalism.
I don’t recall exactly what I was doing that day but I hadn’t checked Twitter at all on my BlackBerry, and that’s my most used app outside of the Weather Network. So when I first heard the news it dawned on me that it was like it my 23-year old body was transported to 1995, where this information was not accessible in the daily routine of life.
After a while I got disenfranchised with the story and needed to move on. Protesting is not my thing because I’m a pretty easy-going guy and have had little to get upset about. However, I stayed on top of it the best I could. And an excellent tool was one that I never hear people use when news is breaking: Wikipedia.
When I go on the Wikipedia page for The Beatles for example, there’s very little left to be said about the band, and it feels like all the information that can be learned about the Fab Four is there to be consumed. However, the history of these protests in 2011 are happening in front of our eyes as we breathe, so what I kept tabs of was how the page was forming as history as it was playing out. With 331 footnotes and a page as long as the Nile River, this may be the way to go if you want to learn about any historical event with a historical twist.