Revolutions can be short and bloody, or slow and peaceful. Each is different, though there are recurring patterns – including some that were on show in Egypt.
Trotsky once remarked that if poverty was the cause of revolutions, there would be revolutions all the time because most people in the world were poor. What is needed to turn a million people’s grumbling discontent into a crowd on the streets is a spark to electrify them.
Violent death has been the most common catalyst for radicalising discontent in the revolutions of the last 30 years. Sometimes the spark is grisly, like the mass incineration of hundreds in an Iranian cinema in 1978 blamed on the Shah’s secret police.
Sometimes the desperate act of a single suicidally inflammatory protester like vegetable salesman Mohammed Bouazizi in Tunisia, in December 2010, catches the imagination of a country.