2011: The people of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain,and (to some degree) Cote D'Ivoire have all risen up within the past month to support economic and political reform.
1989: China, Hungary, Romania, Poland, and Soviet Bloc countries rise up in protest of Communism. Resulting in the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
1968-69: Robert F Kennedy, Martin Luther King are key figures who are assassinated. 1968 Polish political crisis breaks out and Greece and Brazil's governments tighten their regimes. Socialism takes root in Africa and Muammar Gaddhafi gains power
1947-49: Global imperialism takes a tremendous blow as India, China, Pakistan, and Israel declare independence and form homelands. These nations eventually become the most important.
In the span of 60 years, the globe has undergone massive changes in political and economic ideology and influence. However, what's more interesting is when these changes occur in relation to one another. 1948 to 1968 was about 20 years. 1968 to 1989 was 21 years which is still relatively close. 1989 to 2011 is another 22 years. The question now becomes, why do these revolutions in thinking occur every 20 years or so.
Well there isn't a universal answer to that question. In my opinion, every 20 years or so there is a significant bulge in the population. Not just in people who are born but rather a generation that is distributing itself in the same place at the same time. As a result of youth rebellion, older people who lacked opportunities joined the younger ones in demanding change, even though they wouldn't experience much mobility in their working life.
The people who led the revolutions in the late 1940s were made up of largely disgruntled young adults. In India, young farmers were particularly upset at the lack of societal mobility and wanted representation of their interests. In China, peasant farmers who were economically squeezed out by Western traders turned to revolutionaries such as Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai Shek who promised a new sense of nationalism.
In 1968 and 1969, the young people who were growing up at the time had known nothing in their lives but the way their countries were being run, however there was unrest caused by Western interests and Cold War tension. As a result, many regimes that were put into place, lasted only because they had support of powerful nations such as the USSR or the United States at the time. Any expression of individuality or progressive change was squashed or reprimanded severely. In the US, protesting of the Vietnam war caused hostility with the troops and with the young adults who were forced to enter the draft. In Brazil, Chile, Libya, and Latin America, military juntas thrived at the expense of the people because expressions of individuality began to develop among the younger generations and these juntas feared sovereignty.
In 1989, The Soviet Union was losing its grip on the world and other communist nations who were supported by the Soviet Union did not have as much credence or authority. The new generation, born from those who revolted in the 1960s, now realized that this was their opportunity to think for themselves and create their own wealth and political opportunity. The 1980s were a troublesome time for many of the regimes as they looked to educate their own population with Western ideals to fuel domestic growth. Sending these younger students to America and Europe was a serious mistake on the part of the regimes and many of them were clueless when they revolted in mass.
Now in 2011, the people who are revolting in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and across the Middle East are mostly people who are 20 years old and have grown up with little satisfaction. Although many of these Middle Eastern nations have granted some economic reform in the past 20 years, the people feel as though change is not coming fast enough. They have access to social media as Facebook and Twitter were the media of communicating protest events across the major cities such as Benghazi, Cairo, Tripoli, Tunis, etc. They get ideas from Western civilizations faster than you can say "Facebook" nowadays. Censorship has become very difficult for the regimes in charge and they have resorted to banning social networks. That is too little too late because these people have many other reasons to feel frustrated besides the censorship issue. Limited economic opportunities in these regions partially due to a lack of investment, fears of terrorism which haven't been as much of an issue, rising costs, and limited political freedoms have all contributed towards their rage.
But I've only touched on the current factors that cause these things to happen rather than the common factor that coincides with these revolutions happening every 20 years. I believe that these events are closely tied with how influential economies in the world perform at the given time. Any sense of weakness is a signal for change. In 1948-49, imperialist nations suffered great losses during World War II and required heavy rebuilding and restructuring due to war damages. As a result, many former colonies seized the opportunity to demand independence and Western nations had no choice but to give in, in order to save costs. In 1968, the world was bipolar with the US and the Soviet Union on two opposite sides of the spectrum. These 2 nations divided the world into strategic areas of development to fuel their self interests at the expense of the younger generation in these underdeveloped countries. 1989, was basically the fall of Communism and that idea swept across the entire Communist Bloc as a sign of weakness and thus a pathway to freedom. 2011? This year has shown us that long term regimes that don't connect with the current generation are going to fall apart because they are out of touch with their own people, networking, and common interests.