Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winds of Change 25 / 30

Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Iran… what did Tunisia start?

I have held for many years that protest is essentially useless.  I’ve attended a couple, and privileged university students banged on pots and pans, chanted ill rhyming slogans and berated powerful people for things they were doing in other countries.  In most cases, turns out the people they were screaming at weren’t even in that building, and in a few cases, weren’t even in the same city.

The chanting/flag-waving/bandana-wearing/placard-making/angry people never seemed to get much done.  I never saw any change in domestic or foreign policy either in my own country, or in others.  Despite what I have always considered as the most beautiful act of personal heroism ever captured on film . . .

. . . I have always felt that protest, while a valid means of communicating one’s displeasure with one’s government, was ultimately futile.

Man, was I wrong.

I don’t think I have ever been so pleased to be proven wrong before.

I think it is odd that most people are seeing this as a positive thing, but not really a global issue.  A lot of the major media outlets seem to be paying lip service only to the subsequent protests that have arising in many nations in the Middle East, likely due to their producer’s realizing that we, as North Americans, are easily bored and need to be entertained by something else, something that will capture our att – Hey look, Lindsay Lohan did something dumb!!!

I think that attitude is an odd one.  For the first time in recorded history, these parts of the world are facing real challenges from their population, being told by their citizens that “Hell no!  We are no longer going to accept the status quo!” and that is amazing, to say the least. 

Millions of people are having their first taste of what it might be like to be free, and they are liking it.  The sad part is that many of their governments, trying desperately to cling to the last vestiges of their power, will attack and kill their own people.  Members of the Iranian government today were calling for the trial and execution of members of the opposition party.  Note the wording there – trial and execution.  Not just the trial, not an investigation – their minds were already made up, the opposition members of government should be killed for supporting the citizens of their nation in protest.  Wow.  Makes me very happy indeed to be a Canadian.  Not that Harper hasn’t likely asked his advisors about summary executions, but hey, so far so good.

Despite this almost guaranteed retaliation, the protests continue.  Despite police arrests and military interventions, the protests continue.  And one can't help but have hope now, seeing two nations succeed, that these protests will not be in vain, that they may go through hell, but these people have a real shot at democratic freedom for the first time in thousands of years.  And they did it themselves.  No UN embargoes, no US interventions, no peace accords, no civil wars.  Just thousands and thousands of ordinary citizens, uniting to stand up for what they believe in.  For their freedom.

So thank you, people of the Middle East (and large parts of Northern Africa as well) for proving me wrong.  Thank you for reminding me that when we work together, we can accomplish marvelous things.

Noah and I watched a movie the other day, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  At the end, there is a great little scene where these small creatures lift a relatively large weight by working together.  Noah and I were on the bus, and he was talking about that movie.  He asked me how the 'rat-birds' had carried all that weight.  I explained that when a lot of little things work together, they can accomplish great things.  He turned to me and with a very serious look on his face, asked “Dad, what can a whole lot of people do if they work together?”  I hugged him very hard, and said “Miracles.”

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