Be Relevant

Relearning everything we've forgotten.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What we can learn from Egypt

History has been made!  I can't help but feel excited for the people of Egypt.  18 days of non-violent (mostly) peaceful protests has toppled 30 years of dictatorial rule.  This is truly an amazing event.  Gandhi in South Africa then India, Dr Martin Luther King Jr in our own country and now the citizens of Egypt.  I think we have just seen some of the best of the human spirit.  

There is no doubt that non-violence is the most legitimate form of protest.  Any possible opposition that tries to use force to quell a non-violent protest makes that opposition automatically illegitimate.  But had the world not been watching things may have been different.  If Egypt wasn't affected by the opinions of the international community the citizens of Egypt may have not had the chance.   Burma is a good example of a country whose leadership does not rely on international opinion and therefore the Military Junta can quell any form of protest without reprisal.  So for non-violence to work their needs to be avenues for the international community to participate.  Truly showing how small the world is.  

Yet that isn't the only thing Egypt has taught us.  I can't help but think of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona where so many were killed and injured.  These thoughts quickly turn to all the school shootings that have happened in the past, Oklahoma City Bombings, Ted Kaczynski, and of course 9-11 and the subsequent wars spawned.  But I want to keep the focus on our domestic incidents.  Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary, said the other day, "The threat continues to evolve. And in some ways, the threat today may be at its most heightened state since the attacks nearly ten years ago." [1]  She was talking about the idea of a homegrown threat; American citizens being recruited to conduct terrorist acts.

There is a connection, at least one that I see.  It is of a citizenship slowly being cast to the side and being left out.  Left out of the "American Dream", being left out of the political process, being left out of living in this country.  Every aspect of our culture is cultivating stratification.  It's not just the usual suspects of economic and social classes, though they play a hand, but a stratification of those who run things and those who don't.   

I don't think that anyone would argue that poverty, famine, oppressive regimes, corruption, social neglect, rampant disease, destruction of natural resources, perversion of clean air and the absence of potable water is a pretty good list to describe a failed state.  It's these failed states that give rise to the disenfranchised youth.  Evil people who only want personal gain seize upon this disenfranchisement and channel it into anger and hate.  Then unleash that anger and hate on anything that seems a threat to their personal power.  This is basically the recipe for the terrorism that we are experiencing today.

Yet in Egypt the youth were disenfranchised.  They couldn't find employment and I'm not talking about just this year or the next but for decades.  They weren't included in the political process.  The government was being run by an oppressive regime.  The government was catering to the business elite through corrupt deals.  The Egyptian youth had everything there to take a totally different path.  What is so amazing is the restraint and wisdom shown by the people of Egypt.  

Back to our own domestic problems and what we can learn from the Egyptian people.  I want you to re-read my list of a failed state.  This time think about our poor - how private health care bankrupts our citizens or how our elderly have to live like 2nd class citizens to afford their care.  Look at the corruption in our own government.  All the little extras attached to bills to get them passed.  Just yesterday the House had a panel, mainly made up of business leaders, to discuss how government is hampering business.  Not to mention that they tried to repeal the Health Care Reform.  Look at how the banks nearly bankrupted this country and nothing has been done.  In a couple more years it'll be business as usual.  Obesity runs rampant in our society with diet related diseases topping most of our medical needs. How the Supreme Court just ruled corporations have no limit to how much money they can give to political campaigns because a corporation has the same Constitutional rights as a human being.  Look at the stratification of the rich to poor with eradication of the middle class.  Our environment is being trashed - Gulf of Mexico?  Most of our drinking water is contaminated with agricultural or industrial waste/runoff.  

Scary isn't it that we, as a 1st World Nation, have so many similarities to a 3rd World Failed State?  The point is that I think we are at a cross roads where we have the ability to come together and show the wisdom that the Egyptian people have shown the world.  Or we risk disenfranchising more of our citizens.  I don't condone violence nor do I excuse it on any level.  What I am saying is that the problems we are facing as a nation will take each and every one of its citizens to fix it.  It won't be fixed in the back rooms of Congress.  It won't even be fixed in the halls of Congress without real debate and discussion by each of us.  And I mean each and everyone of US.  We need to have dialogue that includes people not based on their ability to pay for campaigns but is based on their citizenship.  Because what Egypt has really shown the world is that when we come together, and stand together we can change the world for the better.  

[1]  Read more:

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