I'm no expert on the Middle East. And I don't pretend to have all the answers or to even believe that I know what's actually going on in the Arab street. What we read in the newspapers or see on TV is only one small piece of a complicated puzzle. But what's occurring throughout the region is unprecedented and inspiring.
Some remember the break-up of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War as one "transformational" event in contemporary history. Some remember other "transformational" events in the Balkans in the late 1990's. In the first decade of the 21st century, September 11th, 2001 ushered in events in America and abroad (the controversial US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq)that changed the landscape of American foreign policy. These big events were clearly different than what we are seeing now. Today in the Middle East we see grass-roots movements toppling governments and threatening others. But they are all also part of a larger process of collective evolution, of collective transformation (whether you believe the reasons behind them or not) that continues to build today and that is evident in the Middle East right now.
And it's not just the Middle East that is changing. Protests are happening every day across the globe, but many of them have less veracity and staying power as the ones we're seeing in the Middle East. But will that change now? Will more and more people begin to clamor for more rights and look to topple their governments?
It's hard to tell for sure, but I think as the momentum builds in the Middle East, no country (I'm referring to the non-democratic ones) will be able to avoid the resilience of the unified masses. And these changes by no means escape the democratic countries. I'm not saying that people will overthrow their democratic governments, but there is today a sense of disillusionment and frustration with the overall economy, with political leadership, and with the vested interests across the board that seem to control all of the world's resources in sometimes draconian ways.
On another note, instability in the Middle East affects the US, Europe, and Asia in very specific, well-known ways. These potentially destabilizing events (but empowering for the society there) in the region could lead to a long over-due rethink (ideally-speaking) of our dependency on foreign oil while forcing us to stop delaying and aggressively invest in the green technologies and alternative energy sources that can save the planet. As the decade progresses, significant changes may upend policies in our democracies that are out-dated.
Technology is a driving force behind the unprecedented changes reverberating throughout the Middle East. But it's also an individual and a collective awakening that's occurring there. People are finally speaking with one voice (as much as that is possible) and saying NO to the corrupt, authoritarian governments that presume to suppress them indefinitely. Tunisia was the catalyst for these recent events, but it's bigger than Tunisia alone. There are collective forces at work that transcend specific countries (even if they reside in them); forces for good that can only be found in the human heart, yearning for a voice. These are forces led by people who choose freedom and independence, dignity and fairness, and more opportunities to create and to build a better life. These are rights that we owe ourselves to demand in order to forge a more inclusive global society. Unprecedented power resides in those people who are now waking up as they realize that a different world is not only possible, but within reach.
I don't presume that there won't be difficulties, violence, and long processes of transition behind these transformations. It's definitely not all roses here. There are people who are using these opportunities in the ME as well as elsewhere for the propagation of needless violence. Clearly, this is not the answer. But the massive marches and the peaceful protests that are inspiring much of the world in the Middle East are unique because of their nature and spontaneity. They are powered by mostly common, decent citizens (and young people=the future) who are speaking up and acting out simultaneously, influenced by each other, and determined to construct a new society.
Humanity is waking up much quicker than in previous times; building on the experiences from our recent past.
Tough times lie ahead. Transformation is never easy. Still, we are witnessing another historical moment in our collective history.The critical mass is tipping. While there are no guarantees that these types of movements will be successful everywhere, we can only hope that people-power is here to stay. That it eventually leads to more open, democratic societies in the region inclusive of different identities or beliefs, but focused on leaving the past behind.
Condolences to the families of those people who have lost their lives mostly at the hands of their governments in recent weeks. Let's send positive energy to all of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and in other parts of the world who are in the midst of making history. I hope that they achieve their goals and that better times for all are on the horizon.