A number of people on my Facebook page continue to express their distrust of government and their despair over the pervasive violence on the planet. Sometimes it appears that the number of countries at peace can be counted on one hand. The truth is quite different, however. A 2005 study reported in the journal, International Security, and commissioned by Freedom House, a Washington-based organization, showed a trend against violence was underway. According to its findings, in the last 10 years, 70 countries have transitioned from dictatorships to varying degrees of democracy. Of that 70, only a small minority did so through armed struggle and hardly “any new democracies resulted from foreign invasion.” (“Weapons of Mass Democracy” by Stephen Zunes, Yes, 2009, pg. 53.)
The growth of non-violence is driven, in part, by pragmatic rather than moral concerns. More people are willing to participate in quiet revolutions. The elderly and the handicapped aren’t excluded from the protests. Governments are more willing to negotiate with nonviolent demonstrators and are less fearful of their future if a new order were to emerge. Demonstrations by the unarmed tend to create greater sympathy for their cause. And finally, regime change accomplished in a peaceful manner tends to foster pro-democratic majorities because the process itself is inclusive.
Syria is a tragic exception to this trend but we have seen peaceful changes in the Philippines, Poland, East Germany, Estonia, Haiti, Mali, Nepal, Indonesia, in the Maldives and most recently in Burma, to name a few. We should take heart in the Freedom House report. Despite the endless noise of war, the sound of a quiet revolution is bringing peace across the land.