March 22, 2011


I confess it; I have taken sides with the rebels in Libya as most westerners would. I have no idea what ideology will prevail if they succeed as I understand there are a number of competing tribes in their culture. But I cannot remain indifferent when I see ordinary citizens taking up sticks and stones to defend their right to be free.  One wants an outcome for them like that of Tunisia and Egypt, though Egypt’s liberation may not be all that certain. Christopher Hitchens in a recent article in “Vanity Fair” writes that, “Egypt is not a county that has an army but an army that has a country” and predicts that army is unlikely to accommodate freedom at the expense of its authority (“Vanity Fair,” 4/2011, pg. 112).

(courtesy: Andrei Acosta)

Such pessimism is probably warranted.  Those who have power rarely relinquish it voluntarily. Those who lack power usually lack the means to obtain it. They have only numbers on their side. Still, I have lived to see many changes in the world, some of them violent and some of them peaceful. East Berlin tore down its wall without bloodshed and Portugal and Greece had peaceful revolutions. Russia had its moment of democratic triumph though its freedoms remain uncertain. And while tyrants hold sway in Zimbabwe, The Gold Coast, Burma, Tibet and in parts of the Middle East, I still hope. Somehow the notion that the individual is worthy of dignity is gaining a foothold in the human psyche. Freedom is no longer taken to be a dream of the oppressed but a right. 

If the Libyan rebels lose their battle, if Egyptian gains merely the trappings of reform, if Burma continues to suppress its thinkers and a few of the dwindling number of dictators continue to rule, it will only be for a while… not much longer.  After all, “to everything there is a season.”