Why Are We Silent?
Eighty million people in Egypt have lived under tyranny for 30 years. We in the West chose to be silent for so long, perhaps because we decided it suited our geopolitical interests.
We are so spoiled with having our freedoms, of speech, movement and association, that we don’t even think about them. We take them for granted. We talk about the value of freedom, but we never feel it, because for most of us it is never taken away, not even momentarily.
We say we will fight for liberty, we talk about boycotts of oppressive regimes and we sometimes even march in protest. We want democracy and freedom for all. So we send our brave and our few off to fight and die for us, when our leaders say it’s necessary. We leave it at that, in addition, of course, to honorable mentions in our speeches.
And no, I’m not just talking about politicians now. I’m talking about you. And me. All of us, left and right. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and all the rest.
Eighty million people say 30 years ought to be enough for any dictator, and they march peacefully to make their point. We watch, in fascination but also in fear. Silently.
Why is it, that when we in the West hear of a popular uprising for liberty and democracy spreading through the Middle East, that our first thoughts are of Ayatollahs and the Taliban? Why can’t we believe that the people in the streets of Cairo have the same goals and aspirations as the people on the streets of Prague did, 20-odd years ago?
One reason of course, is that we’ve seen European nations successfully shake off tyrannies before, but we’ve never seen that happen in the Middle East, with the exception of Israel. You could almost be forgiven for thinking that “Arab democracy” was an oxymoron, but perhaps that’s changing now.
When Hosni Mubarak came to power in 1981, the world was a very different place. We had a real and not unfounded fear of the Soviet Union; we really thought civilization could end in a storm of nuclear fire at any time, if not intentionally, then possibly accidentally, because fingers really were poised on buttons, on both sides.Continued on the next page