Monday, February 21, 2011

Thinking of the future--reflections on the unrest in the Middle East

I wonder what kind of future world Adria will inherit.

I've been kind of captivated lately by the news of what's been going on in the middle east in the last few weeks. It's unbelievable.

The unrest began in January 2011 with Tunisia, where a civil resistance movement has spread not only successfully through their own government, but now throughout the region. Tunisia has overthrown their autocratic president, and is awaiting democratic election with an interim government in place. Perhaps much more visible to the world, Egypt erupted next, with citizens also successfully ousting their president after weeks of protests. (There remains question in some minds as to whether the uprising was the fodder for a military coup, as a temporary military rule and several old politicians remain in power despite the ousted president.) Demonstrations by protesters followed in Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, and Oman, and more recently, by Algeria, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Djibuti and Morocco. So far, the breadth of demonstrations in these countries have not reached a tipping point for their governments, however some embroiled leaders are responding with moderate concessions. Protesters may or may not be satisfied with those government responses, and even in Egypt demonstrations continue until the populance is fully satisfied with reform. However, in other countries, regimes are responding with brutal force, some employing tear gas and batons to disperse crowds, and most notably in Libya, atrocious brutal crimes against humanity. Libya in particular has captured the world's attention, with the implicated Muammar Gaddafi ordering air and ground forces to fire upon its own citizens. Protesters have taken several notable cities, but at present violence continues in capitol Tripoli with military attacks on civilians, and both the over 40-year-ruler and his family promising a river of blood and resistance to the end. Domestic politicians and military personnel alike have defected, and along with international forces are demanding a stop to Gaddafi's murderous actions. One witness is reported to have seen protesters striping off their shirts and exposing their bare chests to sniper fire. It appears that eminent death and continued resistance are more appealing to the Libyans than life as usual with Gaddafi.

And yet, do you know what the biggest topic of conversation has been around my sphere lately? The price of gasoline. Of course the world markets have responded to the tremors coming from that region, particularly the oil sector. But is that what is the most penetrating about the news coming out of that area? I am a bit shaken by the wave of protests that has spread so readily through that region.

What oppression and injustice have existed in these regimes for so long unchecked that wave after wave of humanity is now rising up? I am ashamed to admit how much I think of myself, and how little I consider others--including my own family members, not to mention the condition of my global brothers and sisters.

What would I do or feel, what would it be like to live in one of the dangerous and scary autocratic societies that is crumbling? What is their sense of "normal" like? What all have I taken for granted? What could that be like here? What would it take to shake our world to that degree? (Thank goodness that at least we have elections every however many years, depending on the office, with the power to affect our leaders that way.)

Democracy isn't perfect. America sure isn't perfect. But I feel insulated, protected, and charmed to be living this American life where my biggest concerns are daycare and rice cereal.

But that raises another idle question--as a person of conscience, what is my social responsibility in global world when my priorities legitimately are wrapped around a precious, beautiful 4-month old baby girl? What is my responsibility to her to deliver a better world than I inherited?

I don't know, I just don't know.

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