Freedom evolves in Egypt

February 11, 2011

Today is historic. Thirty-two years to the day after the Iranian revolution deposing the Shah, the Egyptian people have successfully overthrown repressive dictator Hosni Mubarak.  The Iranian revolution resulted in the rise of fundamentalist Islam across the Arab world. Could today’s revolution mark the beginning of the end of that Islamic fundamentalism and all that it entails?

Today’s events are a celebration of the power of the individual spirit. The Eqyptians were inspired by the Tunisians, who were in turn inspired by the self-immolation of a frustrated fruit vendor in their country. Contemplate for a moment the unlikelihood that a fruit vendor in Tunisia of all places could change world events.

Have you seen the movie The Social Network? The movie may distort the truth in some ways. But Facebook, the social networking phenomenon that has spread around the world with breathtaking speed, is undoubtedly largely the product of another unlikely world hero, brilliant but socially inept Mark Zuckerberg. Today, the leader of the Eqyptian uprising asked on CNN that Mark Zuckerberg phone him, even as placards to Facebook are raised amidst the celebration in Tahrir Square in Cairo. (Young people may not know that CNN itself is the brainchild of another American innovator and misfit, Ted Turner.)

Older people often voice wonder at where the explosion in technology is leading us, as the world they knew and felt comfortable in disappears before their eyes. But this is the way of the world, and always has been, that for every new thing something old must fall away. Even in our discomfort with the new technologies, the power of these technologies to bring about positive change must be acknowledged and embraced.

Lastly, we are reminded that young people lead revolutions. Just as the young men and women of the 1940s earned the designation “The Greatest Generation” for making the world safe for democracy, so young people today have unprecedented power to bring about positive change in the world. To those who worry about the decline of America, remember that Zuckerberg and Facebook were made in America, the birthplace of political freedom and enduring hotbed of innovation of all kinds.

Going forward though, expect to see American young people collaborating with young people around the world to invent a future that embraces a common good. Today is a powerful example that history is indeed the story of  unfolding human spirit.

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