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People want to be free.
You'd think that this would really go without saying. It seems like this is the most obvious statement anyone can make, as simple as "ice is cold" or "poison will kill you" or "fat people like to eat."
Certainly, when I'm watching the people of Lebanon and the Ukraine rising up against tyrannical leaders and corrupt government, that's what I'm thinking. People want to be free.
It was bound to happen, these rebellions, because people will not go on living under the thumb of oppression forever. Sure, you can oppress people for a while, even a relatively long while, and there's ample evidence of that. It can't last, though, because fundamentally, people yearn to be free. They want to feel like they can do what they want, say what they want, and go where they want whenever they want. There's only so long people will allow others to prevent them from these most basic desires.
I don't think it will stop with the Ukraine and Lebanon, either. Recent events in Kyrgyzstan certainly point in the direction of continued uprisings. Changes are coming soon in Iran, in Syria, in North Korea, and all over Africa. There are too many young people that are dispossessed and powerless in those places, and sooner than later, they're not going to accept the status quo any more, and they'll demand changes. All it will take is some spark, some trigger to finally tip everyone over the edge. In Lebanon, it was the assassination of the ex-Prime Minister that got people into the streets. In the Ukraine, it was nakedly false elections that finally riled everyone up enough to take action.
This is not even a particularly unique thing to happen in history. There have always been cycles of people being oppressed in some way, then rising up and rebelling, then taking over, then eventually oppressing people again until new people rise up and it starts all over again. What we're seeing today in the least free parts of the world should really come as no surprise.
The only real difference between now and the past is the speed in which information and images can travel. The Internet, satellite TV, and cellular technology allows people to communicate much more quickly with people all over the world. Two hundred years ago, it would have taken months or years before anyone in Lebanon knew what was going on in the Ukraine. Now, they know instantly. So maybe today the cycles of oppression and rebellion happen with greater rapidity than it did in the past.
Fundamentally, though, nothing has really changed about people. They still want to be free, even if now they can find out about how they're not really free a lot faster than they ever could before.
Accepting this simple fact about people means that no one can take credit for people acting on it. Which is why it is ridiculous for the Bush people, and for the chattering classes, to all of a sudden say "Bush was right about Iraq" simply because people are now acting on their desires to be free.
George W. Bush didn't create this desire in people. The invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent elections there, didn't all of a sudden invent the aspirations of freedom in all people. People always want to be free. George W. Bush just happened to be in power here in the US when things finally came to a head in some of these places.
This isn't to say that the Lebanese, or anyone else, weren't inspired by seeing Iraqis voting in elections, or by the loya jirga in Afghanistan a couple of years ago. They probably were, to some degree. But it certainly wasn't only those things that drove them to action, either.
No one should be trying to take credit for any of these things happening. I find it to be unfathomably crass and paternalistic that anyone would dream of it. And yet such is our political culture right now that any side is looking to take credit for everything going on in the world, just to justify what it was doing. Simply put, that's what the Bush people are doing right now, and it is sickening.
Let's review: Regardless of what any leader in any country has ever done, regardless of policy, or of military action, people want to be free. People will always want to be free, and inevitably will fight for their own freedom. We should not be gloating, or looking to score political points, when we see this finally happening in some of the worst places on earth. All we should be doing is helping when we can, and celebrating when people finally find a way to capture new freedoms for themselves.
Dan Filowitz is Toronto-born, New-Jersey-raised, Indiana-University-educated, and Chicago-residing. In addition to his Lost At Sea contributions, Dan is a senior staff writer for political humor site TalkStation.com and the president of ChicagoImprovAnarchy (The CIA) a Chicago-based improv theatre company. We are not mentioning the 9-5 corporate job. Apparently, Dan does not sleep much. Dan Filowitz is the perfect dinner party guest - fun, witty, intelligent, with wide-ranging interests, ecclectic tastes and a winning smile. Just make sure you have coffee available.
See other articles by Dan Filowitz.
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