Egypt is Poland. In both cases change came from within, and the change came from a disgruntled populace, not from an opposition political party. After Poland changed, everything in the USSR changed. With Egypt and Tunisia changing, what other countries will change? Was the US or India the initiator of change for the British Empire? It doesn’t matter. The change happened because enough people wanted it. In other countries people who aren’t actively challenging authority are at least aware of examples and history that proves change is possible. What could happen here?
People impress me. People, all of us, are simultaneously flawed and magnificent. A society can live in ignorance or repressed dissatisfaction for decades or generations, but eventually people say enough and change things. The sad part is the pain and injustice that occurs over those years and through those lives. The good part is that we tend towards justice and equality. I don’t discount the hurt. But when I say I am a long term optimist about such issues I’m looking at trends that are generational. Over spans that long, our progress has been impressive.
Information is the key. When people are aware that their problems aren’t isolated incidents, but are happening to their family, friends and neighbors, then they are more likely to solidify into a cohesive force. Poland benefited from Lech Walesa and others in the Solidarity Movement which existed because of a labor union. Evidently, the communication chain that inspired change was Lech Walesa hearing and passing along news throughout the shipyard. He was a repairman, so he went everywhere. The workers found a common spirit and changed more than they imagined. I wish I could find the study that mapped the subsequent revolutions and tied them to televised broadcasts. As one country was freed, the neighbors across the borders could pick up uncensored television and radio. The wave propagated, news then action.
Egypt and Tunisia are more modern. There will undoubtedly be sociology and anthropology PhDs handed out for investigating the role of Facebook and Twitter. Various regimes are fighting back, but news is progressively harder to contain.
I watch these progressions with the realization that they can happen anywhere. Even here in the US we’ve had a couple of political revolutions. Back in Pittsburgh where I was brought up, Memorial Day celebrations sprout Revolutionary War flags in the cemeteries. They are few, but they existed. But even there, The Revolutionary War wasn’t the only revolution. Just south of there was the Mason-Dixon line. The Civil War, or the War Between the States (depending on where you live) was political. Each side saw injustice and fought to correct it.
There are few countries where I would rather live, and those that I look fondly upon undoubtedly have flaws that I can’t see from here. I see many of our flaws as do many of us. I like Winston Churchill’s commentary on us:
“I want no criticism of America at my table. The Americans criticize themselves more than enough. “
We can take decades and generations to try to make things right, and most of the intervening time is spent arguing over what “right” is. We aren’t a quiet people. We will try to fix things. I also like another of Churchill’s observations:
“The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative.”
The recent financial crisis happened under the greatest scrutiny in history. Movies have captured it fictionally (Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps) and possibly factually (Inside Job). I say possibly factually because I haven’t seen the movie. Blogs, discussion boards, books, and talk shows have delved deeper. Enclaves of wealth and power that historically operated unseen are being brought into the light. The audacity of one aspect made the Jon Stewart interview of Jim Cramer legendary. Hundreds of billions of dollars were thrown at imploding institutions. We don’t have hundreds of billions of taxpayers. Per person, thousands of dollars were spent propping up failed and flawed businesses. People shouted and complained, and as we recover, Wall Street bonuses are blossoming as if nothing bad happened; even though the rest of the country sees unemployment, a disabled housing system, and massive federal debt – at the same time that some are asking for extensions of tax breaks.
I know people that are infuriated because it seems that the bad guys won.
I have faith in us. We are all talking about the situation. Any censorship we experience is mild in comparison to countries that overcame higher hurdles and found ways to pull together and change. We have regular elections, and while the two parties seem more interested in schoolyard squabbles and maintaining their privileges, we have many opportunities and mechanisms within them and without them.
This blog is primarily about balancing money and life. I tend to delve more into the money side of things because I think enough other people are telling each other how to lives their lives. Here, I try to limit such commentaries to my own experiences. I bring this topic up though because within each of these changed countries life and money were affected. Life typically is better, though can go through a painful transition. Money isn’t as clear of a story. In such circumstances money and power shift. Sometimes well. Sometimes poorly. The French had a turbulent time changing from elite privilege and entrenched monarchy to “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, but I hear France is now a fine place to visit. I still wonder about the shift in Russia from the Tsars, through communism, to where they are today.
What’s next here?
The US may never see a revolution like we’ve witnessed in Egypt. I hope though that we are in the midst of a Golden Revolution, where the interpretation of the Golden Rule switches from the cynical, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” to the original, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Historically, we are a self-reliant yet mutually supportive people. We can stand on our own, and are ready to led another a hand. That gives me great hope that any revolution we see here may be peaceful, powerful, and results in better lives for us all. Balancing life and money might just be a lot easier then.