These two words, the clarion call of millions of Arabs yearning to be free, are the two most important words in recent political history. There is a new form of pan-Arabism. It is a contagion, it is nonviolent, it is neither religious nor anti-religious, it is not mean-spirited but inviting to authorities and adversaries. It is the kind of chant and gesture that directly welcomes police and officials to join. In short, we have seen the spirit of Gandhi and King, and especially Ghaffer Khan, come alive in the Middle East.
If the contagion continues I am hoping that it becomes the pre-eminent form of social change and protest that sweeps aside paranoia and passivity. All the way from the streets of Pakistan to the airwaves of America, from Zawahiri and the Salafists to Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party, it is time for the angry folks to step aside. They too have millions of followers, but only because their anger is seen to be empowering and effective politically. But if “Peaceful, Peaceful” catches on, and people begin to sense the sheer power of nonviolent gathering and change, then we may see a new form of political social change, just in time for the vital needs of this planet to be addressed.
A final lesson is that the people should never leave Tahrir Square and never trust anyone with absolute power. Honor everyone, invite everyone, but trust no one. Do not go back to sleep. Do not let Hollywood or Bollywood or soap operas or sports put you to sleep. Do not let conspiracy theories pacify you and absolve you of personal responsibility. Tahrir Square lives or dies by those who choose to go there or not. Tahrir Square is the public square not only of Egypt, not only the public square of the Arab world, but the public square of humanity. And humanity just brought down a dictator in Egypt who was in power longer than almost any of the pharoahs. And it is positively Shakespearian, as Saed Ibrahim noted recently. The Mubaraks started off as a good family with good intentions, but power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and absolute power for a very long time corrupts absolutely and completely. Thus, democracy is the only answer, the only answer to the challenge of human power. What an amazing moment in history that perhaps the oldest civilization of the world, the land of Pharoah gods, is the land that teaches the world the deepest lesson, the lesson to end autocracy, imperialism, and to begin to value every human being, even a vegetable salesman in Libya who deserved more dignity and respect, and a better life. God bless his memory, and all the new teachers of democracy.© Marc Gopin