Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Test of Faith

For various reasons I have not been following news well lately, and I completely missed what's been happening in Tunisia. But I've come in a little late on what's happening in Egypt.

The first articles and TV reports I saw about it were discussions of the Muslim Brotherhood who reportedly want a less secular and more Islamic-style government. I found myself worrying about such a transition and how it could make the world less safe for Israel and the U.S..

It quickly occurred to me that I was mentally taking the side apparently against the will of the people of Egypt, against democracy and for a reportedly oppressive government that doesn't allow free speech, controls the media and shuts down the internet and other communication services. That doesn't sound like me!

So I'm a bit ashamed of myself that I allowed—however briefly—my fear of religious oppression to overcome my belief in freedom and a representative government. Just because I've never seen compelling evidence for the existence of god(s) doesn't mean I want those who do believe in god(s) to suffer; however I wish they'd be more rational I don't realistically expect the world to suddenly shed its religions.

Then my cynicism kicked in, and I realize that the stories in Western media strongly implying a new Egyptian government that would concern many/most Americans are probably being made for the purpose of making the U.S. fear an Egyptian revolution. Whether the current government of Egypt is seeding those stories to discourage support of a regime change, or the U.S. government protecting a somewhat ally or just the Western media looking for talking points to catch our attention, I think we shouldn't allow these stories to frighten us.

After all, how does freedom and a representative government happen? Do dictators and otherwise powerful governments dole out power and freedom? No, the people revolt, and a peaceful revolution is a great way of doing it. Discount the fear of extremist Islam taking over the Middle East, and imagine freedom and democracy spreading through it like wildfire. Damn, how could that not be a good thing? Okay, I can actually think of one or two ways, but I can imagine mostly good ways for that to turn out. Power to the people! Let the people speak openly!

I fear religious influence on governments, but I believe that open communication is overall a positive thing for people everywhere. Writing in general was a technological leap; suddenly there is a species that can spread and retain experience and knowledge. The Gutenberg press really accelerated this, and then later postal services, radio, TV and the Internet allowed faster and wider dissemination of information so that now we are virtually a global community able to instantly react to happenings anywhere and communicate with people anywhere. If anything is more powerful in making people tolerate each other than communication, I don't know what it is. And toleration—live and let live—is one of my core beliefs.

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