Egyptian Riots, Humanity and History: Once Again, A Time of Change

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There’s more than a call to freedom or a cry of deliverance from repression going on right now. History is reminding us of the worth of every human soul and our duty to show appropriate reverence for life and the life-sustaining characteristics of our planet.

History is unfolding once again in one of the world’s oldest cradles of civilization. The people of Egypt — prompted by the sobering realities that up to 40 percent of its citizens live on some form of subsidy, corruption has become ingrained within its vital institutions, and political heavy-handedness and repression have been unrelenting at the hands of its leaders for many years now — have taken to the streets to demand an end to business-as-usual and meaningful change in governmental structure and affairs. While the world anxiously watches, profound change appears to be coming not just to Egypt, but to a vast area of our planet — the very area that inspired the structures that today dominate the cultural environments within which most of us live.

The unrest in Egypt is symptomatic of the ills and injustices that plague many other societies, prompting speculation that the firestorm that has arisen there (and flared in Tunisia weeks ago) represents but another spark that could potentially ignite a much larger flame. An ever-widening gap between rich and poor; corporate, institutional, and political corruption; oppressive laws; social intolerance; human rights abridgements; and interest group polarization are issues with which many nations have been struggling for years and which have reached a new and intolerable level recently. The overriding common denominator in all these concerns seems to be the steadily increasing, unrelenting hardship the average person (i.e., the indisputable foundation of any civilized society) has increasingly faced in their daily bid to maintain any degree of quality of life for themselves and for their families.

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Respecting basic human rights and needs is more than just a lofty ideal. It can also be the very key to social order and prosperity. Abraham Lincoln reportedly said that “honesty is the best policy.” Many infer he was referring to the practical aspects of being straightforward with people. Lies are hard to maintain, and the consequences of them almost inevitably backfire on those who tell them. So, it simply makes sense to shoot straight in the first place, despite how difficult that can seem at times. The same is true for respecting the legitimate rights, needs, and concerns of others. Because we’re so necessarily and inextricably interconnected, doing to others as we would have them do to us has practical ramifications. Justice, fairness, tolerance — the building blocks of righteousness — all spawn pragmatic benefits.

There’s a line in a James Taylor song that goes: “Once again, a time of change. Oh, the change makes music — and the people will dance.” Every so often in history, profound change becomes necessary. It’s part of the great dance of life. And there’s a rhythm, beat, and melodic order to this dance, as if it were pre-ordained by a composer. Sometimes it seems we have only the choice to get in step or face the prospect of tripping over our own feet and those of others.

If you look and listen very carefully, you might be able to discern a new tune emanating from foreign lands, and youthful voices chanting an age-old refrain. The chant is more than a mere call to freedom or a cry of deliverance from repression. It’s a proclamation of the worth of every human soul and our duty to show appropriate reverence for life and the life-sustaining characteristics of our planet. Unfortunately, the enduring testaments of much of our history bespeak our indifference to these things in our all-too-frequent selfish pursuits and our daily competitive bids to out-prosper and dominate one another. But because we did not compose the score for the dance in which many now unavoidably find themselves partaking, and because dance we must lest we fall flat on our faces, once again, we face a time of change.

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