The 2011 unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are unprecedented in scale and scope. It has even managed to do the unthinkable by toppling two heads of states so far. Right now, thanks to the media, both traditional and social, the world is watching as history unfolds before our very eyes. In fact, the use of social media is changing the world as you read this. Yet in the midst of all this change and chaos, there are lessons for us all. In fact, it would do us good to heed the signs and master the lessons early. To do otherwise would be unwise.
To Rule is to Serve
To rule is to serve. It is the heaviest of burdens and the greatest of responsibilities. A ruler serves the people and depends on their support. Conversely, many lives depend on the decisions of the ruler. If rulers keep the interest of the people in mind and rule wisely, they will win support. When rulers listen to and meet the needs of the people, the people can focus on their daily lives. There will be no reason or cause to protest and revolt.
But if rulers rule badly, they upset the fragile balance between them and their people. Without the interest of the people at heart, they will lose their support and hence their power. All it takes is a spark at the right place and time to cause an unstoppable blaze. Take the self-immolation of Mohammad Bouazizi for example. It sparked such an outrage in the people because it reminded them of the great injustice they suffered daily. To worsen matters, Ex-President Ben Ali’s poor and insincere handling of the matter only added fuel to the fire. In the end, the people rose up and ousted him from power. Without right and justice on their side, regimes cannot endure for long.
This lesson does not apply solely to governments. It applies to leadership in any field. A leader is dependent on the support of his people. Apart from his objectives, he must listen to and meet the needs of his people. If he leads with their interests in mind, he is likelier to succeed. If he leads with personal interests in mind, he is likely to fail.
The Nature of Revolutions
There are countless instances of revolutions in the history of humankind. Even then, the nature of revolutions is the same. They are grave matters that often happen as a last resort. Before such a drastic change happens, there will always be signs of unhappiness and discontent. This is ample warning of a need for change and reform. But if rulers ignore and suppress these signs and needs, it will cause a backlash that leads to resistance. As a result, rulers will need to use more force to keep the people in line and prevent change. Meanwhile, with each use of force, rulers lose popular support and drive the people to take drastic action. Finally, when all else fails, a revolution happens.
In all cases, it is wise not to ignore the signs when there is a need for change. The more we resist change the greater the backlash we have to face. Change can come in many forms. It could be the lessons we have to learn. Or, it could be a change in bad habits that we have to make. Whatever form the change takes, the universe is fair. If we pay close attention to our surroundings, we will receive ample warnings of the need for change. All we can do is to adapt to the changes early of our own free will. Otherwise, events will force us to do so.
Change is the Only Constant
The unrest in the MENA is unprecedented in terms of scale and scope. It has also led to the fall of two heads of states so far. Such a thing was unthinkable a year ago. But today, the world is watching to see how the unrest in MENA unfolds and the implications it will have for all of us. Change is everywhere. The old world and ways are no more. Now, there is not only a change in regimes; there is also a change in methods that led to such large-scale protests. The use of social media has changed the world forever. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Change is the only constant in life. Nothing lasts forever; the new will always replace the old. We either adapt to the change that comes our way or perish in the process. This involves staying relevant and keeping up with the times. Not only does this apply to governments, it also applies to society and individuals. There is really no way around it for anyone. If we are too rigid and inflexible, the weight of change will break us. Instead, we should be like water and adapt to deal with change.
Anything is Possible
For many years, the regimes in MENA ruled with an iron fist. It was unthinkable that the people could overthrow their governments. After all, the ruling powers had successfully crushed all unrest until then. Change could never happen. It was the lot of the common people to accept their fate. But this was the thinking of the older generation.
The younger generation does not share this view. In their youthful exuberance, they believed that anything is possible. And they have actions and results to back up their beliefs. Through the skilful use of social media, these young upstarts have caused such unrest throughout MENA, that they have the attention of the whole world. They have shaken existing regimes to the core and even toppled two so far. The fight for freedom has changed forever.
Assumptions are dangerous and limiting. What we assume becomes our weakness and blind spot. It makes us vulnerable and easy to control. In truth, anything in life is possible if you believe it to be. The only limits that we have are the limits that we choose to impose on ourselves. If you have the burning desire for change, you can change because you will find a way to do so.
The Price of Change
Revolutions require courage, sacrifice and determination. To change the status quo, one would need a sufficient amount of force to overcome that inertia. This force involves courage because those who cling to the status quo have much to lose. They will not give up without a fight. Next, change requires sacrifice because some people will die in the struggle for power. When faced with such resistance, the people who wish to bring about change cannot afford to give up halfway. They must press forth with determination to the very end. If they give up before they reach their goal, it will only further entrench the status quo they tried to change in the first place. To start a revolution is risky. No one will know if it will succeed or fail. But one thing is for sure, there can be no half measures involved.
If you wish to bring about change in your life, you will also need courage, sacrifice and determination. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and change. In the process, you will have to invest time and effort to bring about that change. This leads to the sacrifice that change needs to overcome the inertia of the status quo. Finally, you have to persist with determination until the very end. Giving up will only entrench what you have tried to change. This will make it harder to change in the future.
What are your views on the unrest in MENA? What have you learned from it? Do share your thoughts and comments below.