Feb 222011
Egyptian V by Yamaha Gangsta

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.

March of the Millions by Yamaha Gangsta

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.

Water Cannoned by Yamaha Gangsta

Taking Action

What are your views on the unrest in MENA? What have you learned from it? Do share your thoughts and comments below. :)

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  14 Responses to “Life Lessons from the 2011 MENA Unrest”

  1. Hi Irving,
    You are really a fantastic writer! Your wisdom is touching. Thanks for the profound words!
    Dandy recently posted..How to express yourself to othersMy Profile

    • Hi Dandy,

      I am glad you found the article touching. I don’t think I am that great a writer though. The events are probably exciting enough to make anyone who writes about them interesting. :)

      Thank you for your lovely comments! :)

  2. Great work Irving,
    Dandy is right. Your work is exceptional. The idea of service is the reason; we exist. Nothing happens unless we serve one another. Selfishness goes no where. It’s telling our story, being open and sharing our gifts. This is what makes the world go round.
    jonathanfigaro recently posted..Super Fab Five Ways To Be Like MarioMy Profile

    • Hi Jonathan,

      I am glad you liked the article. :)

      I agree with you. If we were a little less selfish and thought of the bigger picture and how our actions would affect those around us, it would be a different and possibly better world.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  3. This is some article, Irving. What profound and inspiring events we are witnessing.

    The main thing its done for me is to reignite my awe of humanity. To see such an impressive display of spirit rise up like it has is just so confirming to me.

    And you mention the courage… I’m touched and amazed when I stop and think for a moment of the courage it has to take to stand up to authorities shooting into the crowd. I mean, really! Yet if it weren’t for people willing to face that, there couldn’t be a revolution.

    And finally, as I write that, I’m reminded that the word courage is related to the word heart (coeur = heart), and hmm, I’ve been making it a point to be much more heart centered than usual lately (I’m such a head person it’s not funny.) It can seem trivial in comparison, but in our own little way, whenever we act from that heart-space, we are all helping that indomitable human spirit to thrive and grow.

    Let’s hear it for the human spirit!

    Thanks for the great article.
    Patti Foy | Lightspirited Being recently posted..A Message About Your Relationship to LoveMy Profile

    • Hi Patti,

      We are living in a time of great change. While it is interesting to read history, it is more fascinating to watch events unfold before our eyes on a grand scale.

      I agree with you. It takes tremendous courage to rise up and make sacrifices for freedom and the greater good. Such a display of selflessness is always inspiring. Even if we are not the direct beneficiaries of our actions, we should try to ensure that our children and the next generations to come should inherit a better world.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  4. As others have said, your writing is always excellent, informative, and inspiring. I was trying to explain some of the historical context of MENA conflict to my daughter. It is not possible to explain this in any simple way. The continued violence over millenia is soul crushing.

    This sounds silly, but I keep thinking of the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting to get a different result. And I see my therapist from years ago cocking her head and asking me (in reference to some habitiual way I was handling something), “And how is that working for you?” The implication, of course, is that it was not working well at all.

    The violence continues–over territory, religion, political power, ecomonic power, oppression, and on and on. What revolution has ever achieved lasting peace? Only one that I can think of. Inner revolution, as you describe it. We can change our hearts, the way we perceive ourselves and interact with the world around us. Is that possible on a larger scale?
    Galen Pearl recently posted..Breathing BobMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,

      Thank you for your compliments! :)

      You’re right. The historical context of the MENA conflict is very complex. It is not easy to explain over a thousand years of history and all the factors that have led up to the situation today. It is one thing to read about the violence in history books. But to actually see it happening today is an entirely different and sobering experience.

      It does make me wonder how human beings can be so disunited. When all is well, we squabble and fight amongst ourselves. Only when there is a serious and grave enough threat do we unite for the sake of our survival. But the fact is human beings can stand side by side. We have done it before and we can do it again. We just need a cause strong enough to do that. In the meantime, if each of us had an inner revolution, maybe the world might be a better place.

      Thank you for your lovely comments. :)

  5. Always happy to be at your site Irving. A clear spirit speaking. What I learn from the profound groundswell moving thru the mideast is a memory and longing, deeply buried, for a true focus of stability and calm and love. It finally is inescapable that this true focus of stability and love is not present in men of the ilk of Khaddafy and Mubarak.

    I have known this longing myself, and I still know it. But what has happened for me is a realization that ultimately that for which I long is not present in the external world, it is already present in myself. But having said this, I think it is magnificent that people in the Arab world are rising up to say “no more” to those who have betrayed their trust. Love and blessings to you Irving.
    Christopher Foster recently posted..Are we really aloneMy Profile

    • Hi Christopher,

      Always happy to see you here! :)

      I could not agree more with you. Men like Khaddafy and Mubarak have not shown any love or an interest in true stability in their actions. Hopefully the change that is sweeping through the Arab world will herald a better era for the people.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  6. Hi Irving, I definitely agree with your points about serving the people. Many of these MENA rulers are despots who love power and money, and only care about the needs of their inner circle. Even when they get outside support (*cough* US *cough*) to prop them up, nothing lasts forever. I think that many Americans are interested in these revolutionary movements because there are similar aspects to our own Revolutionary War. The amount of courage that ordinary people have shown to fight for freedom is inspiring.

    It’s true that the seemingly impossible can be possible if enough people believe and act on that belief. Once the first domino fell in Tunisia – and at such speed – it emboldened oppressed people in other nearby nations. Now all the rulers who only serve themselves are nervous because they no longer see themselves as invulnerable.

    Great stuff!
    Jennifer Barry recently posted..Egypt- Bernanke- and the Rising Cost of FoodMy Profile

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Indeed nothing lasts forever. If a regime is corrupt, sooner or later it will meet its demise no matter how powerful it seems outwardly. How can rulers hope to remain in power if they do not have the support of their people? Yes the revolutionary war of America is very interesting history. It does take courage for ordinary people to take charge of their lives and fight for the freedom which many in the world today take for granted.

      We can only pray that the change in MENA heralds a better era for all. At the end of the day, human beings are just killing themselves instead of uniting to make the world a better place for future generations.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  7. Hi Irving,
    What a fabulous article you’ve written. I think social media has played a huge part in the uprisings, just as the spread of the internet played a part in the fall of the Berlin Wall and USSR. We have witnessed history in the making and it’s very exciting. No leader can stop an entire nation that is ready and hungry for change. I would add the astrology behind all of this quite fascinating too. Thank you for such an in-depth and well researched article.
    Angela Artemis recently posted..Take Control of Your Manifesting GenieMy Profile

    • Hi Angela,

      Yes, I think it is very exciting to watch how social media has played a huge part in the uprisings. It has pretty much given more power to the people to help balance the power between the rulers and the masses. A ruler without the support of his people is pretty much doomed anyway. I am sure the astrology behind these events must be very fascinating. After all, when the time is right, even the heavens will proclaim it.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

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