December 31, 2011

REALISING IS THE HARD PART:

Twenty years later, Havel's model still has lessons for the Middle East (Greg Bruno, Jan 1, 2012 , The National)

But if the Velvet Revolution has anything to tell us about change in the Middle East and North Africa, it's that revolutions - quick to begin - can be agonisingly slow to play out. Tossing out old leaders or reshuffling the political order is act one. Revolutionary change requires deep and painful reflection, and decades of effort.

It is now more than 20 years since the former Czechoslovakia finally dismantled the communist apparatus. And yet, many Czechs are only now becoming aware of what they inherited. Income disparity is increasing, and many families worry about food prices, taxes and high rents - inequality that communism in theory protected against. "It's all new to us," one young mother told me on this recent trip. [...]

Of course, Arabs have grown more interested in Havel's work and his views on despotism, democracy and freedom. Many in the Middle East are now comparing the Czech uprising with Arab protests, and particularly the fact that communism fell without a single bullet being fired.

Havel, too, wondered what "good" would come of his nation's revolution. Twenty-two years ago today, the former president addressed his six-week old state with a dose of reality. "We cannot blame the previous rulers for everything," he said, "not only because it would be untrue, but also because it would blunt the duty that each of us faces today: namely, the obligation to act independently, freely, reasonably and quickly."

"If we realise this," Havel went on, "then all the horrors that the new Czechoslovak democracy inherited will cease to appear so terrible."
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Posted by at December 31, 2011 8:47 AM
  

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