Lessons learned from the purple finger revolution
The cascading changes of these last few months have been nothing if not dramatic. Whether it be purple fingers in Iraq or orange clothing in Ukraine or the Lebanese flag with its picture of a green cedar, it all seems part of a whole. The visuals are astounding; the naked hope and determination in the faces of the people are clear. The fact that these photos are coming from a part of the world many thought immune from the desire for freedom only make them more astouding, and more moving.
But what do they actually mean? I was talking with a friend yesterday who reminded me that the outcome is uncertain and civil war and other unspecified dire events may end up undoing all of this. And I agree--up to a point, that is.
We can't know the end result. But then, we never can. But no matter what happens, one thing can't be taken away, and that is the fact that these events have demonstrated--once and for all--something basic about human nature.
When the authors of the Declaration of Independence wrote "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." it was more an article of faith than anything else, because the right of liberty (and the desire for it) was not all that self-evident to most of the world. But the framers turned out to be prescient, because here is evidence that is so strong that I think it amounts to proof: human beings want and value liberty and self-determination. Even though these things are abstractions compared to basic needs such as food and water, they seem to represent another basic need, one of the human spirit.
The purple finger revolution that is spreading so swiftly right now might end up coming to naught, although I don't think so. But even if the Cassandras are right, and it ends in new repressions or civil war or dramatic terrorist carnage, there is no turning back from the knowledge of what we've witnessed ourselves, and that is the deep and virtually universal desire for liberty.
An added note: If you happen to have read my earlier post on intrapersonal change and how it occurs, I want to add that this knowledge about the desire for liberty has comes to us through images that affect us on both the cognitive and the emotional level, through observation. We view the photos and are moved; at the same time, we are processing them cognitively for what they mean, and we (even the NY Times) are changed as a result.
I believe that one of the reasons this "purple finger revolution" has been able to move with such rapidity is that the worldwide media are able to spread those images quickly and effectively to people who in years past would never have had access to them. These people see those images, do the same sort of processing, and come to their own changed conclusions: it's possible; we can do this, too. And, for those people who actually participate in the demonstrations or the elections, and directly experience their own newfound power, further personal change occurs not just through observation but through action. The whole thing is a feedback loop in which the observations and the attendent feelings and cognitions lead to action, and that action leads to other feelings and cognitions, which can in turn lead to changed beliefs and even further action.