I was glued to the television every night from the “day of rage” on Jan. 25 to Feb. 11, as an anti-government protest in Egypt morphed into a full-blown revolution that ended the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak. Since Jan. 25, days of rage have erupted across the Arab world and in other parts of the globe, with unarmed men, women and children pitting themselves against some of the most repressive regimes and some of the most dehumanizing dictates.
It’s hard to believe that all this was inspired by what has become known as the “Jasmine” revolution in Tunisia, a revolution that began on Dec. 17 when Mohammed Bonazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed university graduate trying to support his family by selling fruits and vegetables in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, doused himself in paint thinner and set himself on fire after police confiscated his cart because he lacked a permit and beat him up. The Jasmine revolution ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14 and didn’t let up until Jan. 27, when the last diehards from Ben Ali’s cabinet were pushed off the scene and a government acceptable to the people of Tunisia settled into place. “Peace is costly,” says an African proverb, “but it is worth the expense.”
Such is the nature of change: unrecognizable in the simplicity of its beginnings, it first disquiets, then terrifies as it gathers force before quietly disappearing into an accepted normalcy. In the United States, too, change is roiling the social, economic and political landscape — some of it good, some of it ominous, depending on which side of change you stand.
Through their words, wiser heads than mine have bequeathed to us an understanding of change — how it works, how it affects our present and our future, how to handle it and why it must be respected and accepted. Here’s a sample:
“When the music changes, so does the dance.” — An African proverb.
“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” — Edmund Burke, 18th-century British political writer and statesman.
“All meaningful and lasting change starts first in your imagination and then works its way out. Imagination is more important than knowledge.” — Albert Einstein, German-born American physicist. (Yes, an immigrant).
“America is the civilization of people engaged in transforming themselves. In the past, the stars of the performance were the pioneer and the immigrant. Today, it is youth and the Black.” — Harold Rosenberg, 20th-century American art critic and author. (The imprint of youth — Facebook and Twitter — is plastered all over today’s most tumultuous changes. Consider the social network organization that helped to catapult Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States, the first African-American to occupy that position. Consider, too, the revolution in Egypt, deemed the first to be simultaneously televised, Facebooked and tweeted.)
Finally, “Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life eight years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things I would no longer accept in my life, all the things I would no longer tolerate and all the things that I aspired to becoming.” — Anthony Robbins, current American author, peak performance expert and consultant.
Pointless to fear or resist change, isn’t it?