“Courage is not the Absence of Fear, but the Mastery of It.”
- Mark Twain
The transfixing images from Liberation Square in Cairo this past week connect with that deepest, most sensitive piece of all of us that wants to believe, that needs to believe that the future will be better than the past and it is in our power to make it so.
As with most acts of out-of-the-box thinking and courage, the Egyptian freedom fighters are mostly young and disproportionately well-educated.
And while the concept of Tunisia and Egypt being ‘Twitter” revolutions is over-stated, it is true that easy media connectivity has greatly accelerated organized action on long-held social and political discontents.
It is this speed and momentum that is most exhilarating. In a matter of days, a corrupt power structure in place for over 30 years has been brought to its knees.
As for the momentum, it is no accident that in the past 50 years more than 65 formerly despotic regimes have progressed to “civil” societies – with reasonably fair and democratic elections, and freedom of the press and assembly.
And while despots still have those age-old tools of repression – secret police, wonton arrests in the night, torture – their days are numbered.
Why? Well, the Egyptian regime’s attempted and failed crackdown on both media coverage and social connectivity illustrates the increasing impossibility of “keeping a lid” on things.
This is not because of any great upward evolution of basic human wiring, which still remains a combustible mix of win-win idealism and violent, zero-sum fight or flight.
No, it is far easier and more sustainable than that.
In the end, freedom for all is the almost certain future because it is economically unsustainable for it to be otherwise.
Quite simply, free societies are wealthy societies and unfree societies are not.
Now many of you reading this are about to pop off and shout that China has $2.5 trillion in foreign currency reserves so what about that – i.e. China is wealthy and unfree.
But au contraire!
The history of China’s rise coincides exactly with the liberalization of its society.
As for those remaining very stiff shackles on Chinese life? Well, it is a massive testament to the entrepreneurship and work ethic of the Chinese people that they are prospering in spite of these shackles and in no way because of them.
But not for long. The entropic pressures are too great, the aspirations of young people too profound, and most urgently, the demands of the modern economy too fundamental for freedom to not ring everywhere, and much sooner than most of us can even dream.
You see, because of Google and Facebook and Twitter, et al, we have progressed far beyond an information economy.
We now live in a global, idea economy.
And who will the winners be in this new economy? In his excellent book “The Global Achievement Gap,” author Tony Wagner flags seven crucial skills to look for:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurship
- Effective oral and written communication
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Curiosity and imagination
As a father of 3 and 4 year old boys, just reading this list gives me goose bumps. Both for my sons and because I know that parents worldwide want this for their children too.
AND the children want to be like this, too - just watch them play if you have any doubt!
It is young people with qualities like this that are changing Egypt.
AND it is people of all ages all around the world with qualities like this that are driving and leading our modern, global economy.
And everyday in everyway it just gets more so.
And we’re all better for it.
Now I am going to Walk Like an Egyptian.
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