Kind and humble people are putting their lives on the line for change.
Taghyeer is the Arabic word for change. Maybe it is not the perfect word for the type of change that is sweeping through North Africa and the Middle East, but it is as close as I could get.
My brief exposure to Arabic and Berber cultures in Morocco gave me a glimpse of the humanity and strengths of these people. Today I worry about the people that I met and the friends that I made. While Morocco has not been the center of the tumult, its society has been strained. There have been calls for change.
In other countries the demands for change have produced heroism, tragedy, violence, passion, hatred, love, patriotism, tribalism, destruction, confrontation, reconciliation, capitulation, terror, and jubilation. They have shown us the entire range of human interaction and emotion.
They have captured our imaginations. Pious, quiet elders have stood at the barricades next to mothers, doctors, scientists, unemployed people, and emerging young thinkers. In other places the confrontations have been violent and grisly.
These are old traditional cultures and I am sure that there are many opinions about what should be changed and what is unchangeable.
Young people have grown into leaders motivated by a profound belief in the justness of their cause. They have communicated and organized despite institutional and technological barriers and threats. They strive for freedom and opportunity, but built on traditions and values that they share with their elders. Entire multi-generational families stand in the squares together. They don’t want to tear down their countries. They want to build them up and make them better.
We don’t know how these changes will turn out. Core human values will continue in these ancient cultures. There will be failures and sadness. There will be new freedoms and fulfillment. New leaders will have a lifetime of work ahead to plan and build a different society. Some defining traditions will not change.
The strength of their yearning for change can be felt around the world.
It is a time of peril and celebration, sometimes on the same street.