Democracy

Just wanted to post something brief ahead of the next Junta. Like all of you I’m sure I’ve been following the events in Iran closely. I keep hearing the words Velvet Revolution thrown out in terms of the Iranian government’s fears that they will be pushed aside in a wave of liberal protests. But I wonder when a revolution loses its “velvet” character? Some might say that as long as it is a popular uprising and not an insurgent-led effort to topple a government, if the crowd has broadly humanist, universal values at the center of its demands than it can be called that. But does one death change that velvet tag? 10 deaths? 100? I had a hard time squaring the term Velvet Revolution with what was going in Iran after I saw the image of Neda dying on screen from a sniper bullet to the heart. The Czech’s revolution may have had a bit of violence in the early stages as protesters confronted security forces, but the state largerly crumbled as resolute protesters stood their ground. Not so in Iran which has showed a Chinese-like willingness to attack it’s own people. For those of you who haven’t seen the video, here it is:

http://www.inquisitr.com/26835/video-neda-iran-one-life-lost-for-a-greater-cause/

I hope Roger Cohen wins a Pulitzer for his reporting out of Tehran, which has been essential, here is a particularly good piece, which references the Velvet Revolution:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/16/opinion/16iht-edcohen.html?pagewanted=1&sq=velvet%20revolution&st=cse&scp=2

The next Junta will be timely with all this in mind. I keep thinking about how the Chinese are reacting to these events, apparently (no surprise) very cautiously, with chary coverage in the Chinese press. In recent years visiting places like Singapore versus the Philippines, watching elections in the Middle East that produce governments led by hateful Islamists, and generally feeling frustrated with the class of politicians (see Governor Sanford for the latest) that we have leading us, I have felt interested in societies like Singapore and China¬†that function with general freedom but limited public space for political expression. I don’t want to live there, but am fascinated by their success and the bargains that are made between people and government (prosperity in exchange for giving up political participation). But the events in Iran remind us that these things can be overturned quickly and people do not want to be kept in a box. And if democracy has taken some lumps with the rise of China, the snail’s pace of reform in Europe, and the 2000 election in the US, we now have a president in the US that we can be proud of, one who got it totally right when he quoted Martin Luther King to describe how the unrest in Iran has an uncertain outcome but that¬†” the moral arch of the universe is long but it bends towards justice”.

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