“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.”
~ William Shakepeare
by Seth Eisenberg
Academics and historians are already writing the story of what led to the end of the vacation from history, as New York Time’s columnist Tom Friedman called it this morning, that trapped millions of people in the Arab world in societies in which the promise and potential of their lives was long hijacked by regimes more like Mafia families then the institutions of democracy.
With the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorial rule over the people of Egypt quickly after the flight of Tunisia’s Ben Ali, masses of protesters continue taking their sadness, pain, and anger to the Arab streets throughout Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Libya while rulers in Iran, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East huddle with security forces to plan how they’ll react when similar unrest erupts.
Although there is much left to learn about what inspired the courage that brought millions of long oppressed people to the streets, the power of communication is clearly at the heart of the end to the vacation from history.
When Aljazeera began broadcasting satellite television to the Arab world in 1996, it’s doubtful the network’s sponsors in Qatar fully imagined the impact they would have just 15 years later. While Aljazeera correspondents are often criticized for an anti-Western bias, the satellite news service went far beyond the closely censored dispatches of reporters in Arab countries who knew that a critical report of their government could mean the end of their careers, imprisonment, or execution.
The combination of Aljazeera and increasing access to the Internet made it possible for millions of people in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula to discover much more about the world around them then carefully scripted national reports and regime-approved textbooks had previously allowed.
While the more open flow of information inspired debate and dreams in living rooms, cafes and coffee shops, the ability to mobilize and communicate among the masses became possible through Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites dreamed up by youngsters in America as people in the Arab world finally had the chance to widely discuss and coordinate activities. Earlier this week, more than 90,000 Egyptians pledged their support for a single event via Facebook, which claims to have more than five million members in Egypt alone.
Four hundred years ago, William Shakespeare said, “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.”
Although that message and the tools to widely communicate, coordinate, and mobilize may have taken four centuries to reach the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Iran and elsewhere where life’s potential is so often stolen by the rule of monarchs, dictators and other brutal regimes, the images today captured from the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and throughout the region show the power of that message in action.
Within our own homes, families and communities, it is a message also worth embracing. Whether the sorrow beckoning for understanding comes from the mouth of a child, sibling, lover, spouse or neighbor, learning to make it safe for others to confide, dream and pursue the potential of their lives deserves all of our attention. For those of us blessed to live within the freedom of democracy, it shouldn’t take protests, uprising, separations, or traumatic events to inspire us to both hear and heed the sorrows of others.
Seth Eisenberg is President of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation in Weston, Florida, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.