2011 is turning into a fascinating year in the Middle East. So far public protests have unseated two entrenched dictatorial powers in Tunisia and in Egypt. These two events alone are astounding, unexpected and breathtaking. Six months ago who would have believed that these two regimes would have fallen? Now there are huge demonstrations happening in Libya and Bahrain, where there have been large numbers of unconfirmed deaths. Amazingly the stranglehold of power by Colonel Gaddafi in Libya is looking tenuous, with reports that one major city has fallen to the rebels. Gaddafi has appeared on TV to squash rumours that he had fled the country. Protests are now also breaking out in Morocco and one report I read suggested that, amazingly, Saudi Arabia could be next in line. Dictators all over the world must be sleeping in their clothes, ready for a knock at the door.
Much like the slightly crazy neo-conservatives in the USA predicted at the time of the Iraq invasion, some believe that democracy is beginning to flower all over the Middle East. Or is it? Can we have any confidence in who will replace these regimes? Will the military in Egypt hand over power to people who are popularly elected? What if those elected represent the forces of fundamentalist Islam, intent on the introduction of Sharia Law? Many of us remember the overthrow of a corrupt dictatorship in Iran in the seventies, only to be replaced with a form of Islamic totalitarianism that has plunged a rich and cultured nation into darkness. And we also remember the excitement of the almost overnight collapse of the Iron Curtain and the destruction of the USSR in the late eighties. What followed in many of those countries was a period of lawlessness, replaced in time by more corruption and the rise of a ruling class dominated by organized crime. In much of the old Soviet Union things have changed but not always for the better. Will the Middle East fare any better this time?
Change is inevitable. Despots do have their day. But we should not be fooled by some form of latent lazy philosophical darwinianism that assumes humanity is on an uninterrupted path of improvement, freedom and betterment. History warns us that sometimes things can get much worse.
We are called to live with much uncertainty. Uncertainty in politics is a certainty - just ask Kevin Rudd. Longevity in power does not overcome insecurity. At a personal level, very few things in our lives are as certain as we think they are. Relationships at their best unexpectedly end in all sorts of ways. Health radiates all the beauty of a spring flower, but like a flower can fade before our eyes. Even our favourite bookshops may not be in business for long, reminding us that their vouchers are little more than a temporary promise.
Faced with uncertainty we are called to make the most of today, our most underrated gift. Somehow we must not allow yesterday's regrets, pains, disappointments and disasters to overwhelm today. Planning and preparation for tomorrow is good but there is no point putting too much store in tomorrow’s insecure promises.
Today is our blessing – a blessing to be savoured, treasured and lived.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6: 34