It’s one thing to bring about a revolution; it’s quite another to bring about revolutionary change.
There are people dying, even as we speak, on the streets of the Middle East. Mohammed Bouazizi of Tunisia set himself on fire, and in one fell swoop, set the entire region ablaze. But to what end?
Like Martin Luther King, the man on the street has a dream. And his dream is not all that difficult to fathom. He wants the dignity of a decent job, and the freedom to live his life as he wishes. Are these aspirations in the cards for him, or will his dream be left in the dust, in the flurry of competing agendas?
One can only imagine what must be happening now behind closed doors, in the halls of political power; what promises are being made; what deals are being cut. When the dust settles, will the voices of the dead be heard?
Several possibilities come to mind. The old guard may find a way to reassert its grip on power, only in a new guise. Alternatively, the ideological extremists, who believe what they want to believe, could use the ballot box to gain control, only to impose a new regime of oppressive rule. Iran, after all, enjoyed a few months of democratic rule, after the fall of the Shah, only to usher in the Ayatollahs, who had a different idea in mind. One man, one vote, one time. Or so the motto goes. And finally, although there are no guarantees, it may actually be possible, this time around, to institute revolutionary change, the change that gives life to the aspirations of the people, and that does justice to the legacy of the dead.
What can be done to give substance to the hopes of the people? Three things. First, we should recognize the opportunity that exists for meaningful change. Second, we should embrace a vision which allows us to take advantage of that opportunity. And third, we should find a mechanism that allows us to give substance to the vision. In this way, we can finally make real what is now only a dream.
The opportunity that exists for real change in the Middle East comes from the fact that many of the key players are beginning to worry about the same kinds of things, and may actually need one another for a change, to stave off these very common existential threats. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” For example, many Arab leaders worry about two things in particular: the threat from a nuclear Iran, and the threat from the man on the street. These common threats could point to common interests, what I call a mosaic of mutual self-interest,
which could in turn be used to create a strategic/economic alliance
between the Arab states, Israel, the U.S., and Europe. The alliance will focus primarily on two things: providing security for the region and creating good paying jobs; jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which weaken the hold of extremist thinking.
What sort of a vision will be required to take advantage of the opportunity that exists for real change? It should be a Vision of Hope
for the Middle East, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom
. It will be a vision which puts together all the pieces of a possible solution to our most intractable problems—the Economy, the Environment and Extremism
—which packages those pieces in the most attractive way possible, and which allow us to sell that package to the man on the street. It will be a vision which inspires a sense of hope, and which delivers on that promise by giving everyone in the region a place at the table, a stake in his or her future. And it will be a vision which is complete, in that it addresses all the needs and aspirations of the people, from every point of view possible.
And what mechanism can best give substance to a Vision of Hope
? Certainly, political leaders will be needed, who recognize the needs and aspirations of the people, and who know how to translate those intangibles into hard realities. But in addition, and perhaps even more importantly, business leaders will be needed as well, Billionaires for Peace
, who will work behind the scenes to push the peace process forward, and to revitalize the entire region with good paying jobs, moderate candidates and requisite institutions. These visionaries will put in place a new model for the Middle East, a model that inspires a sense of hope, and that delivers on that promise.
More than any other group, it is perhaps the business community which is best positioned, most qualified, and most inclined to turn the Middle East around, and to do justice to the memory of the dead, by giving life to the aspirations of the living.
Please join us at www.sellingavisionofhope.org