There’s something peculiar going on in the halls of power these days. A few years ago I wrote a post titled “We Revolt Because We Are Leaderless”. I was reflecting upon the strange anonymity that characterized the Arab Spring. Those were not the epic rebellions of the powerful figures we all know: Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, John Garang, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Boris Yeltzin and the list goes on. Instead the springtime rebels were anonymous – bloggers and fruit vendors and cartoonists and students who’d had enough and who at long last finally came together to defy their tormentors. The elites of their countries responded – ratcheting up political and police pressure and the spring sputtered out.
And we thought it was over.
Little did we know that the spring would make it to our shores. The governing class, our own elites – those who comfortably swagger through the halls of power – are these days frantically circling their own wagons. Today the Nobel Peace Committee gave that most coveted prize to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos. Forget that the Colombian people had just said “NO!!!” to that stillborn project. Forget that they saw through the façade that their ‘leaders’ were attempting to foist upon them and stood against those who would usher their country into another period of instability and misery. The Nobel Committee didn’t care. It’s almost like they acted out of spite, the most eloquent “F&%# You!” possible to the Colombian people – a nation that had the courage to defy the world. Putting aside the Olympian struggles for freedom that the Nobel Prize was supposed to enshrine; what they ended up with this year was the commemoration of an “E” for effort on the part of one of their own. It wasn’t going to end the war – everybody knew this. That was never the point. They needed a ‘win’, those who pretend they know better. This was going to be it; and they are angry.
This hasn’t been their only blunder. Those who would rule are having a rough time of it these days. #Brexit, Donald Trump, the Hungary referendum. People who cannot properly identify gender, who cannot name a religious idea that terrorizes their citizens, and who are unable (or unwilling) to understand the angst of their commoners are having difficulty telling the world that they are competently in charge.
The world is in a restive, belligerent state, isn’t it? Frustrated. Disappointed. Deceived. The international order is fraying. Debt, war, violence – and that bizarre assault on common sense that leaves the ‘common’ man perplexed.
All this has happened before. The American Revolution, the French Revolution. Hell, even the Bolivarian revolution. Moments when ordinary people finally stand, anonymously, and call “bullshit” on the nonsense they see around them. These times have never presaged ease for those who love so much to go to Davos and Zurich and Geneva. And this has made them anxious.
Back to the Nobel Prize. I’m only disappointed because I live in this wide world, in hard places, and I know of so many folks who fight the darkness and who deserved the prize. Lorent Saleh, a young Venezuelan student activist being tortured in “The Tomb”, who President Santos – today’s celebrity – expelled from Colombia to win favor with Venezuela for his ill-conceived peace project. The “White Helmets” – those remarkable Syrian men and women who scale buildings and dig through rubble to find babies still alive after Bashar Al Assad’s barrel bombs level whole neighborhoods. “Ensemble Nous Sommes Un Peuple” – that organization of young Malian activists who actually helped achieve a peace deal with the restive Tuaregs in the north and ended a civil war. Grand people, fighting for what is right at great personal expense, outside of expensive Presidential palaces and with no hopes of a shiny medal for their troubles.
All this to say, those who pretend to rule us should remember, occasionally, that we are a great people – we common men who fight for liberty. That we know better, and that we are not easily fooled. While they might not know our names, and they might think we are insignificant – it is to us that the world is turning.