Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Castaway and Cast Ahead

An overnight rain/sleet storm left a nice coating of ice on everything this morning. While it took me an extra 45 minutes to get through my route, I was still able to deliver all my papers despite the difficult driving conditions.

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail shall... Oh that's for postal workers, sorry.

This afternoon, I caught about an hour of the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. (Talk about the maturation of an actor. Does anybody else remember him in the TV sitcom Bosom Buddies?) There is a scene where he realizes that he is finally leaving the island that was his home for over 4 years, and as the profile of the island begins to fade away, I thought I detected a note of nostalgia, or at least tenderness for the island. At that moment, rather than feeling animosity towards a place from which he felt trapped, he seems to be experiencing a fondness for his soon to be ex-home.

At least that is what I thought. And it reminded me of the current unrest in Egypt. I am certainly no expert on Egypt. But I do know that this is a country which has had the same leadership (Hosni Mubarak) for just about 30 years. A country that is unlike most of its Arab neighbors in that they do not exhibit an outward hatred towards Israel. A country that has been an ally of the United States, again, unlike many Arab nations. A country where religion does not drive its politics. In so many ways, it is a country with traits that are not only more like the western world, but which we wish other countries in that region would emulate.

Yet, many of its people are unhappy.

One has to wonder if, once Mubarak is out of power and a new leadership takes hold if some of these same protesters will look back at the last 30 years with a hint of wistfulness just as Tom Hanks did as his makeshift raft drifted out to sea. Will this truly mark a turning point in the history of the country and prove to be a step forward towards an even more free society? Will the grass be greener on the other side?

Most likely, the change will be neither all good or all bad. I guess that is what makes change so hard to undertake, both on an individual or group level.

As an individual, there are the inevitable questions as to whether the change was for the best or if the old ways would have worked out eventually. Or worse, the desire for the time before the change, whether that change was adulthood, marriage, parenthood or simply old age, can sometimes dominate one's thinking to the point that no experience of the present can match what has come before. Unfortunately, so many of those memories are filtered to remove the unpleasant aspects so that they may be comfortable, they do not reflect reality.

The same can be said for those wishing for a return to the old days, as it relates to the country. It reminds me of a cartoon I once saw where the father was walking through knee deep snow while he told his son that he remembered when the snow used to be chest high. Of course, looking at his son, we see that the snow is chest high on him. So, when you hear someone pining for the old days, ask them what specific time frame they pine for? Invariably, you will find that it was a time when they were children or young adults with little responsibilities.

So, to the people of Egypt, I wish good luck with this history making change. Let's hope that as they cast away the old regime, they are able to make their new vision come true. But don't be surprised if there are Egyptians who look back on the days of Mubarak's reign with nostalgia. Especially when that nostalgia is rooted in a perceived stability that can come from 30 years of the same leader.

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