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Gandhi, Mubarak, and Tough Talkers Who Eventually Slither Away
Feb. 14, 2011
My favorite propaganda film is Gandhi (1982). It was from the day I saw it. It is close to flawless.
That it does not do justice to Gandhi is obvious to anyone who has read Richard Grenier's The Gandhi Nobody Knows (1983). Among other personal quirks, Gandhi drank his own pee the way some people drink Gatorade. He was not your run-of-the-mill candidate for sainthood. Grenier's essay is here:
Two scenes apply to what I have to say here. First was the closing scene, where the camera focuses on the flowers scattered on the water. His voice-over assures us:
There have been tyrants and murderers -- and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it -- always . . . When you are in doubt that that is God's way, the way the world is meant to be . . . think of that.
The other scene occurred in a council chamber. Gandhi had been invited to discuss India's future.
GANDHI: All nations contain religious minorities. Like other countries, our will have its problems. (Flat, irrevocable) But they will be ours -- not yours.
Its finality is such that for a moment there is no response at all, but then the General smiles.
GENERAL: And how do you propose to make them yours? You don't think we're just going to walk out of India.
His smile flitters cynically on the mouths of the others on his side.
GANDHI: Yes . . . in the end you will walk out. Because one hundred thousand Englishmen simply cannot control three hundred fifty million Indians if the Indians refuse to co-operate. And that is what we intend to achieve -- peaceful, non-violent, non-co-operation.
He looks at them all, then up at Lord Chelmsford behind them.
GANDHI: Until you yourself see the wisdom of leaving . . . your Excellency.
And so they did in 1947. The British Raj ended.
Sadly, the non-revisionist movie did not spend time on how the transition process was sped up, with Viceroy Mountbatten's wife in the sack with Nehru -- where she remained, intermittently, for the next 13 years. Now, that was true British diplomacy: above and beyond the call of duty!
But the movie's point was well taken. Three years before it was released, Premier Deng announced the freeing up of Chinese agriculture, thereby launching the most rapid economic growth in mankind's history. Before the decade was over, the Berlin Wall fell. In 1991, the Soviet Union committed suicide. Only North Korea and Cuba remain as operational models of Marxism's new humanity and new world order.
If a picture is worth ten thousand words, then this satellite photo is worth a book.
This brings us to the departure of Hosni Mubarak. On Thursday evening, February 10, he announced to the world that he was not leaving office. The next day, someone announced for him that he had already departed for good. He sped away in a car to some resort city.
I am reminded of a deservedly little-known song by Arthur Godfrey in my youth. Its chorus:
Heap big smoke, but no fire.
Heap big smoke, but no fire.
Him talk lot, but him not so hot.
Heap big smoke, but no fire
In the months of January and February, two dictators were driven out of office by Facebook, Twitter, and Al Jazeera television. They lost control, leaving egg on the faces of Western Insiders, who like to think of themselves as on top of things. They were, too: a volcano.
Mubarak talked tough. He was tweeted out of office.
Mubarak told the demonstrators the terms of his departure. Then the army told him the terms of his departure.
The digital communications system sent the Insiders a message. It was a longer message than Twitter's 140 characters.
Mubarak on January 1, 2011, looked untouchable. He looked as solid as the Rock of Gibralter. Looks are deceiving.
Every civil government rests on self-government on the part of the masses. It rests on this assumption: the masses cannot communicate cheaply. They cannot get a message other than the Party Line, communicated in one-way pipelines. That world is now gone. The gatekeepers stand at the gates, but the walls are down.
In August 2009, I wrote an article: "Wikipedia and Google Will Bring Down Establishments All Over the World." I wrote this:
The gatekeepers can no longer control the flow of information. This has never happened in man's history. Gatekeepers still control the gates. But the walls have holes in them. These holes are widening.
The gatekeepers control accreditation. They no longer control content except where it is very expensive to do primary research, such as nuclear physics. In the social sciences and humanities, it's just about over.
When I think "Establishment," my mind goes back to Rocky III. Mr. T's character tells Apollo Creed, "you're going down."
If you find something worth posting, post it. Call this "post-it notes." It beats armed revolution every time.
I concluded with these words: "In short, if you find something evil that wobbles, push it."
In Tunisia and Egypt over the last month, a lot of people did just that.
The tough-talking tyrants are not talking tough this week. They seem not to be talking at all.
I think we will look back at the first two months of 2011 and think of other dates: 1947, 1989, 1991.
"You don't think we're just going to walk out." Yes, I do . . . or at least drive out.