Huh? What? Cairo’s falling? According to AlterNet, there’s “Breaking News: Cairo’s Falling!”.
OK. Tunisia fell. I don’t even exactly know where Tunisia is. I feel dumb not knowing about Tunisia, but there’s only so much a person can know while still dealing with the chaos that is regular family life, more snow than we’ve ever had, keeping a job, and being a good citizen by keeping up on the news.
But, as a reasonably intelligent and busy person, I know where Egypt is, I know that’s it’s frequently on the news, I know that Hosne Mubarak is it’s president, or prime minister or whatever they have there. It’s not a radical Muslim country with screaming terrorists in the streets — or it wasn’t yesterday. It’s not a corrupt, evil power that we’re worried about — or it wasn’t yesterday. Mubarak wasn’t a well-known dictator who suppressed or made disappear thousands of people. Just yesterday, or two days ago, there was this stable government somewhere in the middle-east that had an incredible history, a booming tourist trade which went to see the incredible history, and so on. Today, apparently, there’s fighting in the streets, a curfew, the congress or whatever they have there is “sacked” and the world over there is nuts.
Part of me feels like I should seen this coming. Then the other part of me thinks, “what part of ‘they were stable and ok’ makes me think I should have seen this coming”? There’s only so much a person can cope with and — in the information age — we (or at least I) begin to think we should be up on all of it. It’s enough to drive a person insane, but it doesn’t have to be.
One month ago, as the ball fell on Times Square, there was enough to worry about. There was recession here, failing markets around the world, a new Congress coming in, a president I supported apparently “dead in the water” as a leader. there was Iraq and Afghanistan, North Korea, trade deficits with China and human rights violations all over the world. Would I have predicted the greatest snowfall in a month on record? No. A bad winter, yes, but a winter like this? Not even. Would I have predicted birds just falling from the sky? No. Would I have predicted the fall of Tunisia? No. Had I heard of Tunisia? Yes. Did I care about Tunisia? No. It wasn’t a threat to me.
So now, Egypt is in trouble and I feel troubled that I wasn’t well-informed enough to see it coming. Does Cairo’s apparent revolution effect me? Not yet, and not directly. Heck, even if I lived there, I couldn’t have seen it coming, I think, any more than I could have foreseen guys in planes crashing into towers years ago or earthquakes happening in the middle of the World Series before that.
Quinnipiac University here in Connecticut has a global studies program I’m familiar with and people that study there probably know a lot more than I did about the subject. Would more global studies education have helped? Not that I can tell in this situation — at least in advance. Will it make a great deal of difference in sorting out what it means? You bet it will. People in those classes will have a much better understanding than I will of whether Egypt’s troubles are a problem for me or not — and what to do about it if they are.
But all the understanding in the world, all the quest for knowledge that we have, doesn’t mean we know everything and\or should. In the old days, before internet, TV, radio, or newspapers, countries rose and fell and people here never knew about it. Amazingly, they survived. Somewhere along the way, we began to assume that knowledge meant control. We began to assume that we could control everything and that control is the most important thing in life. So, now when we feel out of control even the slightest bit, we seek more knowledge — more analysis, more pictures, more detail so that we don’t ever have to feel out of control again.
But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we should just get used to the fact that we don’t and can’t control everything. Maybe we should accept that we don’t know everything, even if we want to. Maybe we could try controlling what we can instead of trying, as limited human beings that we are, to control everything. Fear doesn’t help us. Choosing to fear because we can’t understand — and somehow having more to fear — is one more example of the poor choices we make — choices that don’t work for us.
Let’s save some energy for “rolling with the punches” that inevitably come, rather than always trying to see them coming in our world. Let’s turn off the media at some point in our day. Let’s live in the world we actually live in. We can’t do that forever or we’ll end up being isolated people who only care about themselves. But, today I’m aware that we need a little more balance between control and acceptance, our heads and our hearts. Just a thought.