Two who ruled too long.
I've been following the news out of Egypt with a great deal of interest and concern. One of my biggest concerns was how the army would react once the police were pulled off the streets. It seems the army has elected not to fire on it's own people. That is a very good thing and I pray this continues.
Some of the on site news reports I've watched have chalked up this restraint to the US indicating the Egyptian military would suffer serious consequences to it's US military aid should they fire on their own people. If this is true, and I suspect it is, it is as much a message to President Mubarak as it is the army. The US will not support Mubarak against the will of his people and the US is getting that message across via the military rather than official diplomatic channels since officially the US is still supporting another one of 'our dictators' in the Middle East.
When I think of such large scale demonstrations, I can't help but appreciate the fact the US has had a number of this kind of mega demonstration and for the most part these have been totally peaceful. At least they have been since the turbulent sixties. So it isn't as if putting one million protesting people together need result in violence and human carnage, and there is no question that such a huge protest makes a powerful statement.
I've also had some other thoughts, and one of those was how debilitating it can be for a country to be under the control of one man and his cronies for the length of time Mubarak has been in control in Egypt. In the thirty years Mubarak has been the Egyptian president the US has seen six different presidents with 12 years of Democratic rule and 18 of Republican. Maybe it wasn't always change we could believe in, but it was change, and it came frequently enough that not all hope was lost. Thirty years is just too long.
But I also realized I have actually undergone a very similar lengthy rule and it has been just as hope deflating for me as Mubarak has been for Egyptians. That rule was JPII's rule over Catholicism and now by extension Pope Benedict's. Egyptians have accused Mubarak of surrounding himself with yes men who won't tell him what he doesn't want to hear. The same has also been said of JPII, especially in the latter half of his reign. As an example even Benedict has alluded to the fact while head of the CDF he was unable to convince JPII or his inner circle to move on clerical sexual abuse. If JPII wanted to believe it was a gay Anglo problem then by golly, that's what it was. End of discussion. Unfortunately not all reality conforms to the wishes of monarchical rulers, no matter how long they reign. Dictating reality doesn't make it reality.
I got to wondering- hypothetically speaking -which if any country might actually revolt and take to the streets over the thirty some years of JPII's notion of 'reform of the reform'. I suspect it would be a country like the Phillipines where the hierarchy is highly political and wields undue pressure on politicians. It's also a place where the legal enforcement of the Catholic sexual moral code is exacerbating the level of poverty and hopelessness. It's also a place where JPII had his share of photo ops with the Marcos's. JPII had a penchant for sharing his concert stage with dictators, which is not surprising given the mindset of 'paternal' dictators and their mutual attitudes towards their children.
The demographics in Egypt are really amazing when I think about them. Sixty percent of the population is under thirty with ninety percent unemployment amongst the college educated. Those are not statistics which spell hope for the sustainable future of Egypt. Lose the allegiance of the twenty somethings, frustrate them and their hopes, and you have lost their children and their childrens' children.
Catholicism has a similar problems. The Vatican has spent more than thirty years frustrating hope for change in the clerical nature of the church. Forget ideas about transparency and accountability and avenues for hearing the sensus fidelium, under the JPII brigade the church can't even make progress on a married priesthood. The message has come loud and clear: better millions of lost laity than one married priest in the Roman rite. That's an incredibly stupid message. But as far as women are concerned, the really stupid message is to keep promoting excommunication for the ordination of a women, but not for the male priest who rapes a woman's child. Actually, that is beyond incredibly stupid. Lose the women and with the women their children, and the church as a viable institution is thoroughly cooked.
In short, their are real lessons for the Vatican in what is transpiring in Egypt. There is such a thing as killing hope by over staying in a long reign of autocratic and unresponsive governing. Failure to address problems does not make them go away just because a given dictator dictates so. Eventually the 'simple' people choose to move on. The question is will Benedict and company be any better at getting these lesson than President Mubarak. If history is any indication, I doubt it.