“There is no greater power than the power of the word.”
Yogi teabag tag
In the Bible’s Book of Joshua, the walls of Jericho come tumbling down after seven days, destroyed by trumpets and human voices raised to stone-shattering pitch. Just recently, a long-entrenched government in Egypt came tumbling down and it looks as if more will follow — the domino effect in action.
With all that’s happening half way round the world, it was amazing to me to read that much of turmoil that’s occurring may have been triggered by a slim volume with fewer than 100 pages called From Dictatorship to Democracy. Written by a fellow named Gene Sharp who’s now in his 80s, it is a practical handbook on promoting non-violent revolution that has gone viral. It can be downloaded on the Internet in 24 languages and it’s inspired activists from Burma to Bosnia.
One Egyptian blogger active in the recent revolt said that excerpts of Sharp’s work were translated into Arabic and that his strategy of “attacking weaknesses of dictators” was a concept that activists in Egypt took to heart in their planning. After extensive research into the dynamics of successful non-violent uprisings, Sharp came to believe that achieving freedom in the face of autocracy takes careful strategy and painstaking planning.
Peaceful protest is most effective because, “If you fight with violence, you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave, but dead hero.” The youth leaders in Egypt got this message loud and clear. They may have been tweeting and facebooking their way to freedom, but one of their trusted handbooks was written decades ago by a guy who rarely goes on the Internet, doesn’t have a Facebook page, can’t tweet, and can barely send an email. But none of this matters. His words are ricocheting around the world. Ideas have power and words are their currency — their medium of exchange. They can topple the walls of Jericho or an Egyptian autocrat. Something to think about as we write.