Media training travels recently took me to Cairo, Egypt and I found myself in Tahrir Square, home of the revolution protests a few years ago. I spent enough time in Egypt to know that there are no easy answers to their political troubles. In the video above, you see me standing in front of a burned out government high rise building next to the national art museum in the center of town. It’s now been a few years and the building remains a burned out shell. To me, this is the ultimate symbol of how a public will communicate with its government if that government doesn’t allow peaceful demonstration and a free media.
It can be dangerous projecting one’s own societal and media norms on another culture, but I do think that human beings are hard-wired to want to be able to speak out and be heard. And if this desire is snuffed out unnaturally for long enough, the desire to be heard will leak out in other, more violent forms.
Not every society has to have the same parliament or congressional/presidential setup as the United States or Great Britain, but it’s becoming increasingly harder for governments around the world to stifle opinions, dissents, and alternative viewpoints from its citizens. This burned out shell in Egypt is a perfect reminder of what happens when government uses its power to control people.
Every government leader I know would love to be able to control dissent. Unfortunately, any short term gains by doing so can be met with long term punishments that are much more disruptive that the occasional one day press conference, demonstration or troll-like hate comment.