Fear of the Unknown

Yesterday I learned that I shall soon be having some surgery done, but because I have sarcoidosis (a funny disease which, among other things, makes breathing more difficult), it won’t be possible to have a general anaesthetic. Most of me is quite relaxed and happy about that. It’s just how it is. Part of me has gone into imaginative overdrive and envisioned all kinds of horrors which I won’t detail here. The truth is, I really don’t know what to expect and that is precisely when fear takes hold.

We don’t know what to expect in Egypt. Already the prophets of doom are stalking the land, talking about the death of democracy. Some may think Egyptian democracy too frail and delicate a growth to last, and that what has happened was no more than was to be expected. But it is certainly worrying. The fact that the army has stepped in to remove a democratically elected president should not be taken in isolation, however. The Muslim Brotherhood presided over by President Morsi appeared to western onlookers to be partial and profoundly undemocratic in many of its enactments — curtailing women’s rights, for example. To an outsider, it is not clear whether the army’s action should be interpreted as safeguarding or destroying the nascent Egyptian democracy. While we wait and hope (and, if we are believers, pray), we know the world will react with fear. Already oil prices are going up, for fear of what may happen. Western leaders are delicately trying to formulate ‘responses’ appropriate to any outcome, and who can blame them?

Perhaps we could use what is happening in Egypt as an opportunity to look at what we fear in our own lives. We may think we are not afraid of anything, but the chances are that some of our behaviour is driven by the need to assuage a doubt or placate a fear. The unkind word, the boorish gesture, the selfish act, the determination to have the last word — all may have their roots in some fear or insecurity we are reluctant to acknowledge. Honesty is just another step on the road to holiness, but it is one we all need to take.


Ideals versus Interests

Half the world has its eyes on Cairo at the moment, and there is every chance that this blog post will be overtaken by events. One aspect of the reporting which has fascinated me is the way in which it has shown the uneasy tension between the west’s ideals and interests. On the one hand, democracy is canonized; on the other, the west’s diplomatic and commercial interests seem paramount.

I’m not sure any western leader would really like to see a democratic Saudi Arabia (Osama bin Laden for President, anyone?) but it’s difficult to press purely selfish concerns in the light of what is happening in Egypt. Personally, I was much heartened by President Obama’s latest speech, in which he came down firmly on the side of his ideals. But he knows, as we all know, that if President Mubarak doesn’t go, he’s got to continue to work with him for many months. That is realpolitik, twenty-first century style.

To pray for our leaders, to pray for our governments, is no idle prayer.