Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Dying to speak

I've just finished reading a book about the European revolutions of 1989, when Communist regimes crumbled one after one in Eastern and central Europe. I lived through that period, albeit in a Western democracy, and the account revived memories. As a History graduate, it struck me very strongly that nothing like this had happened anywhere since the European revolutions of 1848, which were spread by railways above all else (and those of 1989 by TV and radio, while the "Arab Spring" was hugely influenced by the internet. The 1848 revolutionaries' successes were mostly very short-lived. While many of the new governments ran into trouble and people became disillusioned, none of the countries involved have returned to anything like the old system and in all of them except Romania democracy seems reasonably secure.

People faced hounding from their jobs (OK, not to unemployment, but a professor could end up as a cleaner), were imprisoned, beaten up and killed for their beliefs and their refusal to give up. Families were deliberately and insidiously wrecked.

So those of us who never had to risk death or disgrace to speak our mind or vote in a free election shouldn't take these things lightly or say they are of no value.

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