The headlines are dominated by the Egyptian protests. Many are lauding it as the spark that will bring democratic reforms to the country. Others show concern for the Muslim Brotherhood and their part in the uprising. Rationale can be found for either side of the argument. However, it is important to remember that no matter how noble an uprising begins, it relies upon the ability of its leaders to ensure the values being fought for are not forgotten.
Every great revolution, no matter what the size, is lead by a select few. Those willing to lead the charge into the uncertainty of the future with an unparalleled resolve. Sometimes these leaders are motivated by personal injustices. Other times they merely have the connections and wealth to capitalize on a movement they are not initially affected by. Whatever the motivations, it is important to remember the dangers of gaining too much power, too quickly.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
A warning not to be taken lightly when investing the power of a revolution into one person. While there are exceptions to every rule, (George Washington) there are many more examples where those who gain power via revolution become as despotic and corrupt as those who inspired the uprising in the first place. Perhaps this is merely a side effect of having the blind ambition needed to lead such an agent of cataclysmic change. However, if one allows this corruption to continue unabated all that was fought for will be lost.
Does this mean all revolutions are doomed to fail? History would tell us no. Consider the American Revolution. While maybe not as pure and noble as we are lead to believe in grade school, the simple fact remains that it lead to the end of colonial rule and a steady march towards true democracy. What was the key to its success? Was it not lead by a handful of dynamic leaders? Perhaps it was the decision by one of America’s most revered presidents, George Washington, to give up his seat of power in order to preserve the ideals he believed in.
Maybe then the key to a successful revolution lies on the willingness of its leaders to abdicate power. Resisting the call of power in favor of preserving the ideas behind the cause. It may not be simple, but most things of value are not. The path to true positive change may be long and difficult, but being willing to cede the fruits of victory for the greater good takes a level of inner strength and perseverance rarely seen.