Monday, May 30, 2011


Cairo. On a day in the last days of May, along the banks of the Nile as it winds peacefully through New Egypt, blossoms of Arab Spring are scattered in clear sight. Billboards, roadside signs, flags, all stand tall declaring this a nation of, for, and with its people. A distinct feeling of Spring is in the air. While millions of weaving cars sputter out gusts of gray exhaust in one of the world's most populated and polluted cities, still one can sense a freshness.

The presence of Spring blossoms has occurred, however, as a result of the rains. Storms and showers have made the blossoms come to life. Evidence of the uprising - burnt out buildings, broken sidewalks, spray-painted messages on shop exteriors, central squares and locations still feeling haunted by dramatic events leading up to 25.01.11 - appear like bolts of lightning on the otherwise visually calm landscape.

Today they are symbols of possibility, of responsibility, of unity and of youth-lead democracy. One man. One thought. And soon it was one million. A desire to own the future, a better future, gave birth to a movement that soon created an uprising beyond expectation and imagination. And beyond reversal.

Today, scattered about the streets of Cairo, their presence, while painful in ways, inspires. Because these are the proof of the power of conviction. These are the symbols of what it means to take a stand.

The concept of ‘taking a stand’ is not new. The presence of its sentiment being turned into world-shaping action, however, seems to have taken on a new life. With increasing frequency, issues are increasing in voice, mobilizing millions to have an impact. The power of an individual to take a stand as been unleashed to unprecedented levels as a result of our now e-connected world. Soon, communities (be they connected through social networks, coffee tables or otherwise) have become movements. These movements have become uprisings. In many cases, as recently seen in Egypt, these uprisings have become forces which have had the power to change the shape of the world around us, philosophically, politically, and otherwise.

Still, for all of its momentum, the greatest power of taking a stand comes from one individual seeking to break a silence of a perceived ‘wrong’. The fire of conviction, the courage to say something, creates attention which not only builds awareness – it gives others the courage to stand up alongside, creating increased awareness and infectious inspiration, to the point that it simply undeniable, unavoidable, and unstoppable.

Why courage? Because more often than not the issues which inspire people to take a stand are those that make others uncomfortable. They are risky. Standing up may risk one’s safety, image, acceptability or position. And this may be at individual or collective level.

One recent example of a corporation displaying courage in taking a stand is CNN. Launched in early 2011, the CNN Freedom Project By building awareness around the breadth and depth of the issue of modern-day slavery, worldwide, CNN seeks to inspire courage in audiences around the world to take a stand against an issue which has, for years, been growing undetected or denied, as a tumor in societies across the world.

To do this, for a corporation to take a stand at such a massive scale, is a reflection of the strength of conviction of the network. That, in its own way, is inspirational.

And as seen through the number of corporations, politicians, celebrities, and viewers CNN has been able to encourage to come forward and openly, visibly and proudly participate in the campaign, where there is conviction and courage, there is unstoppable movement.

Still, it comes down to the power of one. As recently emphasized by Richard Quest in an interview with Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Carlson Companies around how her group of global travel companies is doing its part to ensure that the tourism industry does not tolerate child labour and child prostitution, it is not just up to travel companies - it is also up to the traveler to take a stand and alert the authorities of any such offenses observed. That is how we ensure that the tourism sector is truly ‘equitable’.

Will such overt examination of such a taboo issue create discomfort? Yes.

Does it require courage? Yes.

But by doing so, by taking a stand, CNN, and others in the global travel industry and other spheres of economic, social and political activity, are now taking a step forward in shaping a world we can feel proud of being apart of, and excited about exploring further.

Back in the here and now, as the deep, soothing sound of the calling to mosque blankets over the sound of Cairo traffic, its unifying tones transcend Egyptian networks and telecoms, creating a connection between where Egypt has come from…and where it is going, across all neighbourhoods, all generations, all aspirations.

One sound, one thought, reaching out and moving millions.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011