Courtesy of Tom Malinowski, who announced today that he is leaving Human Rights Watch. Writes Malinowski, after describing the joy he saw in Libya, traveling there after Qadaffi’s fall:
And then it came to me: None of this joyful liberation would have been possible had Qaddafi not given his people something to be liberated from. Had he not stolen their freedom, they would not be cherishing it. Had he not shown them the worst of what people are capable of, they would not be showing us the best. Yet if human rights groups like mine had their way, there never would have been a dictator like Qaddafi! And what would happen if Libya’s idealistic revolutionaries won? Soon enough, they’d go back to their day jobs and get bored with their lives.
Let’s face it: much of what we truly value in life is rooted in our experience of repression and conflict. Consider great literature and film. Would we remember War and Peace if it had just been Peace, or been moved by All Quiet on the Home Front? Would we care about Winston Smith without Big Brother, Harry Potter’s life without Voldemort, or Frodo’s journey without Sauron? With no guillotine, A Tale of Two Cities would have been a travel guide. With no revolution, Dr. Zhivagowould have been a talk show. With no Nazis, Schindler would have had a shopping list. Yet if human rights activists succeed — not to mention people trying to end poverty and war — that’s the kind of inspiration our future storytellers will have to draw from.