I was earning my political science degree at the University of Alberta when the peoples of eastern Europe rose up in a wave of protest to overthrow their dictators. Events quickly rendered our textbooks obsolete, and professors had to rework their lesson plans to fit the new context. One of my professors was of Latvian descent, and I still remember his overwhelming joy and excitement when he talked about the peaceful Singing Revolution in the Baltic states.
It was an exciting time to be a student, a time when the Utopian visions of my beloved science fiction novels seemed within reach. But even as eastern Europe became freer, similar protests were crushed in China. The road to a better world was, as always, fraught with danger.
Now the peoples of north Africa are rising up in search of a better life. No one can say whether the dreams of Tunisians, Egyptians, and Algerians will be fulfilled or swept aside. But I find it heartening that humanity is now witnessing yet another wave of relatively peaceful political change.
Is there such a thing as a secular prayer? If there is, then I offer up my hopes for the people of north Africa, and for the rest of us, too; one day, if we are wise and very lucky, all the peoples of Earth will work together to gradually build a civilization of perfect justice, prosperity and freedom. That civilization is a long way off, but today, it seems, the people of north Africa are doing their part to create it.