Croatian Viewpoint
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Although theoretically all men are created equal, they do not find themselves in equal surroundings. Their environment also shapes their mentality. Some environments are more conducive to change than others and in Eastern Europe at the moment the environment is now changing for the better.
To understand this concept we need to make a comparison. Consider two examples.
One man spends his life in an alpine village where he is habitually quiet, because to call out loud would precipitate an avalanche. Another man lives in a land of rolling hills and valleys, and he has acquired the habit of listening to his own voice as it echoes across the valley. The first man is inhibited, and the second man is confident because of his different lifestyle.
Different societies have also evolved according to different geographical and social conditions. Social mobility in any society however was not an issue for centuries for either serf or slave. But in the 1860s, in principle, both serfdom and slavery were abolished. Obviously though, the Edict of Emancipation in Russia in 1861 or the Emancipation Proclamation in America in 1863 could not ensure freedom overnight unless the environment had not changed also.
The Russian peasants, for example, lived for another century as if suspended in that alpine village mentioned above, afraid to raise their voices, where until recently the rule of law was weak because of single-party totalitarian rule. The African American on the other hand had never been prevented from 'singing the blues' even before his emancipation. He had already become accustomed to hearing his own echo and his freedom ultimately was protected in many states by an increasingly strong rule of law.
Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall the recent democratization in Eastern Europe must be defended by all of us. As long as man is prevented from freedom of expression he will never taste freedom. His entire environment must be governed democratically, in practise and not just in principle. Abroad, we must do all we can to help free our fellow man in Eastern Europe so that he can listen to his own voice echo those words which his heart has longed to hear. The vital link to democracy is the freedom of expression. The social mobility of ex-slaves, and the world's respect commanded by Nelson Mandela today is proof of this. This is why glasnost is more important than perestroika to democratization, and this is why in 1990 direct, secret ballot, multiparty elections are the foundation to freedom.
Jean Lunt Marinovic
February 1990
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