Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty

Reading Morone’s democratic wish brought a sense of familiarity in me, since I have been exploring this idea for a while now. During my interactions with different movements for justice and equality, I always warned that freedom is never secured, and that the struggle is a journey and not a destination in and of itself.


Morone brings into perspective the idea of process and permanence in political struggle and it reminds me of a quote that some attribute to Wendell Philips, and which I heard from a Burkinabe French foreign legion veteran (which turned into an article I posted 2 days after my arrival to the U.S.), where he said: “the price of freedom is in eternal vigilance.” Understanding the public sphere as Morone defines it in cyclical terms requires change-makers to stay vigilant, and not to buy into routine, rationalization, and systematization of processes that emanate from the said change.

In this point also, if democracy calls for informed citizens making rational decisions, then it is all but normal to point out that vigilance is a must if true change is to be implemented and felt. Morone gives many examples of social movements that start out asking for change and more freedom for the people, but emerge with bureaucratic systems that give the illusion of change, and gives one group a seat at the table, without consenting to true participative democracy. Instead, each group defends their legitimacy as part of the public discourse, and that further creates fragmentation, and perpetuates alienation and disenfranchisement of the groups that did not make it to the table.

Another example that fits into Morone’s view of the democratic wish can be illustrated in an article I wrote to a group of young Libyan activists in my visit to Libya during the Famous Arab Spring in 2012. While the war was still under way in many areas of Libya, many brilliant activists gathered at the capitol Tripoli to discuss the aftermath and I was invited as a participant in that dialogue, since I was heavily involved in the movements of change in the Middle East region right before the Arab Spring started in 2011. My article was titled: “the revolution devours its own,” a quote coined during the unfolding of the French revolution. Ironically, the conversation during most of the conference revolved around federalist and anti-federalist segments of society, except that in this case people were willing to fight to death to prove their point. I wrote to warn those brilliant youth that their work was not done by the overthrow of the head of the system (since Qaddafi was killed few weeks before my arrival to Libya), I warned from the absence of vigilance and the high chance of leaving a vacuum for some force that is more organized and disciplined and VIGILANT to take over power.

The sequence of events that followed is the textbook example of detachment of forces that were united for one cause when a sign of success was achieved. The writings of Morone and the conversations in class around the four steps of the democratic process revived those old thoughts that were very timely at the moment. So I decided to share those thoughts with a different audience to make my contribution and listen to different perspectives.

Hamza El Anfassi


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