When ‘Neutral’ becomes a 4-letter Word

neu-tral – adjective

[noo-truhl] not taking part or giving assistance in a dispute or war between others;not aligned with or supporting any side or position of a controversy; indefinite

I have heard the word neutral hundreds of times in the past week. Normally this is a benign word that I use  to describe good journalists or referees – those that keep unbiased, sticking to the rules of the trade.  To initially remain unbiased or ‘neutral’ on an issue can be a good thing – look at all the sides, weigh them out and then decide.  But this week I’ve learned to hate this word.

Cairo - violence from Pro-Mubarak demonstrators courtesy of Sarah Carr

The Egyptian army remains ‘Neutral’.  Administrations  stay ‘neutral’.  But as fires break out in Tahrir Square, government-paid police and civilians, beginning the day with stones and chaos , move on to gun fire at night, and the numbers of dead and wounded rise, neutral becomes a 4-letter word.  One that no longer belongs on the air-waves without censorship, a word that incites your mother to wrath and your mouth to a healthy dose of dishwashing liquid.

Pictures painting thousands of words have now been made available through restored internet services. The contrasts in the pictures from yesterdayto today can barely be comprehended. Protests begun peacefully with thousands growing in a week to millions  are squashed while the world community stays neutral?impartial?noncommital?undecided? What’s in your Thesaurus?

On Tuesday tears fell down my cheeks as I watched millions arrive at the epicentre of Cairo – Tahrir Square-Liberation Square – amazed at the on site reports of the diversity of people with voices and faces of hope described in other posts. On Wednesday tears of anger and disappointment fell as I saw courage and hope turn to anger and chaos.

At what point does neutral stop being an asset? Journalists remain neutral and we’re glad – we want facts so we can make up our own minds. But we are not journalists and we should have had time to weigh the sides at this point. History has given us tragic examples of nations sitting by, watching, playing catch-up while people on the other side of the world are dying because of ideology or ethnicity.  Is this such a time? I don’t know – I’m neither prophet nor politician, I have yet to take a single class in Political Science. But this I do know, from my deep connections through heart and life experience of an area of the world that the west just doesn’t get,  Egypt needs this 4-letter neutral word to be replaced with its antonym.

Annie Gardner, who is in now way neutral,in Tahrir Square

Authors Note: Please link to the pictures mentioned in this post – they are quite incredible and show the contrast between Monday and Tuesday. We knew the photojournalist Christina Rizk- when she was a little girl as she is a long-time friend of our daughter.  The journalist Sarah Carr is a friend of our daughters. Please spread the word – these pictures will not be seen on main stream news media – send them on!! My daughter is still there as are our other friends.  We are grateful for more contact through email.

Find me on Twitter @ Marilyngard

Related Links:

This just in from Cairo: Egypts Intifada- A Lexicon

Medical Supplies Needed in Tahrir Square

4 thoughts on “When ‘Neutral’ becomes a 4-letter Word

  1. “The Dark Side of Neutrality” that would make a post title! Thanks – it’s been a good challenge for me thinking of times in daily life when I remain neutral when engagement is needed. So glad for your comment.


  2. Thanks Bob – It’s more the outside forces who could put pressure on Mubarak. I just heard that the Prime Minister was apologizing to the anti-government protesters and that the army was stepping up to block the pro-Mubarak protesters but don’t know if this is confirmed. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


    1. I so agree with your reflections on the dark side of neutrality, Marilyn. Here in Canada we pride ourselves on tolerance which is usually a good thing. But sometimes there`s a fine line between tolerance and apathy. In the face of injustice, stands must be taken. It`s not a time for neutrality. Prayers continue….


  3. I have been watching these events unfold with great interest, I would be very surprised if there were any neutral parties at all in this mess.

    Leave it to the pro government forces to bring violence to this equation. I pray that your loved ones remain safe.


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