That's why I think it's so important that amidst all the talk this week about the 20th anniversary of the Wall's fall, the meaning of the Cold War's end, and the progress (or lack thereof) towards global liberty over the last two decades, we should remember exactly what that day meant for millions of people: not the End of History, not universal emancipation, and not the permanent demise of tyranny, but real, genuine freedom for people who had suffered its absence for so long. From George Packer's piece in this week's New Yorker:
A recent Pew poll shows that Germans, Czechs, and Poles remain relatively enthusiastic about democracy and capitalism; Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Lithuanians less so. Former East Germans’ hopes of achieving the living standards of their Western countrymen have not been fulfilled, and the inevitable disappointments have muted anniversary celebrations. Last month in Dresden, a retired schoolteacher acknowledged the pining of some East Germans for their simpler, cozier former lives under state socialism. There’s even a neologism for it: Ostalgie. But, the teacher said, “What matters is that I can talk with an American journalist without going to jail, that I can travel without filling out forms, that I can read what I want to read, that I’m not told what TV station I can watch and not watch, that at school I don’t have to say something that I don’t say in private at home. This is what is decisive to me today.”And there's something to be said for that, eh?