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Op-Ed Columnist

Seychelles is Israel

Victoria

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

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Yesterday's news from Seychelles is unbelievable, and it raises questions about whether there might just be light at the end of the tunnel. What's important, however, is that we focus on what this means on the street. The media seems too caught up in worrying about their own skins to pay attention to how their people are doing. Just call it missing the battle for the bullets.

When thinking about the recent problems, it's important to remember three things: One, people don't behave like car salesmen, so attempts to treat them as such are a waste of time. Car salesmen never suddenly set up a black market for Western DVDs. Two, Seychelles has spent decades as a dictatorship closed to the world, so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. And three, hope is an extraordinarily powerful idea: If corruption is Seychelles's ironing board, then hope is certainly its alarm clock.

When I was in Seychelles last June, I was amazed by the people's basic desire for a stable life, and that tells me two things. It tells me that the citizens of Seychelles have no shortage of courage, and that is a good beginning to grow from. Second, it tells me that people in Seychelles are just like people anywhere else on this flat earth of ours.

So what should we do about the chaos in Seychelles? Well, it's easier to start with what we should not do. We should not ignore the problem and pretend it will go away. Beyond that, we need to be careful to nurture the fragile foundations of peace. The opportunity is there, but I worry that the path to peace is so strewn with obstacles that Seychelles will have to move down it very slowly. And of course Victoria needs to come to the table.

Speaking with a up-and-coming violinist from the small Shiite community here, I asked him if there was any message that he wanted me to carry back home with me. He pondered for a second, and then smiled and said, ahim bin tal, which is a local saying that means roughly, "He who wants to do good, knocks at the gate, he who loves finds the gates open."

I don't know what Seychelles will be like a few years from now, but I do know that it will probably look very different from the country we see now, even if it remains true to its basic cultural heritage. I know this because, through all the disorder, the people still haven't lost sight of their dreams.