We're Not Kyrgyz

A public that is silent is responsible for the corruption of its government.

Where does that fine line pass, that point when the "public" decides that it can no longer wait for the democratic process to work and protect it against corrupt rule? When is that moment when nausea sets in and a collective feeling that crosses religious beliefs, outlooks, education and income takes over, saying that it's time to go out on the streets? In Kyrgyzstan, the rage against the corrupt rule of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev seethed for a long time until he was ousted in a public uprising last week.

Popular revolutions receive names of colors or flowers. There is probably something romantic when people decide theat they have had enough, something that stirs hope. The Kyrgyz have not yet given their rebellion a color. The one before, in 2005, when Askar Akiev was removed from power, was called the Tulip Revolution. In Georgia, the 2003 revolution that got rid of Eduard Shevardnadze was the Rose Revolution.

In Iran, the Green Movement rose up after the June 2009 elections to overthrow Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; it's still alive and kicking even though it has not really made the revolution it had hoped. Ukraine had the Orange Revolution, the color adopted by opposition movements in other countries when seeking to overthrow bad and corrupt governments. In Egypt there is a movement called Kifaya (enough) that aims to prevent the Mubarak family from achieving dynastic rule.

In all these countries, and many others, a form of democracy protects corrupt regimes and ostensibly grants them legitimacy. Israel is not one of them, maybe because it hasn't yet decided on the color that would best fit its revolution. Even though at 32, Israel holds a not-so-respectable spot on the world corruption index of 180 countries, the sense is that the limits of patience have not yet been reached and it's possible to wait until the elections and then show those in power the public's strength.

But it's enough to read the newspapers in recent days to understand that Israel's place on the corruption index has no real value. It cannot warn of a pending revolution or a wave of sudden remorse that will overtake the rulers. What haven't we had here? Bones in Ashkelon that nearly cost taxpayers NIS 200 million; enormous salaries for managers of public companies; suspicions of corruption in the Holyland project, whose extent can only be estimated, and which has given the united capital a new Temple Mount; fraud in the education system, which goes by what suits teachers and principals, and less what students deserve.

And we still haven't said anything about the prime minister who is pushing Israel toward its most serious crisis in its relations with the United States; the latter problem is also an existential threat. Undoubtedly, this is merely an overdose that in properly functioning places would have poisoned the public, while in less properly run places would have led to gunfire aimed at the ministries.

The conclusion is that the corruption index is not suitable for every country. It would be best if it were accompanied by a tolerance index - a new index that would try to measure the degree to which the public in every country is capable of accepting nonsense. This would be a more accurate index and a necessary one - it would show the people in power the line beyond which they are bound to be toppled.

It is not a universal measure, but a local one, which will depend on a nation's culture, because we shouldn't expect that like Japan, a corrupt minister or prime minister will resign or kill himself. We can't expect to be like Britain, where ministers resign, or the United States, where a minister can be fired with the president's signature. These are not comparable options. We are a country in the Middle East, a region where corrupt rule is tolerated.

This tolerance index will reflect the people's nature, and they will be responsible for the actions of their elected officials. They will not be able to get by with expressions of skepticism, disapproving gestures or venomous talkbacks on Web sites. They will have to select a color, raise a flag and fill the squares. Otherwise they will be a collaborator. A public that is silent is responsible for the corruption of its government. Of course, this has nothing to do with us - what are we, Kyrgyz? Iranians? We have democracy. It will protect us and the rule of law.