(This is a high-context post. Follow the hyperlinks.)
This has happened before. Things like this have happened before. But something is different this time. Something is new. As protests continue all over Egypt 2 days after the announced “revolution”, it’s becoming more and more difficult to rationalise away the hope that they spark.
I’m not being unreasonable or romantic. There are a few simple and realistic reasons for hope —
1) Tunis. Pretty self-evident I think.
2) Mubarak is almost 83. With presidential elections coming up in September, this year was already set to be some sort of turning point.
3) The current visibility of dissent. What I mean is that until a few years ago, public demos were rare, sit-ins and workers strikes went unreported, attacks on Mubarak were taboo. Now a new visibility makes dissent and methods of dissent part of the collective imagination of at least a fraction of the Egyptian population. When the population is over 80 million, a fraction might just be enough.
I’m a cynic by persuasion. I believe that one should not easily believe. But I hold such a stance mainly because I’m too aware that belief is power, and power can be dangerous. Power — even the power of belief — corrupts. So it’s a moral choice at the end of the day. And there are moments in life when the moral is a good one, when believing feels like the right thing to do. Simply to create and harness some power in the face of injustice. For me, this is such a moment.
Because history happens when events coincide and give rise to the unlikely. And when history happens, it happens one day at a time.
Tahrir Square, Cairo - 25 Jan 2011