Tag Archives: Democracy

Celebrating The Egyptian Revolution

In the past 18 days, I have followed the struggle of the Egyptian people.  My interest is beyond the casual observer.  I was born and raised in Egypt, although I am Greek/Lebanese, ethnically, my family felt  Egyptian, first.  I watched a peaceful, non-violent struggle against the old order of tyranny, patriarchy and darkness.  A struggle for a democratic and  just society.  A society that respects the human rights of every Egyptian.   I watched as Mubarak and Suleiman used every trick in the repertoire to break down the spirit of the Egyptian people: brute force,  fear, then divisiveness,  paternalism.  None worked .  The game book failed.  The Egyptian people wrote their own playbook.  It was time to remove the tyrants who replaced the old foreign colonials.

The Egyptian people through a non -violent, home-bred “balady”, no charismatic leader and non sectarian revolution, toppled the regime.  Desperate voices from the outside  kept asking Egyptians:  “Who do you want” ” Who are the leaders of the revolution?”.  One after one the Egyptian people kept saying:  “We will see when we start the process of Democracy.”  “When we have parties; when we have free press.”  “We will see when we have a legitimate electoral process, constitution and we have choices.”

The idea of Egyptians having choices has alarmed many  in the world:   “What if they make the wrong choices?”   This is where the hypocritical talk about enlightenment and democratic ideals fails.  How dare you ask such questions?  How dare you deserve an opinion?   It is the choice of the Egyptian people.  I heard an ex-American administration official giving advice on how we should influence the process for outcomes that are beneficial to American interests.  No, thank you.

Authoritarian states are not stable.

I hear rumblings from the American right, that if not for the Bush Iraq war and occupation may have incited the people of Egypt towards Democracy.  This type of thinking is on par with the Mubarak delusional thinking.   Iraq was just another part of authoritarianism.  Treating nations like children.  A policy steeped in violence, force and brutality.  Egypt was the polar opposite of what Iraq was and is in every form.

For now, the Egyptian people and the world need to celebrate the spirit and the strength of  the Egyptians and the Tunisians.

Who is next journalists  ask?  The answer is simple, the people of the various nations get to decide who is next.  Can the world really handle self- determination?

Just as the wall of fear fell in Egypt, I saw as many people around the world, and here in America particularly, realized the human face of the Islamic/Arabic enemy they have been slowly trained to fear.  18 days of seeing real Egyptian men, women and children.  Listening to Egyptian voices beyond the caricatures that we were fed for years, broke down the fear of the  demonized “Arabic Street”.  For the first time, we went beyond the simplistic binaries that separate us and Americans got a chance to feel the humanity of the other.  Now, how do we go to the next stage?   People got to hear the human aspirations of the Egyptian people and gosh darn it, they are not so foreign, or scary.  They are the same human desires and struggles.

Imagine how hard it will be for politicians to fool us if we break down the years of demonizing other human beings?   It’s not easy to choose to oppress and kill people if you see the humanity you share.

This song is by a wonderful young Egyptian singer, Hamza Namira.

( I found the videos via 3arabawy)



Filed under American Politics, Culture and Society, Media, Middle East

Global Lessons From The Egyptian Revolution

This video is disturbing.  As demonstrators walk peacefully, a police car smashes into them and drives on.  This is exactly the state sanctioned behavior that the Egyptian Revolution is trying to stop.

Many “political pundits” speak of the Arab street.  What they don’t tell you, is that of the many who look at the street from their balconies.  When my mother was young in Alexandria, in the 1920’s, she told me she would look from her balcony as truck loads of Egyptian day laborers heading west.  From time to time one, or two would fall off the truck.  When they did, the the boss, under the eye of the English overlord,  would come out with a whip, and beat the men who fell off.  This injustice, lived with my mother.  She was not political, but she knew injustice when she saw it.  She saw it from her balcony.

We are now in the year 2011, almost 100 years later, and the Egyptian people are still treated with the same inhumanity.  And still, Egyptians, watch from their balconies, the same injustices.

The Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions  are the battle for freedom, democracy and human rights.  A battle for breaking down the authoritarian  model of oppression.  We replaced colonialism with a model of new-liberal economics and we think that tyrants will eventually democratize their societies.   We imposed our financial demands, our market rules, but we have failed miserably to have the same expectation when it comes to civil society.  Humanity is not just a set of economic rules and transactions.  De-buckling economic models from social and civic standards is a formula for catastrophe.

We can all have cell phones, computers and televisions.  But, if we are not free to say, write and see different points of view, or question our society, they are useless toys reduced to mind numbing chatter.  We can educate entire nations, but we cannot keep them submissive and numb.

Our Neo Liberal economics stands as a place holder to perpetuate the authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.  In truth, western societies did not advance because of the economic functions, they advanced because we had “Social Democracies”.  Democracies that nurtured civil society and the individual.  Social Democracies that did not just appear, social democracies that took a great deal of work to establish.

Tony Judt, in his last book, Ill Fares The Land, describes how we have placed a blind faith on the markets and we have allowed our values of Social Democracies to wither.  We have closed an eye to the most abhorrent violations of human rights in the name of economic gains.  Shame on us.  In fact, some are hell bent to regress from the core values of social democracies and just create states that are mere vehicles for commerce.

It is time, it is time that we look at the demands of the Egyptian people for self-determination, freedom, democracy and human rights.  The empty shell of exporting Neo Liberal free market economies as stand alones, corrupts everything and strengthens all the authoritarian tendencies of nations.  The Egyptian revolution is the next step to a true global culture.  A system that is not just free markets that help the few, a system entrenched in democratic values.  The young people are trying to smash this cloud of oppression.

The men from the balcony, in total frustration start screaming “sons of dogs”, ” sons of dogs”, then they go into the anti -Mubarak chants.  Do not be mistaken, that feeling of despair is starting to percolate here in America and in other parts of the west, we watch from day-to-day as our gains are taken away in the name of economic expediency.  My mother, could only tell me the story, these men could post it on You-tube using a cell phone camera.  Thank you for the tools, now, how do we keep the avenues open to use the tools for a purpose?

Time to stand up globally to all authoritarian practices that are justified in the name of economic gain and social stability.  Authoritarian thinking uses fear to keep nations and individuals passive.  Look at how fear is used to keep us from uniting and from standing up to those who brought the economic calamity?  As we feel weaker in our civil societies, yet the oligarchic interests are gaining power, we will fall into a state of entropy.  The Egyptian revolution and the young voices from Egypt are waking us up.  Telling us, there are values worth fighting for, values beyond fear and consumerism.


Filed under Culture and Society, Middle East