This thing going on Egypt now–whatever it is–is really quite amazing, although similar “revolutions” have happened before in Egypt.
My curiosity having been piqued this week about political history there, I visited our local university library to undertake some research about that ancient culture on the Nile. My search, guided by the Library of Congress cataloging system online at ASU, was productive. Wandering through the vast annals of paper antiquity, I found so many promising books about Egypt that I had to check out five of them just to determine which one to read.
After a brief survey of them all at home, I finally settled into Anwar Sadat’s autobiography, since I like to view recorded history through the subjective lens of someone who was “there.”
But along the inquisitive path leading me toward the slain President’s memoir, I picked up a few historical facts from the other books, for instance:
~In 1919, Sa’ad Zaghlul led a revolution that initiated the serious ejection of British colonial occupation.
~In 1952, Gamal Abdel Nasser led Anwar Sadat and other military leaders in an overthrow of King Farouk.
In both of these earlier revolutions, the forceful energy driving change was initiated and led by the army.
But now, in February of 2011, the unprecedented groundswell of national zeal has originated from the very heart of the Egyptian people, with the army providing carefully calculated support, and a sort of amazing protective custody, for their movement. That is a very important difference between what is happening Now in 2011, and what was happening Then (1919 and 1952):
At least we hope so. We like to think that the progressive crescendo of last week’s popular Tahrir uprising originated with the people of Egypt. And it just may be so. Although this is starting to sound like a naive cliche hatched by American news junkies– it just may be true that a large part of the communicative power that enabled Tahrir came through widespread use of Twittler, Facebook and Google. And of course a most-Honorable mention goes to Al Jazeera, that old-style-but-new-kid-on-the-block news-media network.
Wouldn’t we like to think so. Wouldn’t we like to think that regular people, empowered by these new devices, were the compelling force that sharpened widespread discontent into successful politics. Surely, surely it was people yearning for freedom who pulled off this mass movement. Surely it was the people of Egypt instead of, you know, armies or CIA black ops or undercover communist instigators or insidious jihadist usurpers. Wouldn’t we like to believe it.
Time will tell about the longevity and liberative quality of these whirlwind changes.
The glass half-Full view says true democracy is being strengthened and aided by participants freely tweeting and blogging. Glass half-empty says eventually the people’s networks will be overtaken and restricted by big brother and the access-holding companies, or even by the government itself, as in China.
We shall see.
Meanwhile, taking a break from the pages of hard-bound inky antiquity, I broadened my Egyptian inquiry into cyberspace, as I always do these days. And I encountered, while online, this curiously graphic analysis of social networking during the Tahrir event, from Kovas Boguta: http://www.kovasboguta.com/index.html
Kovas writes that we are embarking on a “new collective consciousness that is being formed,” for orchestrating events spontaneously–events such as the Tahrir phenomena we have just, virtually speaking, witnessed.
Could be, although I subscribe to no illusory expectations. I don’t see our electronic tower of babel reconstructing reprobate human propensity to screw things up. New technologies, impressive though they may be, are powerless to prevent people from degenerating into fractious infighting, a la Lenin and Trotsky–or, as in this case–democrats vs. the infamous “brotherhood.”
Once again, we shall see what which leaders and/or cells of organizing innovators end up atop the revolutionary aftermath.
Isn’t great to be an armchair revolutionary. Ha! What would Patrick Henry think of all this?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch dressing, as I was eating salad yesterday evening…my serious pyramidal research had been interrupted because we were scheduled to host a party of very old (double meaning there) friends in our home last night (Feb 12.) These dear friends, with whom we had somewhat collectively raised all our kids (takes a village dontcha know) back in the day–these friends would be coming over en masse to celebrate the valentine glories of long-lived blessings and marital faithfulness!
And, with all thoughts of the “new consciousness that is being formed” aside, I dug with them into our deepest shared experience roots and abiding friendships with flesh and blood hugs, kisses and potluck food, which is what its really all about anyway:
Guess which couple here has been married 48 years. That’s revolutionary stuff these days. On the other side of the heart, another couple got hitched less than a year ago. True love can be quite Tahriring.