Scattered thoughts (and feelings) on Egypt


January 20, 2014

Shiddi halek ya balad.

How is it that Egypt’s soil had the power to produce such anguished, angered, empowered energy – yet lacks the power to produce the will to make? The will to construct?

I had just finished watching a film entitled, “A Winter of Discontent.” The film reminded me of the spirit that existed in 2011 after Ben Ali left Tunisia. For Egypt, the floodgates have opened and there was no turning back. You can see this clearly in the film, as this particular concept was appropriately conveyed. The last scene in the film foreshadowed Egypt’s reality today: the head of security went back to see his family, which he earlier sent to stay in a sea-side villa away from the demonstrations. He hugged his daughters, and the audience was taken right to the credits. This is what happened, isn’t it? Mubarak left office – but everything else stayed in place. The entire apparatus was touched, but unharmed – it was left standing.

Little do they know that Egypt’s people desire more than bread to eat and water to drink. They desire well-being, well-being that goes beyond the now somewhat clichéd terms of freedom and liberty. You know, the opaque, mysterious, undefined terms thrown around everywhere nowadays.

We live in an Arab world that is so chaotic, so disorganized, so counter-intuitive. And from the looks of it, it will get worse before it gets better. What do I know about Syria’s ruins? What do I know about the still repressive regime in Algeria? It really depresses me. I don’t even know what to say anymore. I just want to cry. We deserve so much more. I know we all have the smarts to help make things better, but everyone I know is leaving el balad. They’re all leaving Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Egypt… And Egypt. Oh Egypt. What a sad twist in history. How can we forget how it felt when it was announced that Mubarak would leave office? That joy was so unparalleled. Nothing can compare. I was all the way in San Diego and I felt every bit of it, watching from a laptop screen. The nights I stayed up just watching, waiting. My soul felt like it could jump through the monitor and just be there. It was momentous. No, momentous is not the word. Just epic. And not epic in the overused ways of our day, but momentously epic. Egypt, the largest country in the Arab world, had enough.

What now though? Did we naively think that we could actually change things? Or that those who held the reigns of power would ever let go? Oh goodness, I am on a plane and I just can’t stop crying. What is it? What are we missing? We succeeded in the first step – what’s next? What will happen next? Tunisia is a nice silver lining in many ways (who still has its host of problems), but the rest? What about Egypt? What about Syria? What should we do? Never have I questioned so much about the future. Of course, our countries will not magically “make themselves work.” It takes every one of us to make them work – but where do we start? Sure, we need to take things in our hands – and by the way I don’t just mean the youth or a certain segment of the populations. I mean everyone. We take things into our hands and change how it all works. However, in Egypt for example, there are very well defined structures of power. Some things people just cannot do. Unless people think they can.

I believe we may just need a psychological shift in what we think we can and can’t do.

Until that mental change, shiddi halek ya balad.


2 responses to “Scattered thoughts (and feelings) on Egypt

  1. well put. i think the whole arab spring logic is partly responsible for what’s happening in egypt right now. the existence of an ‘arab world’ doesn’t mean that all arab countries are the same. if x happens in tunisia, it doesn’t follow by logic that x also must happen in egypt, jemen or syria at this particular moment. egypt will see a brighter future – when the time is right.

  2. drdrewmikhael

    Discovering this blog has been a breath of fresh air, pity am a bit late for this party!

    I share the pain and sentiment 100%, a cruel twist(s) of fate has seemingly robbed us of our brighter future…However, a very important point I feel needs to be made:

    In discussion with my students about the Egyptian ‘regression’ earlier this year, they asked the question ‘is there any hope of the Arab world?’

    My answer is to look at the pathology of key democratic states around the world, aside from the rare cases that prove the rule, most have seen revolution and counter revolution before coming to a democratic state.

    America, England, France and Germany are some examples of the top of my head..but really the list is endless.

    The American civil war cost over 500,000 lives, England had to go through successive conflicts before deciding on democracy (even though they kept the monarchy and has no written constitution!), heads rolled in France and Germany had to suffer fascism at a terrible cost.

    And despite the dramatic revolutions, the democratic systems were not fully formed…civil rights movement in USA, suffragettes etc.

    I don’t want to come across as glibly dismissing the point being made, because there are very serious hurdles to overcome and it will take sacrifices (that will sadly in most cases continue to be paid in blood), but as long as there is enough will to commit to a brighter future then things will get better.

    I firmly believe that the genie is out of the bottle and is not going back in… and that in 40 years we’ll look at December 17 2010 as a spark that created a chain of events that resulted in some states discovering democracy… The hope now is that those states outweigh oppressive regimes.

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