Do you really know what happened in Egypt? Was there a revolution or just a premature revelation of a stressed-out response? Was it the impending fear of a massive blood-bath that made Hosni Mubarak give up? Were blogging and micro-blogging the real heroes? Did Gandhian principles once again rise and conquer? Or is it simply a smart declaration by a shrewd president?
I did read about the comparatively peaceful marches towards Tahrir Square and wondered if a spirit of non-violence could actually have the power to survive in an age where rage has become synonymous with a contemporary lifestyle. And anyway, how could a continent where the barbarism of bloody coups was the norm, suddenly take a turn and embrace a non-violent stance? Breaking through all this din from the past, Gandhi’s voice did seem to make a come-back in far-away Egypt. Even Obama, the US President, admits: “And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history – echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice.”
Does this revolution then resurrect Gandhi?
The Egyptians are rather optimistic now that a new order is eagerly replacing the old regime. Most of the post-liberation comments captured by the press hint at people believing and thanking the powers that be for the development without being very inquisitive of how it has happened. For instance, Sherif El Husseiny, a 33-year-old lawyer protesting in Tahrir Square, tells the Reuters news agency: “I can’t believe I’m going to see another president in my lifetime! I was born during (Anwar) Sadat’s time, but was only four when he died. I’m overwhelmed with the news of Mubarak stepping down. Nothing can ever stop the Egyptian people anymore. It’s a new era for Egypt.” A tweet from Jon Leyne: “Around Cairo, drivers are honking their horns in celebration and guns are being fired into the air.” The BBC’s Tim Whewell in Cairo tweets: “#Egypt Crowds can’t believe it. Victory signs everywhere. Carnival has broken out.”
Was the outcome of this revolution then just a premature revelation of a stressed-out response of authorities terribly out-of-touch with crisis management?
Many Egyptians have been re-tweeting a comment by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho: “The world only gets better because people risk something to make it better. Congrats Egypt.” Yes, most of the Egyptians did risk a lot during the 18 days of the ‘revolution’! From the 25th of January 2011 to the 11the of February 2011, the people, the masses, the hoi-polloi, the down-trodden, the sufferers, the persecuted, the losers, and the over-looked joined hands with sections of the not-so-unhappy class, the awakened minds, and the catalysed consciences to rout a ruler who had managed to reverse the process of social evolution in just 3 decades! There were risks in this. There could’ve been a lot of blood shed. If there were fears in the camp of the revolutionaries, there was a much higher fear on the other side. It just so happened that the ruling side blinked first and the Vice-President (Suleiman) announced that Hosni Mubarak will be stepping down as president of Egypt. A tweet by Zain Zeitgeist just minutes before this announcement reveals the intrinsic mix of aggression, stress, and fear that must’ve been resident all over the country: “I wasn’t very hopeful last night, but tonight I am! I can smell victory, Insha Allah. Keep up the pressure! They will crumble! #Jan25 #egypt” We watched the world applaud. Egypt’s leading newspaper, Al-Ahram has published a special issue hailing what it terms “the 25 January Revolution”.
However, let’s also not forget that Germany’s Der Spiegel has taken a look at the career of Hosni Mubarak, described as the West’s “favorite tyrant”. “The West stood by the leader almost to the end, despite the fact that the despot had turned his country into a police state and plundered its economy.”
Was the way this revolution took a decisive turn on Jan 25 due to the rulers blinking first? That is, was a large part of the rest of the world sitting and watching how things concluded before applauding? Would the applause have been there anyway even if the people were crushed and sent home? These questions need to be answered… by all of us.
Though it wouldn’t be completely right to call the events of Egypt a mere drama unfolding, but it did look like one… and this drama had the new media as its star percussion player! There was a proliferation of tweeting, live blogging and 24-hour news coverage. The New York Times has an interesting take on the new media reality, from Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel: “Because of technology, and because of the progress made in technology, especially in the field of communication, no one has any excuse anymore to say: ‘I don’t know; I didn’t know; I wasn’t aware.”‘ Some experts have gone on and said that this revolution tilted the way it did because of the new media, because of 140 character messages that flew around unfettered in the cyber-space…
I believe that wars are fought in the minds just as much they are on the ground. What happened in Egypt was simply an affirmation of this school of thought. The revolution was surely conceived on the platforms donated generously by the new media, was born and revolved around Gandhian principles of non-violence, and nourished and nurtured by the dominant will of the people!
Just one nagging thought… do Mubarak and his cronies still have the strategic prowess to bounce back into power? Was the climax witnessed on the 11th of February just a façade, a clever tactical move, a shrewd chess-like move to leave some space to re-enter active politics at a later date? It is with this fledgling doubt that I must write the next sentence:
The final question that must be posed now is – Has the revolution really ended?
Was the sole aim of the revolution to remove an 82 year old perceived tyrant? Tweets like these are like smoke signals that tend to make clear thought asphyxiated by sheer euphoria of a battle won: “Wikipedia article on #Mubarak already edited saying he WAS the president of Egypt! #jan25” (Tweet by Shady Samir). Yes, the battle is won, but the war isn’t over. The on-ground situation hasn’t and will not change so fast. Low salaries, poverty, and socio-economic fears are still standing face-to-face with imbedded corruption, the exclusive class with unheard-of perks, and an abyss that needs to be filled. Any revolution aims to improve the prevailing conditions and does not end with the removal of a mere mortal. News has already started trickling in that the revolution continues – on multiple fronts now. The combined strengths of technology and ideology that helped bring together people from varying socio-economic strata need to be summoned again. Or else lonely battles are going to waged and the casualties will include the euphoria that one senses in Egypt now.
The revolution hasn’t ended.
© Arvind Passey