On this day two years ago, I was highly skeptical of what Egypt’s “Day of Anger” could accomplish in a deadlocked country. From my perspective, the social environment was ripe for change, but I thought the stranglehold on the political scene was far too great to effect real change in the leadership of the country.
Eighteen days later, that perception was proven all wrong by a very resilient and determined population aiming to prove to itself and the world that there is, at the very least, one thing they can accomplish – remove Hosni Mubarak from office. It was unthinkable at the time, but it was done. And, to this day, this remains the Revolution’s grandest achievement.
Since those days two years ago, however, much has changed. Many plans were put into place to cement the hold on power that the quasi-political institutions of Egypt (i.e. the Army and the Muslim Brotherhood), though some might classify it as more of a power-grab during the chaos that resulted from the power vacuum.
If one was to look at it strictly from a realistic perspective, the situation is grim. Egypt is under occupation by a force that is foreign to its identity, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to simply let go of power very easily.
However, I have learned over the past year of the need to combine the ‘realistic’ view with the need for an ‘optimistic’ view. That optimism needs to embody the spirit that encouraged all facets of Egyptian society to join the revolution in its early days.
With that being said, that optimism needs to be grounded in reality for practical reasons. The idealism of Egypt’s liberal forces is wonderful, but ultimately impractical in the face of many of Egypt’s problems. One cannot expect the poor, the dreary, the sick, and the uneducated to change their perspective on life through optimism alone. Egypt’s liberals need to unite in a single, dominant political force and establish a network of local, regional and international operations that will provide an inflow of money and support.
This is nothing new, as many people have been saying this for months. But I’d like to propose a new addition to this idea.
Idealism and Identity in the Law
Of the many things that I was hoping would change in the January 25th Revolution is respect for the power and authority of the law not just by “the people”, but also by the government and its officials. The law is a very strange beast that can result in good outcomes just as much as bad outcomes. This is mainly because it has always been, and will likely always be, interpreted by humans who are prone to mistake from time to time. However, observing the equality of the law in all circumstances will help us determine the philosophical (and perhaps even theological) purposes of said law in all circumstances. Gone are the days when one could sneakily pass the law and it would go unnoticed by everyone. Today, the political stage is one of the most watched in the world, and to try such underhanded, sneaky tactics will result in either a strong public backlash, or a swift removal from office.
Basically, the law must be understood, not only enforced.
Many would say that the security situation in Egypt is deteriorating, and the laws passed by the Islamist government currently in place are so far-fetched and removed from reality, that one wonders if this is a genuine attempt at resolving Egypt’s problems. In this situation, the political force that can combine a practical solution to the issues of identity, security and development with a sensible dose of optimism will be the side that all Egyptians will get behind.
Is the time right for revolt?
Perhaps the environment is not quite ripe for this yet. In the January 25th Revolution, the weariness of the status quo overcame the fear of the repercussions of revolting, and ultimately drove thousands into the streets. Perhaps the weariness of the status quo has not reached that level yet, but who says it has to reach such a level before one does something about it? You have a right to live in dignity, to have a government that respects your opinions and acknowledge your right to freedom, justice, equality…essentially, your right to exist. Any government that does not respect these tenets does not deserve the security given by an electoral mandate.