Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Egypt

Today’s the day of the ”march of millions”. The military has promised not to use violence. The new cabinet has started to talk about the need for dialogue, but the protesters want Mubarak to go. How analyze this? There are a variety of viewpoints: the diffusion of revolt (from Tunisia and on to Egypt and Yemen), political opportunity, cognitive liberation, emotional transformation, the role of communication technologies, the shape of networks, the question of how Islamist groups will position themselves in regard to the rebellion (they won’t hijack it as in Iran, but how about the fears of the Kopts?), the question of internal differences among protesters, the international politics viewpoint of how all this will shake the US alliance structure and scare Israel, the balance between exit and voice (the emergence in public discourse of things suppressed for decades), the problems raised by the fact that the movement is fuelled not only by disgust at ”30 wasted years” but also by poverty and the issues of food, energy, water and justice (problems that won’t go away just because a regime topples), and, finally, the sheer richness of how the street is transformed and experienced in new ways. There is happiness and anger in the air, it seems, and that emotional magnet is making people get out of their houses and out on the streets. How do we understand that magnet, that great collective bath in which accumulated disgust and cynisim is temporarily cleansed?






Postscript (mid-February): I still haven't got any answers - but I'm very, very happy! For some interesting analyses, please have a look at:

Mohammed Baymeh, "The Egyptian Revolution"

Andrea Teti, "The Politics of Fearlessness"

Daniel Byman, "Why the Mideast Tumult Caught Scholars by Surprise"

Let me end with a quote from the midst of it all, which I like very much:
“Egyptians right now are not afraid at all,” said Walid Rachid, a student taking refuge from tear gas inside a Giza mosque. “It may take time, but our goal will come, an end to this regime. I want to say to this regime: 30 years is more than enough. Our country is going down and down because of your policies.” (NY Times, 30 January)

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