Friday, February 18, 2011

Egypt: Many Revolutions Are Yet to Come

From Wikipedia:

revolution (from the Latin revolutio, "a turn around") is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. Its use to refer to political change dates from the scientific revolution occasioned by Copernicus' famous De Revolutionibus Orbium CoelestiumAristotle described two types of political revolution:
  1. Complete change from one constitution to another
  2. Modification of an existing constitution.


Formal definitions aside, it seems to me that revolutions (in the political sense) are usually about people freeing themselves from some sort of oppressive force. If we take a good look at Egypt's January 25th movement under this definition, many questions remain open.

Firstly, I'm at a bit of a loss as to fully defining the Jan25 revolution. What I can say for sure is that we as Egyptians are now free of one particular oppressive force: the one composed of Mubarak and his entourage. My certainty stops there however. For now, we're not even sure we are or will be free of military rule, despite the army's reassuring statements. When one observes communication from various fragmented groups in the aftermath of the revolution, it appears people are still complaining about all sorts of oppression.

For starters, I am seeing women take a stand (at least on the net) for themselves, and rightly so. Issues range from inadequate representation in decision-making circles to rampant harassment to various other women's rights issues - some closely related to religious matters. One can only conclude then, that whatever oppresses them was not dealt with within the Jan 25th movement. This is normal, not all things can be done at once. But it does indicate that their revolution is yet to come.

Another recurring theme in recent days is about freedom of religion and belief. Much discussion has taken place regarding the constitution's notorious Article 2. The religious problem goes beyond the issues Coptic Egyptians usually face. Twitter users are quick to mention you are risking jail if you declare yourself to be atheist or that you belong to any number of other belief systems including Scientology, Jehova's Witness or Bahaii. If various religious groups are to benefit from any freedom, it is likely they will also have to stand up for their rights at some point in the future. This, unfortunately, will be no easy battle by my humble estimates.

Likewise, ongoing strikes in multiple sectors indicate that workers have not entirely - some would argue not even close - freed themselves from what ails them. As the country braces for the removal or at least increased scrutiny of various corrupt practices, workers worry about their pay. This is because the aforementioned corrupt practices were woven into everyone's life. How is an employee earning between LE200 to LE400 a month supposed to feed a family? Bribes were a part of everyday life. If they go, then the pay needs to change. Whether or not all the corruption will actually stop is still an open issue as well.

Many more problems exist in Egyptian society and not all were resolved within the revolution. In fact, the only issue that was terminally resolved was Mubarak's departure. Everything else is still up in the air. It seems we were far more focused on what we were getting away from than on where we were headed. We knew we wanted democracy, but no one really had a plan, except maybe the army and to a lesser extent the Brotherhood. In hindsight, it seems they were the only ones to hit the ground running when Mubarak bailed out.

Some of these revolutions will never take place, because nature can be cruel like that. Others will resolve themselves naturally if/when democracy settles in and we can vote our way to a better future. Others yet may require wide-scale demonstrations and strikes, and will further test the Egyptian citizen's resolve.

The danger now is having a premature sense of closure as the world's attention moves on to other rapidly changing countries and the excitement dies down. Or of letting the energy fade as physical and emotional exhaustion kick in after the difficult test Egypt's people have had to endure. The above-mentioned issues and many more are NOT closed.

The pursuit of freedom requires relentless vigilance.

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