I just read a post by blogger Sandmonkey called "The Free Republic of Egypt". It is written in the form of an open letter to the Egyptian population. As you might expect from him, it is thoughtful, well worded, and makes some great points. The letter's apparent purpose is a noble one, to explain to the general population why revolutionaries do what they do.
And now for the bad news.
Lemme tell ya, the Egyptian revolution is in dire need of some PR knowhow. While Sandmonkey's intended purpose is clearly noble, the actual letter is an exercise in sarcasm and mockery, save for some lip service paid to a more unifying stance in the end. This comes as no surprise, as the revolution movement (if it can still be called that after endless fracturing) has relentlessly worked on alienating more and more segments of the population ever since the historical day of Mubarak's departure.
At one point he says:
"You can have a country where people believe that being civilized is to go for one day and clean Tahrir Square up, while we will believe that true civilization is ensuring that our government cleans our street up and as for us, well, we just won’t litter."
That's right, he just implied the majority of the population doesn't understand how to be "truly" civilized. He might as well just call them animals while he's at it. Feel free to go read the entire letter for many more pleasant remarks like the above.
The question here isn't about whether Sandmonkey is a big "meanie" for making fun of much of Egypt's population. It is about whether putting people down is helpful in winning them over. I contend that it is not, and because I am such an optimist, I hope the rest of everyone else does too. In fact, because I am pretty sure Sandmonkey is a highly intelligent person, I can't help but think he knows this. The infantilizing tone of his letter is counterproductive to his stated purpose, and I can't imagine him thinking otherwise. What's his deal?
Well, I won't speculate on his behalf, but I'll say this: now is not the time to give in to anger with people who are too afraid to follow. The tone must always remain brotherly or sisterly, not patronizing. People who disagree should not be excluded nor shunned, they should be given continuous gentle pressure to go in the right direction. If we can't handle disagreement without speaking in aggressive undertones, then those we speak to can only wonder why on Earth we want a democracy in the first place. People are not stupid, even the uneducated ones. Nature has granted them the ability to read you instinctively even when they can't do so intellectually and when they get mocking and patronizing vibes it is going to blur the line between your message and that of the regime we just removed.
The comments under his letter are telling too. There is the usual circle of people who feel this is exactly how things should be said, one even suggesting it be translated to Arabic so it can reach the mainstream public (to make sure a maximum number of people get pissed off with being called uncivilized?) Others congratulating him on unleashing his sharp tongue upon those who disagree. Others yet congratulate Sandmonkey on his work so far but wonder why his letter sounds like a "BIG FUCK YOU" to people who don't agree with him.
I think I belong to this latter group. It seems to me that if you say "fuck you" to the people, they are going to respond in kind. This is hardly helpful to overcoming the obstacles that await us. Sharp tongues are nice, but wisdom is required to ensure they are put to effective use.