If you're anything like me, you've been glued to your computer screen for more than a week observing the will of an entire people force a reckoning with its despotic ruler, against all cynical logic that insurrections and revolutions somehow irretrievably belong to ages past. What is the context for this momentuous event that will undoubtedly have repercussions for years to come?
Branded as "the January 25th Movement," the truth of Egypt's eruption is harder to pin down and cannot be delivered via soundbyte: the multifarious deluge of humanity that has demanded radical change remains without a common denominator. Soccer fans, the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical left, unions, civil society, business people, the working class and the impoverished "bare" citizens of Cairo's massive slums have all clamored, demonstrated and fought in the streets for a variety of interests and demands, only unified in the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak. Ergo, the Egyptian revolution can hardly be surmised as purely 'political', deflating changes for some easy, soft, 'color' revolution. In fact, it is an outright social explosion caused by class division, inequality, lack of human rights and a truly oppressive police apparatus essentially comprised of privatized thugs. Secondly, the admirable formation of neighborhood watches, councils and assemblies speaks more to the idea of direct democracy than a complacent "representative" fix could allow to restore the status quo.
As we are witnessing throughout the Mideast, the courage and tenacity of the Egyptian people are encouraging others to no longer live 'in fear' and have proffered genuine conditions for revolutionary contagion.
Of course, the Egyptian anomaly, itself inspired by the Tunisian anomaly, brings to bear a plethora of new questions for any and all attempting to study and gather information about the rupture of social relationships. What is the role of the military between the state and its citizens? How does the presence of the Internet and social media affect not just the communicative abilities of demonstrators and organizers, but how they conduct themselves under international scrutiny? Better yet, how does the 'reverse surveillance' of democratic uses of social media effect the actions of the police against those they are supposed to 'serve and protect'?
Sources abound for those watching history unfold. Here is a very non-exclusive list of articles, hashtags and websites to survey in the coming days.
Al Jazeera English Live
Al Arabiya News Network
Opinion and Analysis:
Mehdi Belhaj Kacem (in French)