Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Power to the People

I spent most of my time in the studio yesterday watching the situation in Egypt, watching Mubarak’s regime finally fall before the will of organized, unarmed protest.  Even with the ever present cynicism concerning what the next step for that nation will be, I have to admit I was moved by the Egyptian people and their steadfast unity through these last few weeks.  I was certain that Mubarak’s address Thursday evening would result in violent confrontations, his words goading the protesters into a frenzy that would be enough for him to send in his police squads or the military.  But, to their credit, the pro-democracy protesters did not take the bait and instead came out in larger, louder numbers yesterday, all united by a theme of peaceful power. 

At that point, it must have become obvious to the regime that these people were not simply going away.  They had endured.  They had withstood attacks from the regime’s goon squads, losing nearly 300 lives in the process, and had not retreated (oddly enough, there have been no reports of counter-protests since those obviously staged by the regime a week or so back).  They had ignored veiled threats from the vice-president that they must go home.  They held fast.

A report said that after Mubarak’s address on Thursday, the Army turned on him and that marked the beginning of the end for his regime.

Again, I have no idea what the next step for these folks will be.  I don’t know if this is absolutely the best thing for them, that their lives will be appreciably better in the years to come.  Whether they will continue down this road to a pure democracy or if they will fall prey to radical ideologues vying for control, I don’t think anyone knows for sure.  That’s one of the qualities of freedom– uncertainty.  But they at least have a chance now and to see them have their voices heard and to feel that their will is stronger than the usurped power of the corrupt ex-regime is a wonder to behold.  It is a moment to cherish, a moment to inspire other oppressed peoples.  There are few sweet moments like this in most people’s lives and though it is not my moment, I revel in it.  Good for you, Egypt.

Power to the people.

In the coverage I heard an Egyptian reciting this phrase so here’s a little tune with that message to hum along to this morning:

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Is It Time?

Watching Egyptian President Mubarak last night address his nation and the world brought the quote I used the other day in this blog from Wendell Phillips more clearly into focus.  He was defiant as a pharoah who believed his authority was the word of God and gave no hint of leaving office until every last card he had was played.  His taste for power was still strong.  It’s as though he has no sense of the reality of the situation and, as several analysts have pointed out, he has lived for 30 years in a world surrounded by sycophants who never point out shortcomings.  The idea that his absolute power is being challenged is a concept that hasn’t yet cracked his nut.

It’s been interesting watching this evolve over the last two weeks, to see how it has grown in scope to include a representative swath of the Egyptian people.  It is no longer a protest of students or the political opposition.  It is shopkeepers and cab drivers.  Lawyers and clerks.  Young and old.  The poor and not so poor.   It is Egypt.

I have been impressed by the bravery to come forward and maintain this protest against such an imbedded regime.  Also impressive is the love of their country that is expressed in their restraint as a mob.  They are steadfast yet don’t seem willing to destroy the country they are not fighting to take back.  There’s something noble in that.  I’m hoping Mubarak has that same type of respect for his land and his citizens and doesn’t try to destroy Egypt in his fight to stay in control.

I heard an interesting analogy from Congressman Gary Ackerman of NY yesterday.  He said Mubarak is like a neighbor you’ve lived next to for 30 years.  He keeps an eye on your house when you’re not around.  He’s always there to lend a hand.   He lets you park in front of his house and shovels your walk when the snow has fallen.  He’s a great neighbor.

  But he beats his kids.

And, no matter how great a neighbor, your allegiance has got to come down on the side of the kids.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Revolutions, as a rule, don’t go backwards and the genie is out of the bottle now.  Let’s hope the will of the people is honored and a peaceful and quick transition is soon underway.

UPDATE: 8:00 AM.  Well, perhaps I hoped for a peaceful transition too soon.  The TV is now showing clashes between the crowd and pro-Mubarak forces, many on horseback.  It looks pretty ugly.  Obviously Mubarak loves his power more than the people of Egypt.

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Wendell Phillips Monument, Boston Commons

Revolution is the only thing, the only power, that ever worked out freedom for any people.  The powers that have ruled long and learned to love ruling, will never give up that prerogative until they must, til they see the certainty of overthrow and destruction
 if they do not.
—-Wendell Phillips
I wanted to say a few words about the current political unrest spreading through the Middle East and these words from Wendell Phillips, the American abolitionist and advocate of Native Americans of the 19th century, came to mind.  These words seem to echo the root of the problem in Egypt  and in other areas where revolution is in the air.  Maybe in the US in times to come.
            In Egypt and other countries, there has been an ever expanding chasm between the haves and have-nots, with the haves possessing all the political power,  bending it to serve their wills.  They control the government and shape the laws and policies in a way that only benefits them, usually at the expense of the have-nots.  Injustice and inequality become the norm and an aristocracy is formed to lord over a growing class of the poor and oppressed.  The government which always speaks of serving the people is now only serving a select few and an anger begins to simmer at the unfairness of the situation.  A tipping point begins to materialize and nears and is finally reached.  The streets fill with the angry populace.
      Maybe this is very, very much oversimplified but it is the spine of any revolution.  I worry for the US , not for what is happening in Egypt, but for what is happening here, with a government and judiciary more and more attuned to serving the interests of the wealthiest citizens at the expense of those less affluent citizens who need the protection of our government.  We have evolved into a corporate  aristocracy, even giving the benefits (without the responsibility) of citizenship to corporations in the Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court.  The chasm between the haves and have-nots is nearing historic proportions and in a nation of over 300 million people that was formed from revolution, those in the have camp should take heed from what is happening in the Middle East.
As Phillips also said: 
  Governments exist to protect the rights of minorities. The loved and the rich need no protection: they have many friends and few enemies.

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