February 2, 2011 § 3 Comments
Like everyone else, I’ve been glued to my Twitter stream and Al Jazeera over the course of a tumultuous week in Egypt. It seems almost an insult to carry on doing normal-life things like blogging about reading or tweeting about music heard and things watched. But at the same time I’m aware of how easy it is to slide into comfortable, privileged guilt.
The only thing to do is to pay attention and to be present. I do think that Aaron Bady says it best. Although he’s speaking particularly from the point of view of an American citizen, I agree with the overarching message: “It’s selfish. It is for me, because it’s what I need to do as a person whose spiritual body has gotten very hungry. I want to be a part of something hopeful because I find that too much hopelessness has crept too deeply into the person I have no choice but to be.”
Similarly, the only way to honour what’s beyond our immediate petty and serious concerns is to force ourselves to shut up and learn. There’s so much I don’t know. I just shut up and allow myself to be taught. Being open to learning and being present for the duration of it – these seem to be the ways to ameliorate the guilt arising of the uselessness of not being a participant in what we see, only mere observers. But there’s observing, and there’s bearing witness, as Aaron reminds us.
Islamophobes of the world, shut up and listen to the sound of people power. Your artificial Middle East dichotomy – it’s either “our” dictators or jihadism – was never more than a cheap trick. Political repression, mass unemployment and rising food prices are more lethal than an army of suicide bombers. This is the actual way history is written; a country of 80 million – two-thirds of which born after their dictator came to power in 1981, and no less than the heart of the Arab world – finally shatters the Wall of Fear and crosses to the side of self-respect.
We are all Egyptians now. The Latin American virus – bye-bye dictatorships plus arrogant, myopic neo-liberalism – has contaminated the Middle East. First Tunisia. Now Egypt. Next Yemen and possibly Jordan. Soon the House of Saud (no wonder they blamed the Egyptian people for the “riots”). But the Northern African political earthquake of Tunisia 2011 also got its spark from the 2010 mass strikes in Europe – Greece, Italy, France, the United Kingdom. Rage, rage, against political repression, dictatorship, police brutality, out of control food prices, inflation, miserable wages, mass unemployment.
The quotes above from Pepe Escobar’s article in Asia Times.
Juan Cole on Egypt’s class conflict.
“I would also like to emphasize that Egyptian antiquities, as The Onion sharply satirizes, have already been looted.” Sophie Azeb’s ‘The Museum Will Be Open’.
An interview with Egyptian blogger and journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy.
Dave Zirin on Egypt’s soccer clubs: the “one consistent nexus for anger, organization, and practical experience in the ancient art of street fighting.”
Israel, in short, has been of no use whatsoever to President Obama as he has tried to figure out how to respond to this fast-moving uprising that is far and away the most significant development in the geopolitics of the Middle East since Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But Israel’s situation is now revealed as worse than that. It is not just that it is of no use to Washington. Its actions over the past 40 years, and those of its many cheerleaders inside the U.S. body politic, are now clearly revealed as having undercut our country’s ability to pursue a reasonable, peaceable and rights-based policy throughout the region.
Helena Cobban minces no words on that elephant in the room influencing American foreign policy in the Arab world.
A succinct fact sheet on the numbers behind US aid to Egypt.
Mohammed Hanif on watching other people’s revolutions from Ramallah.
“Remember when I would stand on the steps of the press syndicate to protest? I would stand alone. Now look at everyone. They are all here,” says the uncle of Sharif Abdel Kouddous.
On South/South, ‘Class, Cairo and Catalonia’.
“On this question, there is less than a dime’s worth of difference between “progressive” Democrats and Republican xenophobes, between pinstriped State Department Arabists and flannel-clad Christian fundamentalists, between oil-first “realists” and Israel-first neo-conservatives. There is none.” Dead-Enders on the Potomac.
And an older piece that’s still relevant reading – Asef Bayat’s ‘The “Street” and the Politics of Dissent in the Arab World’.