I heard the above from a demonstrator in Cairo, which I think encapsulates the spirit of the Egyptian revolution.
It has been fascinating watching the news media struggling to keep up with events, and having real problems understanding that what is happening in Egypt is a genuine revolution. What characterizes real revolutions is the collapse of popular support for existing institutions and the symptoms of this have been growing by the day.
An obvious example was when journalists on one of the main government controlled daily papers seized control and started publishing pro rebellion stories. The armed forces ‘neutrality’ has also obviously been partly due to the fact that large sections of the young, conscript army was probably by now highly unreliable. Many middle ranking officers were also clearly siding with the revolution. Civil servants were walking out in large numbers. Again this classic for a real revolutionary situation.
The withdrawal of the police – usually the last institution to collapse – was due to their defeat at the hands of the demonstrators.
This is just the start – Mubarak’s resignation will not slow this process but accelerate it, as more people realize their power. The size of the celebrations tonight shows that the momentum for change isn’t going to slow. The symbolism of his resignation under pressure from the streets will have deep repercussions inside Egypt and many who were doubtful before will now join the revolution. It will send shock waves across the whole Middle East.
Obviously there are enormous challenges ahead – how to build new, democratic, institutions – including democratic political parties. This will inevitably be a messy process and there are many perils, but for now let’s just celebrate the overthrow of another tyrant.
Three stories some may have missed –
– over Christmas, after the bomb attack on Christians in southern Egypt the mosques called on Muslims to protect their compatriots and hundreds turned up at the Churches in solidarity to protect Christian prayers…
– Tahrir square the Christian protestors take over the security and barricades whilst the Muslim protesters were at prayer…
– and lastly one of the slogans was “Muslims-Christians we are one”.
All of which serves to illustrate this is a non-denominational uprising and not a Muslim fundamentalist one. Which ought to give us all hope.