Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt on my mind

I feared this Friday morning I'd wake up to news of a bloodbath by the Nile. Not yet. As the Al Jazeera commentator is saying at this moment of the crowds outside the Presidential palace, "every time these people come together, they raise shout of "Peaceful, Peaceful." So far, the men with the weapons haven't used them.

Yesterday's events -- the expected Mubarak resignation that evaporated when he spoke on television -- reminded me of something. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy told us:

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

Coming from a vigorous proponent United States world hegemony, this was a theory for understanding apparently unavoidable social change. It was less an endorsement of "revolution" than a prescription for a more or less democratic outcome. But that caveat does not make it false.

Cairo, end of Mubarak's speech via twitter.jpg

As Mubarak made it clear he wasn't going anywhere, the people raised their shoes in a sign of rejection. Graeme Wood, writing for The Atlantic, caught the moment as felt in Cairo's Liberation Square.

As Mubarak started his speech tonight, the crowd hushed and was ready to hear him out. They wanted celebration, not blood. They seemed ready to cheer and exult, and would surely have done so even if all Mubarak said was that he intended to resign immediately. He wouldn't even have had to agree to a fixed date for elections: A simple "I'm going" would have sufficed. Instead the crowd murmured in disbelief as Mubarak droned on, defiantly granting no substantive concession whatsoever.

Nervous tics in the crowd surfaced, and young mothers with toddlers up past their bedtime started packing their things in case the scene turned ugly. Tears gave way to anger in about 90 seconds, and by the end of the speech no one cared what Mubarak was saying. The protesters heard only themselves, yelling "Irhal," or "Go away."

The uprising of the last three weeks has focused the world media spotlight on putrefying corpse that is the Egyptian regime. I don't routinely look to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for revelatory accounts of dictatorship. After all, these are media outlets were set up by Congress to put out U.S. propaganda during the Cold War. But last week in Egypt, their reporters got a dose of the treatment that so many Egyptians associate with the regime. Picked up on arrival in the country by state security, their Arabic speaking reporter told what he heard while blind-folded in a lock-up with other prisoners.

He heard an intelligence agent ordering, "Get the electric shocks ready, this lot are to be made to really suffer," as a new batch of prisoners were brought in.

"In this hotel, we only have two things on the menu for those who don't behave -- electrocution and rape," the unfortunate detainees were told. ...

Then the screaming started.

New York Times reporters had a similar experience. That's what this regime is, a rotting structure that has nothing left except force to hold it up.

And it's dead, but the corpse remains unburied.
Al Jazeera is reporting that Egyptian state television is now grabbing world media reports on their own country. That is, not even the regime knows what is going on at this moment. Let's hope "Peaceful, Peaceful" prevails.

The picture flew by on the #Egypt twitter stream.

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