After eighteen days of a peaceful, democratic, participatory Revolution, President Hosni Mubarak fled Cairo – and left us, the people of Egypt, to begin fixing our country. On Friday night – one month on from that first, astonishing Tuesday – the Army entered Tahrir square wearing balaclavas and wielding machine guns, batons and tasers.
The next few months will decide whether or not the Egyptian Revolution takes its place among the great, transformational moments in history. Or if it joins the list of ever heavier disappointments weighing down on the land. We made a city square powerful enough to remove a dictator. Now we must re-make a nation to lead others on the road to global equality and justice.
We showed ourselves, and the world, something no-one had ever seen before, and we need to use it. We have a responsibility, to those who died, to those now living with hope, to get this right.
Tahrir Square worked. It worked because it was inclusive – with every type of Egyptian represented equally. It worked because it was inventive – from the creation of electric and sanitation infrastructure to the daily arrival of new chants and banners. It worked because it was open-source and participatory – so it was unkillable and incorruptible. It worked because it was modern – online communication baffled the government while allowing the revolutionaries to organize efficiently and quickly. It worked because it was peaceful – the first chant that went up when under attack, was always selmeyya! – peaceful!. It worked because it was just – not a single attacking paramilitary thug was killed, they were all arrested. It worked because it was communal – everyone in there, to a greater or lesser extent, was putting the good of the people before the individual. It worked because it was unified and focussed – Mubarak’s departure was an unbreakable bond. It worked because everyone believed in it.
Inclusive, inventive, open-source, modern, peaceful, just, communal, unified and focussed. A set of ideals on which to build a national politics. A set of ideals to hold on to.
But what exactly are we building?
The Army recently announced eight reforms to the Constitution. But how can you legitimately reform a Constitution when the Prime Minister was put in place by the deposed President, when Parliament is suspended? The Constitution is fast becoming a focal point of the transition, but the transition needs to be about so much more. The millions of people who filled Tahrir were not risking their lives to trying to fix a rotten system, they wanted to build a new country, and still do.
So before we race to build our new country in the shadow of out-dated and fallible Euro-American democratic systems, let us learn from Tahrir Square.
The Revolution is creative, and now we need to create the system that works best for us. We need to consider if political parties are the right tool for the rhythm of Egypt’s politics. Do we need political parties, when skilled individuals can clearly pull together for a collective cause? People are scrambling to try and put parties together. But putting together a political party with a national reach by September requires an incredible amount of resources, and so is both exclusive and a fortification of the economic structure of Old Egypt. A political party, by default, is full of politicians. But if we can take it as a given that the Minister of Defence will be appointed by the Army, can it not also be guaranteed that Ministers be experts in their field with proven track records? Why has being a party member, in some Western democracies, become sufficient qualification to oversee the needs of a nation?
Western party-politics turns on the right-wing/left-wing politico-economic line. In the West, it is the push and pull between Socialism and Capitalism, between tradition and modernity that sets the political rhythm, but those tensions are not as keenly felt in Egypt. In Egypt, global Capitalism arrived as a top-down phenomenon that has been disastrous for the majority of the population, with food prices and unemployment soaring over the last decade while the new ultra-rich built villas in the desert. A communalist socialism is the more natural mode of the country, while tradition and the push for modernity are woven together more comfortably – cross-communication between generations, time spent at home, with family, with one’s grandparents is a fixture in Egypt but an increasing irregularity in the West, where each generation seeks to actively break with its antecedent in the name of fashion and progress.
Egyptian politics does not turn along the same axes as the West’s. Egypt has its own tensions and frictions – but if allowed and encouraged to steer its own course, these issues will be worked out in a way that is right for Egypt and, ultimately, for the world.
The Egyptian Revolution is leaderless and open-source and inclusive, and we saw in Tahrir that if people feel involved in the running of their own lives, if their sphere of control is expanded beyond their own body, if they are empowered, then the country will reap dividends. To that end, we need to decentralize administration and decision-making. Cairo cannot continue as the suffocating home of 20m people and as the heart of all political decision-making. We need to localize and communalize politics wherever possible. Create smaller, community groups, organized within the 27 governorates; devolve as many decisions to as local a level as possible with access, accountability and transparency for the populace.
The Revolution is unified and focussed. Though power and decision-making should be de-centralized, there is also now a need for unity of national cause and ambition. Egypt has always rallied around great national projects, from the Pyramids to the High Dam. It is time to utilize that which we have most of – the sun.
Inclusive, inventive, open-source, modern, peaceful, just, communal, unified and focussed. The Revolution is many things, and it is clearly far from over. Through continued peaceful protest, through the brave insistence of the women and men still sleeping in Tahrir Square the people are insisting on pushing through not just reform, but on building a new country.
There are not many governments in the world that wanted this to happen. But if we use what we all taught each other over those 18 days, if Tahrir is kept alive, then surely nothing can stop us.
source: The Post-Revolutionary Road | http://www.occupiedlondon.org/cairo/?p=365