Sunday, November 20, 2011

Writing on Egypt Again: This is the Beginning

I have stayed away from posting on Egypt in the past few months. There are many reasons for this, but the foremost amongst them is my absolute belief that only the Egyptians have the right to shape their narrative and their futures, and any writing at this point by foreigners distracts from their amazing struggle to sieze control of their own story.

This is really the reason I have not commented on the horrific Maspero violence by the country's military regime. I have also not commented on Maikel Nabil, even though in many ways, for an Indian, he embodies the greatest of our nonviolent traditions and we could take a lesson from him.

However, tonight I feel compelled to write. Not because Egypt's revolution has stalled or 'Arab Spring' has come to a halt (as many western commenters insist, perhaps all too wishfully). I write because I am tired of being asked why there are still protesters at Tahrir; why they are not more concerned with the country's economic development; why the country's activists are still fighting.

I find the questions depressing. Mostly because these questions are deeply imbued with imperialist views of the 'Arabs' and of Egypt. These are questions that assume that some how when the 'difficulties' are over, Egypt's elite (and how Fanonian is that!) will go back to doing business as usual with Europe and northern America. It ignores the possibility that by the time Egypt's revolution is complete (perhaps in a couple of decades), neither Europe nor America will have the hegemonic political or economic influence to even impact its future.

Also for the record, and just in case, here are my answers: the American Revolution would not have stopped when British conceded on tax rates. Neither would the French accept the pre-revolution heirarchies; and the Russians would scoff at the monarchy after their revolutions. The whole point of revolutions is that they leave nothing unturned.

So without appropriating the narrative space the Egyptians deserve for themselves, let me point to two blog posts I wrote earlier this year: one that considered the past, and the other that pointed the way to the future.

And I want to explicitly point out something I firmly believe: historically Egypt, Turkey and Persia have been the oldest and most clear centres of power in the region, and by extension in other parts of the world (especially Europe).  I believe that what we are witnessing is a resurgence of the three, in very different ways and levels. I also believe that the three will find their own spheres of influence and not necessarily go to war - there is little evidence that there is ample 'narcissism of minor differences' to make them compete in bloody ways for that regional power and influence.

This resurgence is all the more interesting (and perhaps possible) because it is occurring alongside the decline of western hegemony: US has shown itself incapable of maturing into history while western Europe is declining  into insignificance after nearly five hundred years of direct and indirect hegemony.

Back in March, I wrote: "In the long term, these convulsions of history are unescapable. They will continue - not on media schedules and not for the next few weeks - but into the next couple of decades as historic changes do!  At the end, those who put short term interests over long term paradigm shifts will find themselves on the wrong side of history."

I stand by that statement and the analysis even more than ever. What we are witnessing is not a blip in time but a massive and extraordinary change.  Not SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt Army's junta) nor USA's paid stooges, nor Saudi Arabia's useful idiots, nor Europe's favourite business boys will be able to withstand the wave that has risen.  And whether the revolutionaries stand or fall, live or die, are incarcerated or free, is immaterial. The change is inevitable. The only choice is the side we choose - within Egypt, and abroad - to stand. 

And this is why it is necessary to note tonight, even as pitched battles rage in Tahrir Square and Alexandria and elsewhere in Egypt, and protests continue to shake up regimes in the region, that the revolution is not over. Not by a long shot!

No matter how much money and weapons (and 'non-lethal technologies') western nations continue to provide their stooges and clients in the region, the balance of power has already shifted. Yes the convulsions of history have not ceased; yes, the changes are incomplete. But there is no going back. It now only about waiting to see where the sands settle - and that is entirely the choice the people of Egypt (and elsewhere in the region). The rest of us are no more than spectators, and if we choose to be on the right side of history - allies.