There will come a time when the Egyptian scene settles down and the revolution of the people takes stock of what it managed to achieve and where to go from there.
What the people of Tunisia and Egypt proved to their Arab brethren is that change is possible and fear is overcome by courage and determination. Which is the reason why Arab leaders have been scrambling to take steps that appear conciliatory. They are now watching anxiously to see where this stops and how much of the status quo they can preserve.
But it needs to be pointed out that inevitably disagreements over ideology and direction will emerge among those who stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the face of oppression and injustice.
I hope that the obvious organization of the protesters, the delegation of responsibilities among them and the open-minded activism on display can be used to lay the foundations of a more promising future for these and the coming generations.
Much of the talk over the past several weeks has been about revolution. It is now incumbent upon the people to revolutionize their lives and thought processes. They can decide where they want their societies to go. I am a firm believer that we need to be open to the world, to be receptive to the exchange of ideas. There is talk of a flow of ideas which I think is not conducive to engaging and mutually beneficial progress. It is the exchange that benefits all.
Inevitably political reality will hit. This is not a revolution along the French, Cuban or Iranian lines. It lacks a unifying leader and I hope it will not devour its own along the lines of Sadeq Qotbzadeh.
The civilized face of this revolution needs to be retained with no part of it imposing its will upon the other. This is a real revolution, unlike the revolutions of the Arab world in the 1950s and 1960s which were, in reality, coups d'etat by military officers who excluded the people in whose name the toppling of regimes and shedding of blood were committed. Then they set about trampling the people.
Just over a year ago I interviewed several men a for a documentary on torture. "They used to bring in a doctor who would tell them when to stop torturing me," one victim said. The henchmen were not worried about his health, nor was the doctor; they wanted him to survive the torture session so that he could be tortured again, and again, and again... He wished he were a dog, he said. He thought animal rights activists would care more for him than anyone did for him as a man.
We need to set the ground for genuine respect of human rights. Human rights are rights of human beings, not just a cliched phrase. These must be enshrined in the constitutions and ably defended by laws. They encompass everything that pertains to our lives: Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, education, healthcare, gender... The list goes on and on.
This means that what we wish for ourselves we must ensure for our minorities, migrant workers and the less advantaged.
The world is not a utopia; there will always be inequality and injustice. But to continue to stand aside, acquiesce and blame our inaction on helplessness makes us accessories. Accessories as in decorative items that allow regimes to say "Here are our people and all is well" and accessories to whatever crimes are committed while we stand idly by which we then complain about in whispers.
This extends much farther than politics; it goes to the core of our societies, to our private and public institutions, work places, businesses, universities and institutions. We have many shiny structures with glossy brochures extolling their grandeur. But like fast food restaurants with a clean exterior and pretty menus kitchen life vastly different. These places are soul-less hulls. The reality is that a pretense of professionalism is propagated while incompetence, cronyism and a serious lick of quality and professionalism are the bedrock of these often-lauded establishments. They are treated as fiefdoms by the men in charge (they are inevitably always men) who distribute largesses and favors according to personal whims and preferences.
It is not an entirely dark picture; there are exceptions but they are few and far between and cannot on their own lift our societies from the dark depths they find themselves in.
Well into the 21st Century, we are still prisoners of the middle of the 20th Century.
There is a path ahead potentially strewn with roses; not roses in the romantic sense, but roses whose thorns need to be negotiated to get to the delicate, fragrant, sensuous petals. And no matter how nurtured and cared for, roses eventually die so we need to stay on track and negotiate more roses. It is a very slow and gradual process but one that offers hope unlike anything we've experienced in modern times. And there's the alternative. There's the beaten track which we've trod for decades, if not centuries. It is the desolate, haunted, silent and hopeless road that we have traversed aimlessly all this time.
A man on a long journey through a perpetual desert.
The opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the views of any of my employers, past, present or future.