Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sweep Of History

I had an overwhelming desire to have been strolling through Cairo last night with a pretty Egyptian lass as my guide. Didn't happen, so a few armchair comments:

1. As an admittedly lay observer, I was struck by the strength of Egypt's basic social fabric. Egyptians as a whole seem highly educated, informed, and tech-savvy. Combine this with an apparently innate or at least newfound national resilience, determination and unity, and you've got potent potential for the future. One wonders what the country could have achieved during the last three decades without the yoke of oppression and parasitic, institutionalized corruption. Might this underlying national potential -- not concerns about longstanding peace treaties or the Muslim Brotherhood -- really be what's got some people worried?

2. Obama nailed it yesterday when he made comparisons to Gandhi and MLK. This was peaceful protest's finest hour, and it will stand in human history as an example of what's possible through nonviolence. It made our own self-styled revolutionaries -- with their moronic exhortations to "reload" and "aim" and their references to Second Amendment remedies -- look like hysterical dilettantes.

3. I was amazed by the Egyptian military as an institution. Silly sideshows like the Oath Keepers aside, is this type of moderation and restraint during a crisis part of our own national character? There is important though imperfect precedent: Kent State, Anacostia Flats in 1932, Waco. Somehow, even with the combustible mix of national rage and a dominant military, Egyptians managed to do better. Let's hope we don't get the chance to find out if we've learned anything from them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The infrequency of your posts make them more resonant and you are spot on with this one. If those Egyptians being interviewed represent a true cross section of the protesters and ultimately will provide new leadership, then Egypt could indeed be a shining light in the middle east.

Let's hope their revolution does not get hijacked by "immature" (we are a young country) types that exist in the US who seem to be bristling for a chance to show their second amendment rights include bloodshed when necessary to "defend".

2/12/2011 11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) You seem to take it for granted that the protesters are representative Egyptians. I remember seeing a statistic that said that the literacy rate in Egypt is less than 60%.
2) I agree that the fact that the protest has been largely non-violent has been remarkable and inspiring. We're still in the early stages, though. Let's see what happens if (when?) the military gives them only cosmetic reform.
3) Again, it's early stages. The restraint they showed could well have been a strategy. It doesn't look good gunning down dozens or hundreds of young peaceful protesters. The proof will be in the pudding. If they continue to show restraint and willingly hand over power to a some semblance of a democratic civilian government I'll be impressed.

2/14/2011 6:02 PM  
Anonymous chrisd said...

To Anon above:

Many political scientists believe that once a country reaches a certain level of socio-economic prosperity, the people will eventually demand more social freedoms. As the economic prosperity element is clearly missing from the equation in most Arabic-speaking countries, something different is going on. Egypt is the most populated country in the Arab world and its people are relatively well-educated; although the country’s literacy rate of 72% might seem a bit meager from a western perspective, Egypt boasts the largest overall education system in the Middle East and North Africa.

2/14/2011 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, chrisd. I'm not sure where I saw a 58% literacy rate, so it's good to see some documented numbers.

2/14/2011 7:33 PM  
Anonymous pete said...

"is this type of moderation and restraint during a crisis part of our own national character? "

Hard to tell. You urban dwellers don't really get the flavor of the country. While you live around the product of your failed social experiments (ghettos and enterprise zones), I would expect you would be hopeful of the moderate backlash from the hopeless victims of your inane attempts to control human behavior. The people in Egypt seem better educated than the unfortunate souls government sponsored social dependency has trapped in your urban plantations. Good luck to you.

2/14/2011 8:36 PM  
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