- Middle East/North Africa
The modus operandi demands being able to swiftly move from speech to action: I tweet every few minutes, I talk incessantly to friends, I deliver live “citizen reports” over the phone to those voice-tweeting on behalf of Egypt. I hold monologues, I rant at home, I slam the door and rush off to give out fruit, bread and water to protesters holding the square overnight. I talk some more, interview people, film and take photos; I engage in discussion, ask questions and impatiently demand responses. I can help but am not a helpline. I maintain my Facebook status feed up-to-date. I cry. I read and re-tweet. I hope, I dream, I am unable to write.
I am terrified at sounding prolific when, no matter what I do, the surge I feel to be on the frontline becomes undone the moment I write it. I will never have done enough to stand for the values of this revolution.
The revolution is an investment of a lifetime, perhaps the only investment I will ever make, and I will not survive its abortion. The revolution is in that respect personal. The revolution, as idea, doesn’t accompany me in every waking second; inconceivable as it is, it has reconfigured my life. The revolution is not only personal in so far that I have lost personal friends and acquaintances. It is not personal, out of fear of whether my parents will survive my ideological drive, as they enter their fifth and seventh decade of life. The revolution is not personal in so far that the doorman’s underpaid working wife next door, persists in wanting Mubarak’s regime to stay on, because things are “precarious enough as they are.” Om Rasha’s account is as forceful as any blogger’s post or tweeter’s tweets. Her account can move like Mubarak’s speech around which half the nation swayed in sympathy, over the leader-father, and swayed again, as Google’s Wael Ghonim, the Facebook admin for Khaled Said group, partially accountable for the calling for the uprising, was released, breaking down in whole hearted sincerity stepping out of the live TV frame.
The intricate traces of my thoughts outline doubt, revealing my sacrilegious state, I have only but one option, namely to return to the elementary understanding of terminological key words, à la Arendt. Power, strength, force, authority and violence are all distinct from one another, the distinction points to careful speech and linguistic exactitude. The surgical care given to words, is not rooted in thesaural-paranoia, or love for language, it is in my lived experience noticing how language and its uses around me are transforming at this time of crisis.
Power to the people, amongst whom I stand in Tahrir: an aerial view of the people en masse, oozing into Downtown Cairo’s side streets, encircled by barbed wire. The army stands guard and occasionally and unsuccessfully attempts to move in on the hardcore protesters securing the square. Some are sleeping between the tank tracks. Power is our ability to act in concert. It does not belong to those holding off the army; it does not belong to those who are Facebook admins, master Tweeps or old time activists. It does not solely belong to the trade unionists, the analysts or politicians. It does not belong to the artists. Power is not the property of the youth, instigators of the youth-led movement, nor does it belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, as an example of longevity and banding. Power is in the accord of all people, the people’s revolution pushing the nation to reform. Mubarak is “in power,” still. What that means, is that he remains to be empowered by a certain number of people, in whose name he continues to act. This power is slowly deconstructing, today, as more public institutions and groups, the judges, the laborers, the workers, the teachers, the students delegitimize the regime, by calling for his abdication, not only as individual persons but within their public capacity as subjects, “his power” vanishes. Mubarak is not a powerful man; he is a man who has strength.
I walk amidst chanting people, amidst the cacophonic outbursts of political and creative expression unleashed, alienated, euphoric and downright terrified of what is to come. The louder, the more chaotic, the more manifest the anarchy becomes, the more I lose my ground, and am at a loss for words. The instant I imagine the equivalent of myself amongst the millions marching, I am caught between claustrophobic theories, a genuine desire to be elevated, to escape and to breathe, and realize the irony that the quest for ultimate freedom, the moment “HORREYA!” reverberates in unison amongst thousands, I am trapped in the crowd.
Now, as I make the decision to write, two weeks into the revolution, I ponder this decision. This is the longest thought I have had in weeks. In democracy, Jacques Derrida says a decision, the use of power, is always urgent, yet democracy takes time. Democracy makes one wait so that the use of power can be discussed and power can never be exercised without communication. Authority is divided, as soon as we speak to one another, which would explain why so many of my friends are closing off, and speaking less and less. It would explain the side effects of social paranoia and fear of disclosing information leading to resolutions towards reform. As protesters armed with blankets protect the revolution by making a move from holding the square to securing the dissolution of the regime, the discussions that exist are said to be inclusive, outwardly they are public, in essence though, they are secret, private if not closed. Sovereignty is necessary, yet there can be no use of power without sharing it.