Egypt saw two revolutionary waves in 30 months.
We described the uprising that broke out on 25 January 2011 as a form of a youth-led popular mobilization while the second, which broke out on 30 June 2013, was an act of rebellion. The first uprising was against political tyranny and sought to create some semblance of political participation for a rising middle-class. The second was against an attempt at religious monopoly by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Before both waves, there was a state of social and economic exclusion. Egyptians have succeeded, to an extent, in rejecting political and religious totalitarianism but they have yet to address social and economic issues to complete their revolution. Since 30 June was a watershed in the history of Egypt whose results continue to unfold, there is a need to contemplate the current situation.
First, there is a need to realise that the developments that took place in Egypt cannot be stereotypically compared to the French revolution or any other revolution. The situation in Egypt is more complicated. Several factors interacted in Egypt's two waves of disobedience, including factors related to generation, class, place, religion, sect and gender. The state of mobility Egypt witnessed happened in stages and took creative forms of protest that exploited technical capacities to achieve unprecedented change.
Egypt witnessed a state of mobility prompted by decades of political, religious and intellectual tyranny. The “powerless” Egyptians took to the streets to announce their rejection of being looked down on, expressing their demands peacefully and creatively. They declared
their insistence that all Egyptians should take part. They declared their support fo a modern state and institutions. Million-man protests were an embodiment of how a powerless people can still resist and bring down an oppressive religious or political power.
In his book "The Power of the Powerless," Vaclav Havel talks about “neo-totalitarianism” where rulers suppress their people through electoral suppression, where they exploit democracy to tighten the noose on parties such that the ruling elite's interests are not harmed.
Paradoxically, the rulers in this case remain in power because of the people's choice and have a set of ideological ideas promoted to persuade the powerless citizens that nothing could be better than the status quo.
Havel says that in such regimes the totalitarian authority promotes a certain ideology with the use of lies. A bureaucratic government is falsely called a popular government and in the name of the labour force, labour is marginalized. Total humiliation of human beings is portrayed as total liberation and the restriction of information is termed free information.
That way a totalitarian authority wins unmerited legitimacy. It gains it through the promotion of lies in the society, lies that appear as a truth that can bring happiness to the people, a happiness which they look forward to endlessly. Political tyranny and religious monopoly are no different from Havel’s neo-totalitarianism and economic slavery continues to linger.
This is what drove Egyptians to resist and take to the streets in protest.
Samir Morkous an Egyptian political thinker. He was appointed as presidential aide in August 2012 before resigning three months later.