Friday, February 11, 2011

Thoughts on the events in Egypt

طلعنا على الضو ، طلعنا على الريح

The craziness in Egypt has been fascinating. This morning while I was working from home attempting to juggle the baby and frantic emails from work, I got an email from Isaac telling me to check the headlines because Mubarak left Cairo.

I clicked on the headline three times and the link kept failing, until finally the page reloaded with brand new news... Mubarak had resigned and Tahrir Square was going nuts with excitement. The video of the translator dubbed over Mubarak's announcement started normally until the actual line announcing the resignation happened, at which point the translator paused, realized the huge news he was about to translate, and suddenly the tone of his voice rose to high excitement.

We're watching history happen.

DTN News: EGYPT CRISIS IS OVER Mubarak Stepped Down

I don't know what to think. It's amazing on one hand. It was a (mostly) nonviolent movement of the people that effectively turned over the government. They continued to press their point until the power of their collective voice took down a dictator. That... is so amazing.

On the other hand... where are they now? This is such a huge question. When I commented on the situation on facebook I received a number of super happy responses, and I don't think we're quite at the point of celebration. This could be great... but it could also be even worse than before. There's a rise in Muslim extremism all around the world, and the Muslim brotherhood is a huge voice in the chaos right now. Extreme viewpoints often find the chance to take hold when there is great social instability (see also - the Taliban in Afghanistan). I really worry about that potential. Even if they run a democratic vote, there is a huge chance that an awful person could be democratically elected (see also Hamas in Palestine)

Even if that doesn't happen, all Egypt currently has is a military-run country in a state of martial law. Is this a great setting for the rise of democracy? Indonesia pressured their first dictator/President out of office after 40 years of rule in the midst of protests, with the military finally exerting enough influence that one of their own stepped in and took over. Similar story to Egypt. 40 years later Suharto was pressured out of office in nearly the same way, and though the entire 80 years of the country's history was "democratic", they had never really had freedom of the press or a truly healthy government. Just because you turn over the government and elect someone new doesn't mean you've done away with your problems. Corruption tends to be endemic in society, not merely put in place by the current government.

Where does this leave Egypt? I'd say it leaves them with nearly a blank slate. It could be filled with awful or great things. It may mostly depend on the leaders that step in and exert their influence at this time of great change.

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