cultivate culture

A civil atrocity
February 4, 2011, 12:08 am
Filed under: politics, society

Having made the move from big English-speaking metropolis to small German-speaking town means I now have lots of downtime. Perhaps in some attempt to remain global, I’ve been using the extra time to follow political events. Of course, Egypt is now the story. I have watched more news coverage in the last week then probably all last year (‘the Daily Show’ aside). I have formed all sorts of critiques about the Western media coverage, the policy (or lack thereof) of  Western governments, and of course what is actually going on in the streets of Cairo. This message is about the latter.

I lived in Cairo for three years when I was a kid. I remember my experiences there as magical. I also met the Tschirgi’s, a family with two sons near my age who have since been like brothers to me. While we all eventually left Egypt, one of the brothers, Mark, went back to live. He is now back in Canada, but only recently, and I get the impression much of him is still in Egypt. Anyway, I’ve been corresponding with him back and forth since the protests began last week. I haven’t heard from him since Tuesday and frankly, I don’t really know what to say to him now.

The degree to which the situation has degenerated in the meantime really depresses me. It makes me think of the tragic turn that a collective, repressed anger can take when not organized. When will the protesters know when to stop and did they know that condition when they started? I don’t know. Worse, the horrible recent turn of events makes me think that the Good vs. Bad story that was so mesmerizing (even climactic as the Bad was localized in the police force which had been pushed off the stage) is just that; a story. Could it be that the sinister underbelly of the Egyptian system, naively forgotten (at least by me), has just been off camera and is only now rearing its ugly head. If these events really were consequences of the crooked tendrils of the Mubarek oppression apparatus, I am afraid that it will not go away until it is starved and slayed by slow and painful reforms. In the meantime, more good-natured Egyptians caught up in the conflict will die, or have loved ones die and maimed and harshly persecuted. I am so sad for the Egyptian people… seeing the less critical of them manipulated, and the over critical of them brutally attacked.

I couldn’t really express myself regarding the whole affair until after this evening when I watched a report showing what looked  like a police van literally plowing through a group of protesters at high speed, no doubt killing some. I was dumbstruck, but I have been moved enough by it that I now feel I have to say something, as unimbeded and naive as it may be.

Even if the van was driven by an adrenaline-intoxicated pro-Mubarek supporter fleeing for what he thought was his life in a predominately anti-Mubarek zone, it is still such a bewilderingly stark, tragic scene. He has murdered indiscriminately, and I really think he will have to alter his world view in a psychotic way to justify his action. That of course, or perhaps he thought it was merited, even before he did it. I don’t know.  What I do know is that horrible events like these are happening daily in Egypt, scarring lives of all those around. At another level, the wounds that these events must be making in the flesh and fabric of the Egyptian nation must leave it weaker and less able to recover from the 30-year oppressive regime that precipitated the protests.

As a digital spectator, I’ve come to realize how easy it is, through all the long range video coverage, to see the valiant Egyptian protesters like ants. The videos taken from above are far enough away to show the sprawling advances and retreats of the two sides, and also far enough away to desensitize the viewer to the horror of actually being there, being rushed by a mob and beaten, sometimes to death. Journalists can apparently no longer get in, which will empower any thuggish element with impunity.

Friday (tomorrow) is shaping up to be the largest protests yet. Whether we agree it is the best thing for Egypt or not, in my opinion Mubarek’s official resignation is the only thing that will stop this now.

I was living in Egypt during the Tianammen Square massacre. I have no recollection of the event, but now I can’t help but think that Tahir square will now have the same legacy if we don’t do something.

Let’s all hope, and talk, and send our support to a ceasing of the violence in Egypt, attainable through international pressure and intervention, lest it erode the human spirit further. I don’t know of more direct means for those of us abroad than talking with your local representative and signing the following petition:

Thanks for hearing me out. Please get involved.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great blog entry Max, eloquent and impassioned. I never watch the news but you’ve definitely perked my interest.

Are the protests all about the extension of the retirement age, or is it general anti-Mubarek tension that is just now finding a banner to get behind?

Comment by Jesse

Thanks for reading, Jesse. Just to be clear, the retirement age protests were in Malawi and France some time ago. In the case of Egypt, the protests revolve around police brutality and poor governance.

Comment by cultivateculture

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