The word “revolution” has already been brought up a lot in our two days here. What has been really refreshing for me, as I described to my friend from Singapore, is the level of engagement, thoughtfulness, and most important, diversity of opinions in the discussions among Egyptians on the events this past spring.
Yesterday, while visiting Resala, a charity organization we are partnering with this summer, I was fortunate to chance upon one of the many debates I’m sure has been happening on multiple levels in Egyptian society. As opposed to the optimism expressed by the other volunteers present (see picture below), about the future in Egypt, Ali, a graduate from Al-Azhar, voiced his concerns that there has not really been a mindset shift on the part of Egyptians. Using the example of the French revolution, Ali argued that the success of that historical movement lay not with the actual removal of the throne, but with the explosion of ideas that spelt out the rules for developing a civil society. In his opinion, while the Egyptian ‘throne’ has been overthrown, the explosion of ideas has not happened, and might not be forthcoming.
At this point, I would have liked more context, cultural and historical, to better understand Ali’s views on the current Egyptian mindset, and why he thinks it would not be helpful for long-lasting social change. However, I do think Ali raises a crucial point; for every social upheaval to be able to move society forward in the long-term, there must be accompanying re-education that is participatory for the masses, a period of reformation.
In the case of Egypt, I think there are signs this reformation is taking place, especially in religious and education spaces dominated by the younger generation. This view had not been prevalent for me through Western media outlets, until Professor Bruce Lawrence recommended the following article, one that is “most hopeful… on the future of the Arab Spring” – http://www.thenation.com/article/160439/egypt-after-mubarak
In the coming weeks, I hope to observe for myself if and how Egyptians are working towards this participatory civil society, of course sharing Saul Alinsky’s belief that “if people have the power to act, in the long run they will, most of the time, reach the right decisions.” (Rules for Radicals, 1971)