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On Protests

Posted by: mingles | July 7, 2011 | 1 Comment |

This might be somewhat outdated (actually very much so), but if you know me I don’t always have my life together, as much as I, and people connected to me, would like. If you haven’t heard (but I’m sure you have), the situation in Cairo has recently escalated, following a number of incidents last week, the most recent being a reported clash between tea vendors and protestors at Tahrir Square Sunday night. You can read more about it from the ever-reliable New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/04/world/middleeast/04egypt.html

Thankfully we are all well, and I apologize to family and friends who have already been notified for the redundancy in this statement – just thought an official, albeit delayed, update through the blog is still necessary. Notwithstanding minor changes to our daily transportation arrangements, we are still very much in our established routine of service work with both primary and secondary NGO partners, Arabic classes in the evenings, and weekly lectures, dinners and reflections (as Erica’s latest post briefly mentions). In fact, we were in a discussion with staff from the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, at the American University in Cairo, when news of the Sunday night clash first broke out. We carried on with the discussion, avoided Tahrir Square on our way back to the apartments, and obtained information via the internet upon our safe return.

While I do appreciate my safety being constantly cared for, I also find it incredibly ironic that we have to turn to major news outlets for delayed reporting when Tahrir Square is 5 minutes of walking time away from where our apartments are. It is one thing to be in Egypt and speak with Egyptians about their experiences before, during and after the spring events; it is another to be part of unfolding events. I’m not proposing that the group needs to go where the ‘excitement’ is (and as on last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, it can be downright dangerous), but to construct a sterile environment in which contact with the world outside of our routine is minimal seems a little over-protective as well. (Duke ‘bubble’ anyone?)

I concede it is a fine line to tread. I recently watched (in my opinion) a great TED talk on employing community-based action against street violence in Mexico, by Emiliano Salinas (http://www.ted.com/talks/emiliano_salinas_a_civil_response_to_violence.html). Towards the end of the talk, Salinas used a quote from the Roman poet Juvenal that particularly resonated with my personal beliefs: Count it the greatest sin, to prefer life to honor, and for the sake of living, to lose what makes life worth living.

under: Week 5
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And today, Cairo readies itself for the Million Men and Women March: http://english.aljazeera.net/video/middleeast/2011/07/20117722204487602.html

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