After two weeks of non-violent protests, and decades of murder and torture, Egyptian revolutionaries have toppled a repressive regime. Mubarak and his ruling party have given into the demands of the hundreds of thousands of protestors and given all authority over to the military. It is yet to be seen what the military will do with this power, whether they will give up significant amounts of their power in the transition to a civilian-led democracy.
Despite the harsh realities that await us in the morning, the beauty of this moment cannot be overstated. A murderous regime has been overthrown, but more than that the Egyptian people have fought back the fear and alienation the regime depended on, and from many they have become many AND one. An organizer of the revolution was just speaking on Al-Jazeera and in tears she cried: “Everything now seems possible, everything is possible. For centuries they’ve told us that as Arabs we are not capable of democracy, but we have proven them wrong. I’ve never been so proud and happy in my life. I’m just overwhelmed.”
From all the way across the world I too am overwhelmed. In my field of study we are entrhralled with the question of revolutionary consciousness: what is it, how does it emerge, what conditions make it possible, is it a moment, is it a process, does it belong only to the moment of danger, or can it exist among us in the everyday? For the past two weeks I have been glued to the air streams of information watching this consciousness unfold and come into being.
One of the things I’ve witnessed is that revolutionary consciousness was expressed in Egypt as a profound love: love for a future that lived only as a dream, love the revolutionaries have for one another as beings who deserve to live in dignity. Time and time again stories emerged of the protesters caring for one another, feeding one another, sleeping together, and talking without regard to religion and class—notably with full participation by women and men, young and old. Love and courage, courage and love—to me the lesson of Egypt is that these are the two fundamental features of revolutionary consciousness.
Certainly it is this moment, just as the regime topples, where the euphoria of this mode of being is made most visible. Though we must remember that it was built heart by heart, moment by moment, many days and weeks before now. What we must also recognize is that Egypt has much more to teach us about revolutionary consciousness in the next days, weeks, months, and years. It is my hope that there are forms of this consciousness capable of spreading beyond Egypt and the Middle East (next Iran! next Palestine! next Saudi Arabia and Yemen and Syria!).
Valentine’s Day is just a few days away here in the US. There are parts of me that have recoiled at the incredible sappiness and seeming silliness of the holiday. But now, for the first time, I see the holiday through a different lens. There is something powerful and beautiful about a holiday dedicated to celebrating love; it’s just that we’ve been holding on to a rather stunted version of something that in reality is full of revolutionary potentialities. This Valentine’s Day can we widen the scope of our embrace to include people in other continents, speaking foreign languages, and worshipping foreign gods? Can we withstand the emergence of a Middle East that doesn’t match our vision of it?
I sound impossibly naive, I know, but the Egptians have just given me hope in human beings again—everything truly seems possible.