Once again, I’m posting on some excellent literature from a culture other than our western one, this time a well conceived piece of journalism from a young writer about the Tahrir Square revolution in Egypt.
Once Upon A Revolution, by Thanassis Cambanis
Books such as this one do more to allow readers to gain insight into political change than any other form of journalism – in this case, the locale and incidents have to do with Egypt’s Tahrir Square revolution of 2005, the first major outpouring of the Arab Spring. The author interviews a handful of people as the revolution begins and follows them through the revolt’s initial stages, then the reach of these few into politics, their political repression, and finally, to the disintegration of these few’s ideals amid an eventual and common unease with a fight that would need to be one of long duration.
In this respect the revolt had much in common with the leftist revolution that reared its head in the U.S. in the 1960s. That is, endemic problems weren’t solved quickly enough to keep the populace from being uncomfortable with the inevitable counter-revolution, repression, both political and social, and the forces trying to improve poverty, income inequality, police relations among the poor, corruption. As a result, the democratic movement, as in the 60s revolts, fragmented.
A couple of facets of the Arab Spring, as manifested in Egypt, are worth noting.
The revolution was led by secular forces, and was eventually repressed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Those leading the revolution were committed to peaceful change, even in the face of beatings and murders by the police, the military, and eventually by the Brotherhood.
Cambanis’ writing here is some of the best journalistic writing of this type I’ve read, despite English being his secondary language. He rarely repeats himself, his reportage is neatly laid out in chronological fashion, and he manages a studied objectivity throughout.
And this brings up one other thought concerning what the Tahrir-ists were trying to do: We in the U.S., because we were the first to forge a significant national democracy, albeit at the beginning of our nation, tend to think that ours is perfect. All one has to do to be dissuaded of that attitude is to note the excusable lack of insight our founding fathers had into the power of corporations, globalization, mass politics, the flood of technology, particularly concerning communication and privacy issues, and a plethora of social issues. The Tahrir-ists did recognize these issues and openly desired to improve on what the U.S. has been trying to import to the Middle East in the name of democracy. Too, they realized the difficulty of trying to implement such a government and constitution without a modern prototype, particularly in an area of the world still tied by tribalism and religion to ancient socio-political constructs.
My Rating: 18 of 20 stars