Egypt is joyous after its three-decade dictator succumbed to massive protests. Here's why that should make you happy.
Though the historical reach of Egypt extends far beyond the Arab states, many of us have no tangible connection whatsoever to the embroiled, newly Mubarak-less nation. Sure, we’ve been keeping tabs on the volatile situation there for the past few weeks, but that’s not the same as having relatives there or having lived there ourselves. And yet it’s still been exciting and joyous to watch the events unfold day in and day out, and it fills us with hope to today watch Hosni Mubarak step down as president. In a way, it feels like our victory, too. Is that OK? Yes, it is. Here’s why.
1. It proves that smart, rational people are everywhere.
Bigots like to think that, outside of their peer group or nation, the rest of the world is less-than. All bigots believe they’re the best, and that others—frequently others in Africa and the Middle East—are savages.
Smart people, of course, know this is wrong. Smart people know that their smart counterparts are everywhere, and that they want the same thing as the rest of us: freedom, comfort, contentment, a normal life amongst family and friends. These things bridge ethnicities, nations, and religions. And to see them obtained by a mass of smart, rational people, even thousands of miles away, reminds us to honor our own freedom.
2. It was nonviolent.
Save for a handful of violent clashes perpetrated mostly by pro-government agents, the large majority of Egypt’s demonstrations were nonviolent. The army vowed not to fire on protesters, and, considering their sheer numbers, the protesters themselves conducted themselves with admirable civility. Even after Mubarak’s enraging speech yesterday, word came via Twitter that protesters were marching to the presidential palace to … sleep and protest nonviolently again come morning.
Sometimes it’s easy to feel powerless against people with tremendous reserves of money and force. Egypt, where many people survive on $2 a day, should make you feel strong.
3. It was led by young people.
Though his fake-out resignation speech last night proved wildly divisive, President Mubarak did get one thing right. He began it by saying, “I am addressing you tonight, the youth of Egypt in Tahrir Square, with all of its diversity. I am addressing all of you from the heart.”
Young people, more than any other group in Egypt, led the charge on Mubarak’s regime. That’s not to diminish anyone else’s contributions, but it is to acknowledge the successes of a group that is too often crushed by reality. Many youth are told they can change the world, only to be beaten down by all-powerful, good ol’ boy bureaucracies helmed by rich old men.
For four weeks, Egyptian kids stood up to an unjust system that was entrenched before they were even born, and they destroyed it.
4. It happened in less than a month.
The first protests in Egypt happened on January 25. Seventeen days later, the 30-year dictator was resigning. Egyptians changed the world in about three weeks, and, in doing so, reminded the rest of us that though our time on Earth is short, it needn’t be trivial.