Things have changed, completely and utterly, and we can feel it. It is utterly unfamiliar so we fear it. The Egyptians, it is said, have crossed the barrier of fear. We have to cross our own barriers of fear to understand and welcome this change.
How can we support Mubarak and support freedom and democracy at the same time? Yes, for a long time, the alternative was perceived to be worse. Now, we have an alternative that is infinitely better. What we can see here is self-directedness, self determination and an aware populace that is down with leaders, down with dictators, down with authority, and down with fundamentalism--in sum, a self directed majority that is not looking towards any doctrine, authority or leader to tell them what to feel, believe, do and think.
We fear this. We don’t understand. The people in our institutions, our “leaders” fear this and do not understand it. We are given questions by our media that are framed in words with conventional meanings and imply the answers that we are used to. Deep in our guts, we know what we are hearing just does not fit, anymore.
Here’s the new gig. The movements in the North African, Middle East and Central Asia world (NAMECA) are completely self generated and organic. Its shape is and ideation is self-deterministic. This is a completely ad hoc movement--"ad hoc" meaning from itself. Yes, there will need to be people to perform certain functions. In a truely independent way, each person knows what is needed and does it. It will not be about power, but about being an advocate for the individual, and each individual filling a need she or he perceives in others that needs to be filled. It is a cooperative movement based on mutual respect and representative of all portions of society.
The "we" that allowed Anwar Sadat to run Egypt in the 1970's was the same group that put Hosni Mubarak in power, and kept him there. Meanwhile, the People of Egypt kept looking for some shepherd to lead them, just as all peoples have in this era. As long as "we" are incapable and unwilling to lead ourselves, we need and want shepherds. This is the fundamental similarity between us and the people of the Middle East, up to this point. Here is where the people of Egypt have diverged from the West, today. And here is where we recognize we are going, too.
In our philosophy and culture, we are always given the dialectic questions: How do we differentiate between personal and collective consciousness and values, and is it possible to coalesce them? How do we balance the rights of the individual with the security and stability provided by the collective? What are the rights of the individual? What does the individual owe the collective? How does the individual know he is “right” (correct, moral)? How does an individual know that his rights are being protected by that security and stability that the leaders of the collective promise to provide? And since we live in a philosophy of dialectic, of duality, we rely on some sort of authority to tell us the answer, even if it is just mob, majority rule.
What inhibits our resolution of this dialectic? It is our innate belief in “A does not equal ~A”, the Law of Non-Contradiction. It is the Hegelian and Aristotelian belief in the construct of reality as a dialectic. It is not an "either/or" reality. It is an either/or construct of language. It is the belief in duplicity, in irreconcilable duality. We cannot fathom that reality is both, at the same time. We just cannot understand at the moment that what we are seeing in Egypt is a continuous connection of all individuals acting in cooperation to benefit their own interests, without pitting the individual against individual or pitting the individual against the collective. And this is so whether we are objectively aware of it, or not. Contrary to our beliefs, the world is not a zero sum game.
The interviewers on Al Jazeera and in the US media keep asking the same questions and implying the same answers: Who is organizing the protests? Who is providing the food and water? Who is giving them their marching orders? Who is cleaning up the waste? Who is providing and organizing the security? Who is driving the rock throwers? What we can’t get our minds around, what we cannot accept, because of our preconceived answers, is EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM.
I keep hearing and reading that the people of Egypt and the Middle East at large have no history of democracy, no history of self rule. I hear that they have had many opportunities to set choose democracy and have failed. This is narrow, and is not true.
The people of NAMECA have had the same opportunities of self determination as the West, and sometimes they’ve taken advantage of them, and sometimes they have not. Since the beginning, through ancient times, Roman times, Persian and Mongol times, the Ottoman Empire, through colonialization, through the turmoil of the 20th century, they have had one leader after another, secular and religious. Sometimes these leaders were imposed upon them from outside; and sometimes they rose up from their own generation. Their own leaders that they looked to betrayed them and became their lords. Even in Turkey today, they have the same sort of republican oligarchy that we have in the West.
Today, they have the same history we had in 1776 of self and republican rule. They have more. They are as closely related to the Greeks as we are, intellectually, and philosophically. They have had republics in their world just as we have had. For 500 years they preserved western culture while we lived in the Dark Ages. While we burned our libraries they preserved theirs. They have all of the history we have, plus some.
They have largely been educated in Western universities. To say the people in Egypt or anywhere else have no history of self-rule is ignorant, and the refusal to recognize their capacity for self rule is arrogant, patronistic, and willfully blind.
Since we and they are aware that much of NAMECA has been run since colonial times by the West and its different factions, there are certain conditions and attitudes that we and they have. NAMECA was run for centuries by patronistic authority of secular and religious doctrines, and always subject to some leader as authority. And the previous attitudes and beliefs have become nested within the Western ways. Because of three millennia of this, it is hard to fathom that this rebellion is not being organized and orchestrated by some "force" of leaders of some kind. But it is. That is where we are stuck, in the idea of leaders telling us what to do, what to think, their promise of security, jobs, stability. Mr. Mubarak’s speech on January 31, 2011, was termed almost exclusively as his duty to hold on for the sake of “stability and security”. The leaders of Israel and the United States are thinking almost exclusively in this way. This is what we all are used to. The idea of self-directedness is completely foreign to all of us. Not only do we not understand what is going on, we have an even greater paucity of imagination as to what to do.
I perfectly understand the fear of the unknown in the common man. Certainly, this is a part of the pro-Mubarak sentiments and legitimate protests. It's part of the fear in the US and its public, as well. Fear and lack of understanding are where we have always come from in our reactions. This is how we have created our reality for 3000 years. This is coming to an end and we just cannot grasp why. We just have to cross the barrier of fear, as the Egyptians are doing.
What the people in Tahrir Square are saying is "We have had enough! We don't need leaders. We don't need the old definitions. We don't need the old political parties. We don't need authoritative, fundamentalist religions. We can do quite well by ourselves. See what we are doing now!"
People all over are saying that Egypt, North African, and Middle Eastern problems were their own creations. And, I would agree to the extent they create their own reality. And the West has influenced those creations as well. Rehashing and answering history is not too much of my concern, because we have been doing that for 2000 years and where and what has that gotten us in the meantime? What I want to concentrate on is today. What are we doing today? Today, are we going to put up with the past? Are we going to live in the past and its grudges and enmities? Or, are we going to determine for ourselves what we are going to do, what we are going to think and believe and feel, and who our leaders will be, today? This attitude scares the East, Middle East, and the West. It scares Israel, it scares Hamas. It scares any power or person that obtains her, his or its legitimacy from the past. The past is what it is. Today is not the past. The Present is our point of power.