I wrote this in an email to an academic e- group where the question 'is anyone talking about Egypt and Tunisia? on wednesday the 25th. The spell was definately cast or broken, that tuesday, the 25th of January :) (february, 12th)
We have, on the streets all the time.
Cairo has been discussing Egypt for a decade. What tunis did is reveal that it is indeed a possibility; an entitlement, and not only an intellect's whimsy. The main slogan being shouted on the streets on tuesday was 'al shaa'b yurid esqaat al nedham' ' The people want to topple the regime' ; it is the main tunisian slogan, we even say it with a twist of Tunis.
Rhetoric has always been the safest place to be. As oppositional newspapers multiplied, it became easier adn easier for people to talk about corruption and oppression and relate policies directly to their lives; develop resentments etc. Before that there was always the idea that 'we wouldn't have known how to do it better ourselves' ; thus people try at best to keep their lives as is, and not expose themselves to the possibility of things falling apart.
What tunis made people realize, is that you can't wait for the governemt to do anything and that revolutions don't only belong in history. It's not just something your parents talk about. Geography denied it. No one could imagine tahrir occupied.
What tuesday gave us is a sense of who we are. I met the doorman's daughter; we met the man who sells ful sandwhiches from another district in town, people met their drivers, there were thousands of organized soccer fans (and i think they made this a protest like no other).
The thing about tuesday is, you always think you know 'people'. You see them around you all the time, and you forget through things like facebook and twitter that you don't reall see them, talk directly to them, and so you don't really know anyone. You know your friends.
On tuesday we knew lots of people. People were sitting in groups for hours discussing constitutions, policies, the elections, and what we could possibly wish for. Did we not really fear a revolution or chaos. where would we fall as individuals, how would we fare as groups. If we could push for something what would it be.. if we could ask for something, what would it be.
The only thing i find difficulty to deal with is state central security. THey were outnumbered by far on tuesday (which is a rare happening) and they were terrified. They have acquired a human face for protestors over the last few years. I have an experience where a few helped me get away once, sometimes they sing along with national/resistance songs, adn sometimes they have conversations, and sometimes they just smile.
Tuesday, they looked terrified. they retreated many times. Protestors scared a number of police cars away, pulled a man off a fire engine (ending the water-spraying strategy) and every time there was a clash between protestors and cetral security forces, a black helmet went flying through the air. By night, when things were calmer and befor the final attack, people were walking around in central security helmets, in their shields, and one person i saw had a bullet proof vest.
People came in to sell balloons, walked around with trays of tea and bread and sandwhiches. And the protesters created a 'lagnet 'eaasha' - subsistence committee where money was collected and food and blankets bought.
People cut down bushes and used twigs to created little campfires, and built little tends. Anti mubarak slogans were all over the ground and spray painted on metro walls and entrances. Street-lights carried flags and a carton-made mubarak hanging from a noose.
Tahrir was tranformed.
Just as people thought we would spend the night, rumours of different froms of attack spread, and then a very brutal and relentless tear-gas raid happened. Even as we ran out of the square and into downtown they intercepted with more teargas. The trip ended at one am for me when i couldn't take the teargas and couldn't run. But protestors continued the chase throughout cairo until 3 and 6 am. This time attacked with rubber bullets.
No one knows what this will lead to. The situation is much deeper entrenched in Egypt than anywhere else. But this sense of freedom has been seeeping in for very long, and we have been very very constructive with it. We have been nibbling at the political spehre, but independant spheres of arts and culture and technology have been advancing for a decade or more.
One thing is for sure; and that is that this sense of possibility is stronger than ever and irretreivable. Downtown cairo will never be teh same again. We felt extreme excitement and feared for our lives for the first time.. we started at the concrete as we fell or ran and wondered if these were last breaths. It will never be the same again.
We will never be teh same again.
We are 'we', as we've never been before.