Sunday, May 29, 2011

On Revolting and thereafter...

This is that quote i've been (mis)quoting over the last few months! Finally made the effort to pull it out. It's in answer to this question of 'bas not everyone came out during the revolution'. Ten million is one in every 8 people. THat's more than ten percent, and in the history of world revolutions is actually a record.

It's from my all time favorite books on revolutions; "The Unthinkable revolution in Iran" - he talks about the revolution and analyzes it all the while indicating that the whole idea of a revolution is that it is about change and change is often unthinkbale, bas the efforts social sciences make to explain or deem it predictable in retrospect, takes away much of what the revolution was about, or was acheiving.

I highly recommend it as a read for understanding revolutions; bas more so, if you're worried ours may be reminiscent of Iran's in 1979. You will get this perhaps from many books you read about Iran, bas the way he describes its 'unthinkablity' and how it encroached and explded is similar, bas the prime difference (and how this revolution sort of redefines 'popular' revolutions) is the role Khomeini, and his speeches and tapes played. We did not have that sort of centre, this sort of figure who pulled us through. My gosh, we did not even have the luxury of being able to communicate! Not to mention it was growing and developing and building on shiism as it grew..

We just have those who want to ride it,and our own deamons that we're struggling to shake off.

That said, i do not discount or underestimate any risks; it is rare in the history of revolutions (or those i had read/studied) that those who pulled it through, pulled it off. And that's what we see, more in Sawiris and the many bubbling political parties that are not at all researching or considering the needs of the people; more than 7atta what we see of islamists - who albeit organized, do not have an agenda, and are making fools of themselves. People were loyal to them because they did what a non-existant government failed to offer, bas now people want a government, they want resources and they want to be incorporated in a budget and plan, and not as they were before, forgotten. They don't want the alternative.

Somehow however, i remain (deeply) optimistic :)

I read this book for the first time 6 years ago and find in every sentence, pause, foot and side-note, how far we've come :D We have a really long way to go, bas at least now, we have a say in it :)

" Indeed the Iranian Revolution was one of the most popular upheavals in world history; 10 percent or more of the Iranian population participated in the demonstrations and general strike that toppled Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. By comparison, less than 2 percent of the population participated in the overthrow of Soviet Communism.

....We can only guess teh future. We cannot know how people will act in a situation of confusion until it is upon them. Massive change cannot be known in advance, but only as it is happening. Widespread knowledge is part of the change itself. People sense that something big is occurring , and their responses help shape the event.

This conclusion may sound abstract, but it has real political consequences. If we want to change the world - and who doesn't? -- then we are marching boldly toward a stituation of confusion, the moment when old patterns begin to be disrupted and new ones take their place. For change as significant as a revolution , we cannot know in advance who will cling to the old ways and who will embrace the new. All that remains is to pursue the goal for its own sake, because we consider it the right thing to do. All we can do is try to make the unthinkable, thinkable." Charles Kurzman - The Unthinkable Revolution In Iran; viii-ix"

The genius of his book is he talks about how every revolution must be read in its own right, that we cannot pretend to have been able to predict it, nor can we explain it using others, it resists explanations. Namely because people could not have predicted their own actions (i'll bet we can all think of quite a few we would not have predicted ) and thus naturally, they could not have predicted the actions of those around them.

Revolutions break the rules, and patterns, and most essentially they break our patterns of change. For even 'change' is an idea that we are conditioned to believe happens in a particular way. He traces through interviewing many people who were involved in the revolution that moment of 'unthinkability' when is that moment that you believed something was absolutely impossible and it happened. Not because you wanted it to or believed it might, but because you did something you never believed you could or would do, and things were never the same.

We all say there is much we need to unlearn; and although we make lists of all we need to 'unlearn' i don't think we can imagine that. Because with every idea or concept we do unlearn we are left barren, without our anchors of logic; light-headed without teh weight of our judgement; and disoriented without the light-house of our values and concepts and learned ideas be they social or political.

We will all fumble, sometimes together, and it will be confusing but we will feel part of each others regiments and know we will be fine; and sometimes alone, at night in our beds, as our heart paces to the sound of gunshots, or to the sound of our own pacing hearts at the thought of a life less predictable or secured. But had we not fumbled this far, this explosion of possibilities; those fleeting moments be they rare or fleeting when we imagine that what we dream realy matters, what we've wished for is relevant, that our hopes and dreams are not private, bu they are shared and they are external adn fee e7temaal, akheeran fe e7temaal enuhum yet7a2a2uh.

And that is because ultimately ultimately ultimately; in dodging a bullet, in standing fort, in running for your life, in leaving home with all the risks in mind, in chanting at the top of your lungs, in dreaming, in feeling part of a larger whole, and in hoping, we have this sense of unquestionable ownership. El balad beta3etna. Finally finally its yours. You are not of it and from it because you were born to it, but because you believed it worth the fight. And the fight only started on the 11th of February.

I was interviewing Amina Shafiq, a communist activist and inspiring activist of 1956 in Port-said and much thereafter, and after recounting the details of '56 as a very eventful year (after, i must say a growing anti-nasserist sentiment that had developed after '54 for his outsing Naguib), she trailed off at one point and said; "Enty 3arfa, fe ra2yey.. el 3aash el fatra dee...3ash kwayes".

i think she meant, despite her own critiques of the politics of that period; the fulfillment of having hoped.

My supervisor at some ambiguous moment in the revolution, said something firm, yet somehow reassuring that no matter what happens, doing what you think is right, against all odds is good for your integrity.

At that moment, i felt it was a great quote to use with my children, but could nto grasp its relevance in our chaos and uncertainty. Bas now i do. Somehow in all our hope, and i don't think we've ever hoped as individually or collectively as we did in tahrir, there's alot of goodness in all of us, that for those brief moments externalized, adn took us all in. We became part of something larger and good.

At times when things look possibly dark, i feel like whatever happens, being there in those moments, re-assured some 'good' part in all of us, or even brought it out, or told it it DOES have a place in this world. Akid, it is more likely to resurface for the rest of our lives, than it was before those days of intense group therapy and humanization :)

But all said, adn regardless of what happens at every point; we will stay true to our hopes and dreams, and we will give it everything we've got. And somehow , for better or for worse, we will have lived through this. And thus, we will have lived well.

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