Friday, February 11, 2011

Notes on Egypt

I switched off Al Jazeera and ignored Twitter for fifteen minutes, trying to get something written, and I missed it. By the time I plugged back in, people were already celebrating in the streets of Cairo.

As I type this, it’s more than three hours since Hosni Mubarak’s resignation-by-proxy. Right now I’m watching and hearing hundreds of thousands of people — millions, for all I know — singing and dancing, waving flags, setting off fireworks and aerosol torches. I am six thousand miles away, and finding it hard to get back to work.

The Wall Street Journal reporter Tamer El-Ghobashy, via Twitter:

soldier, away from crowds, on cell phone, crying: "mom, i want to celebrate with the people"

Martin Carter: “Mankind is breeding heroes every day.”

The Jamaican writer Marlon James, via Facebook:

“I never thought in my lifetime that these words would mean anything to me, but goddamn it, Power To The People.”

Al Jazeera reporter Jamal Elshayyal, on the celebrations in Alexandria:

“... every meaning of the word hope.”

I find myself thinking that the nearest equivalent to this mass euphoria that I’ve ever seen in my own country was when Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. I ponder this. I think about all the ways that my country is nothing like Egypt. I think about why I’ve been so anxiously, obsessively following events six thousand miles away over the past eighteen days. I think about my own jadedness and alienation from the political realities of my here and now.

I think about Martin Carter’s phrase, “a free community of valid persons,” and its four difficult words. Free. Community. Valid. Persons.

Freedom, community, validity, and personhood are all hard work.

Six thousand miles away, it is hard to get back to work.

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