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Monday, February 28, 2011

"The policeman in my head" 


The New York Review of Books has a nice article by Max Rodenbeck that traces the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and now Libya, "Volcano of Rage." I liked this glimpse of Tunisia very much:

With the army hunting down small bands of Ben Ali militiamen, and citizens forming their own patrols across the country, the wave of looting and vandalism lasted barely two days. State television, stultifyingly bland and adulatory for decades, almost overnight replaced the al-Jazeera satellite channel as a trusted source of news. One female presenter interrupted her chat show and in a sudden epiphany stared open-eyed at the camera. “I just realized,” she said in wonder, “I don’t have to listen to the policeman in my head anymore.”

It is easy to forget, when we worry about how things are going in this country, that we do not have a policeman in our head here. Although, come to think of it, in most big institutions now we all have a "lawyer in our head," which is stressful, but not quite the same thing.

While well worth reading, the article's conclusion is a bit glib for me:
Yet there is no doubt that Egypt has changed for good, and with it the wider region. As the increasingly brutal suppression of uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya shows, the Egyptian model of massive street uprisings may not work everywhere in the tyranny-prone Middle East. But in Cairo, at least, a newfound sense of empowerment and potential pulses vigorously. It will not be easily muted. “We were always looking at photos, but were never in the picture,” says one of the young April 6 activists, explaining his wonder at the triumph his movement launched. “Now, the photo is us.”

"No doubt that Egypt has changed for the good"? Sunny and optimistic, to be sure, but we shall all soon see whether the Muslim Brotherhood has the last laugh.

5 Comments:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Feb 28, 10:57:00 AM:

When considering the fate of the "revolutions" that have taken place/are taking place in North Africa, the following might be salient points:
1) what is the average level of education or literacy among these people?
2) what is the prevailing religious/philosophical belief among these people?
3) Should we start air-dropping Arabic translations of the Federalist Papers now, or would that be too neo-colonial and provacative for the Obama Administration?

Bottom line: I wish the best but expect the worst for most of these "revolutions". There is no cultural underpinning for toleration of dissent, secular rule of law, or the notion of a republic where the law is transcendant over the whims of the mob of the moment.
The strong horse has been and will continue to be Islam in this part of the world. Various forms of Sharia will be their destiny. Which is not democracy by any means. The minority of Western-educated peoples here will either be shackled, persecuted or driven out, in the end.
I wish it were otherwise.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Feb 28, 11:53:00 AM:

Is there anything other than a difference of degree between "the policeman in my head" and our phrase "polical correctness". These Orwellian terms both seem to me to describe the same cultural phenomona, though obviously there are significant differences in potential punishment (which is what I mean by degree of difference).  

By Blogger DEC, at Mon Feb 28, 04:07:00 PM:

TH: "we do not have a policeman in our head"

How many Americans always say what they think to their spouses and bosses?

Egypt? Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak came from the military, and the military is still in control.

Many influential Egyptians didn't care much for Mubarak. Some of them felt Mubarak's son Gamal was eating too much of the pie.

Muslim Brotherhood? About a thousand years ago, an overly religious Muslim ruler in Egypt spent years trying to tear down the Great Pyramids at Giza. The pyramids are still there.

The presidential palace in Egypt is in Heliopolis, about 10 miles north of downtown Cairo. If you want to discover what's really happening in the country, put a beautiful Ukrainian blonde woman in a swinsuit next to the hotel swimming pool at Le Méridien Heliopolis. She'll find out everything you need to know.  

By Blogger Tigerhawk Teenager, at Wed Mar 02, 12:45:00 PM:

Are we sure he didn't mean "change permanently" instead of "change positively" when he said "Yet there is no doubt that Egypt has changed for good?"  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Mar 02, 11:47:00 PM:

THT, nice question, and good close reading. Not sure we're sure.  

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