Do you start throwing things at the TV every time Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi or his government makes an announcement? Do you constantly feel tired and fatigued? Do your friends and family try to ask you what’s wrong to which you repeatedly respond with a sigh of frustration: “You just don’t understand.” If you answered yes to all of the above, then you are probably suffering from “post-revolutionary nothing else in my life matters until this revolution is exactly the way I pictured it syndrome.” Granted, that is not exactly a technical term, but it highlights a very important and personal nuance about the Egyptian Revolution as it crossed over the two year mark last week: who “owns” the revolution?
I was having a conversation on Twitter at the time with an Egyptian activist who was arguing for mass protests to continue beyond January 25 2013 in an attempt to disrupt and perhaps even force President Morsi to resign, which I disagreed with despite my own misgivings regarding Morsi’s presidential reign thus far. But then our conversation took on a different twist. No longer was Morsi the subject of her enmity, but rather it was I. Despite living and participating in the eighteen day uprising and living in Egypt for the eighteen months that followed, my status as an Egyptian expat now rendered me out of touch and not qualified - no, not “permitted” to comment on what path Egypt should tread next. Needless to say, that conversation ended quite quickly.
Placing the personal accusations to one side, unfortunately this was not a one-off rant from a frustrated activist but something I have seen repeated in conversations, comment sections in articles, and the blogosphere, where revolutionaries/political activists go beyond debating Egypt’s current socio-political climate (which is a great source of encouragement and wards off dreaded political apathy) but begin laying claim to a sense of ownership or a deeply personal understanding of the revolution that other Egyptians “simply don’t understand.” Just as Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been continuously accused of hijacking and jumping on the coattails of the revolution, now the finger is being pointed by activists towards other activists who disagree on what the next course of action should be.
In Egypt’s current fragile political and economical state, and particularly for Egypt’s secular/liberal opposition who need unbreakable unity in order to start eating away at the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is paramount that political debate does not become a forum for personal accusations based on subjective opinions such as “You’re not as committed as I am,” or perhaps my favourite, “this revolution is my life, for you it’s a hobby.” I admire the commitment and the cause, but this isn’t a relationship, it’s a revolution, and it has become so personalized in the minds and hearts of so many activists that much-needed analysis, planning, and collective accord is being missed.
No two activists will always have the same perspective or shared idea of what should happen next in Egypt beyond a vague landscape that can be summarized in a political slogan. And if political debate doesn’t flourish now among the masses in Egypt following thirty years of political impotency, then it never will. Yet, every Egyptian activist, living in Egypt or an expatriate, would do well to remember that Egypt’s Revolution was celebrated for its emphasis on the collective and wholesale demographic representation. Two years later, it continues, and you and I do not own it. If you suffer from “post-revolutionary nothing else in my life matters until this revolution is exactly the way I pictured it syndrome,” you are at the very least not alone – some of us are just displaying different symptoms and taking a different medicine.