Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rally to Revolution - (and, Where Has All the Kitsch Gone???)

My last night here (for just the time being, I hope). After listening to a Czech youth leader from the revolution there some twenty years ago address a group of 25 young Egyptian activists and try to answer their eager questions about how to do revolution right, I did a sentimental tour. First, to the koshari restaurant for a last meal, then through T Square, and to the famed bridge leading to it. My real goal was to buy the momentos I had planned to gift my staff.

But there was nothing to buy! Virtually all of the dozens of makeshift stands, or individuals who just lay the souvenirs out on the sidewalk, were gone. No January 25th t-shirts or bumperstickers or flags. Sorry gang, I waited too long.

So, what stage is a revolution at when the kitsch starts to disappear??

There is much more to say and I hope to complete the several more posts for which there are already titles. I'm sad to go. What an honor to have been here for so long, at such a critical time. I'm deeply grateful for a university that takes international outreach seriously, for a dean and department head who shared the urgency of the trip, to IRB leaders for rapid-fire processing, to colleagues for their interest and support, for students who put up with fuzzy skype sessions for class, etc. etc.

The blog has been titled "How the hell did they do it?"  In part, the answer is that they didn't, really. That is, they didn't manufacture or plan out this revolution. All that was planned was a day of protest. None expected a revolution of this magnitude. It occurred because of an unanticpated confluence of regional (especially, Tunisa) and local events that were broadcast in real time via a varriety of technologies with which youth were already quite expert - all underlain by a lifetime of unfulfillment, magnified by the crippling economic crisis.

The most common response I've gotten from youths when asking for their most important memory of the revolution has been a sense of surprise and awe upon seeing so many of their people - young and old - at the January 25th annual rally. That moment for so many was deeply moving and fundamentally motivating - indeed, transforming. At once, they learned that their people might have it them after all to stand together against injustice and constraint, and they, as individuals, discovered an authentic drive to contribute. This is what they did so marvelously - committing so firmly and with such unwavering insistence that the unexpected magic moment not be lost.

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