As the second anniversary of the 25 January revolution draws near, I can’t help but reflect on two years that were out of the ordinary. When I close my eyes and think about those two years, I see a bittersweet process of becoming.
I think about those two years and I stumble across all the contradictions that define life in Egypt. Two years full of hope, yet drained by frustration, swelling with change but chained with monotony, decorated by courage and disgraced by impotence; two years of virtue that somehow became corrupt.
Over the course of those two years, many changes took place. More often than not, the flashy changes make us blind to smaller subtle changes that make up the bigger picture. It is true that the leadership has changed and Egyptian politics has taken a strange turn to say the least.
It is also true that the region as a whole is different and the Arab World of today (at least nominally) is not the same as it was before January 2011. But what is most important is the change within individuals themselves.
When I think back two years and recall Tuesday, 25 January 2011, it is not the clashes or chants that I instantly remember. Rather, I remember walking out of Tahrir Square around midnight knowing that I would no longer accept what I do not believe is right. I knew that I walked out that night a different person.
Three days later when the police collapsed, the square was sealed and the 18-day sit-in began, that change within each and person present was the basis of an alternative society born in the square. This is how it all began, a state of resistance mixed with endless hope, willingness mixed with the belief in change.
Then the downward spiral started to slap the revolutionary spirit again and again. The first slap came with the referendum in March, when we realised bitterly that the spirit we so proudly upheld did not pass but to a minority of Egyptians. Those who chose to resist until effected change were in fact a few. The future of the revolution was left in the hands of a political process blind to principles, a process that knows only numerical majority.
Everything that came later was always a necessary adjustment to an absurd reality. Do you know what it’s like to have your dreams turned into numbers and your hope taken to mean only a numerical percentage? The principles that you risked your life to see realised become imprisoned in a power-driven process that lives on religious, economic and cultural manipulation.
This was the beginning of a phase of questioning and re-questioning. Where did we go wrong? How can so many lives be lost for so little change? If we experienced the misery and misfortune of losing lives, why is it that we keep losing more and more every day? If people are dying, if their dignity is not upheld, if the state crushes their humanity and denies them their basic rights, should we really be happy with so called free and fair elections? Did we revolt merely for elections? It was about this time that the revolution stopped making sense.
Posing these questions made us realise how far we had drifted from our original goal and how remote we had become from both the resistance and the hope that started it all. There was nothing that could confirm the state senselessness more than the presidential election results.
Ever since the election was over, it was obvious that there was another adjustment to a ridiculous reality that we had to make. Suddenly resistance turned to sarcasm and the hope that was endless became a constant fear of losing the little. The resistance we knew was lost somewhere between political opportunity and revolutionary radicalisation.
Every day, the Muslim Brotherhood’s mistakes cause more grievances and create new resistance. Maybe it is the time to recall what we once felt was so right. Maybe we need to remember that struggles are fought a battle at a time. Perhaps we ought to believe that what we experienced during the 18 days in January 2011 should never be a bitter memory. Maybe we need to seek the spirit that sparked in all of us two years ago. Maybe we just need to revisit Tahrir Square.