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14 February 2011

What Next?

(This post is cross-posted at The Prism)

The dictator has been handed his pink slip, and not so quietly, been shown to the door.  What then?  A few days of revelry, yes, then the protesters get kicked out of the square - the time has come to get back to business.  But will it be business as usual, or will there be real change?  Now is the time when that question will truly be answered.

Of course it won't be business as usual in the strict sense - Mubarak is gone, and nothing's going to bring him back.  But how deep will the changes go?  Will the Egyptian military still control the country?  Will the emergency rules be released?  Will there be a crack-down on the protesters?  Will the next elections be truly free and fair?  Who will lead?  What other social and political changes will occur as a result?  These questions remain unanswered as of yet.

You see, it's one thing to take down a dictator - to deconstruct a regime.  It's a marvelous thing, to be sure: a moment of beautiful chaos where the passions of the populace are ignited and the affective resonance carries the movement forward.  Wave upon wave crashing upon the rigid cliffs - no rock can withstand the power of the water!

But once the deconstruction has been done, the real work is only just beginning.  The aftermath is not so momentous, not so beautiful or romantic, but it is, by far, more important (and, in my opinion, far more interesting anthropologically) than the revolution.  Now is the time when a new world can be built out of the rubble.  Now is the time when the questions posed above will be answered.  What will that new world look like?  I don't know.

Kim Stanley Robinson defines Utopia as "Struggle Forever" but too often we stop fighting when the battle is only half won.  My hope is that the Egyptian people don't stop now; that they continue the fight, and build a better society for themselves and for the world.

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