2014年12月14日星期日

The Old Revolution

If the Egyptian Revolution happened in 2008 I would have been much more familiar with the political actors. I had been very concerned with democratic freedoms around the world, especially China's, and even staged or joined politically charged performance art in Beijing. But times have changed and my personal opinions regarding the discourse of democracy and human rights have also been complicated since. Ethically, a crucial point occurred when an opportunistic entrepreneur and alumni gave a speech at my college. To put it bluntly, he got rich during the privatization of the former Soviet Union's state sector the 1990s. During the speech, he was very unabashed about the fact that he took advantage of an unraveling country's state sector. He married a Czech wife and lives in Czech now as a millionaire. When I asked something along the lines of whether he sees the same happening to China, he was unconcerned with the moral dimension but rather focused on the "How to Get Rich" factor. He recommended people who have the ambition to go to Burma for the next liberalization windfall and invest there. I still remember this event, but this is my first time recounting it and I still feel indignation that there will always be these type of people who take advantage of political changes in other countries and encourage others to do the same. I see opportunistic actors gaining material benefits in China if liberalization occurs, and I hope that when people discuss "democracy" arriving they would also recognize this moral (if not legal) hazard. In and out of China, I am more concerned with AIDS rights, feminism and specific labor movements.

As a historian in training, I also know that certain cases have specific contexts and democratic experience of one country is not necessarily transferable to another country. However, these issues appear in discussions when I am in studying in Germany, since I met people who are from different parts of the world (and many who are anti-American). I have recently befriended an Egyptian, called A., who is my age. He comes from a Muslim family but he himself is non-practicing (no fasting during Ramadan, drinks and eats pork.). He is not very anti-American but he is sufficiently skeptical of neoliberal discourses. I have shared my favorite book that critiques the idea of "economics" as this objective subject that can necessarily promote development through top-down meansThe Rule of Experts, by Timothy Mitchell with A. last month. 

More on this incredible book later, which was not the core of our discussion today over coffee. (A really tall and clumsy German sat next to us in the Balzac cafe, spilled his tea and then his stuff. When he settled down with his handwritten notes papers, he was probably also listening) I learned that A. was part of the revolutionary wing in Egypt and on and off with the Socialist wing from Jan. 25th 2011 and stopped a few months after his female cousin Mgot arrested around the time after the military took power through a coup the second time, around July 2013. M., according to A., along with a group that consisted of half girls and half boys, were left in a desert for some time. None were fed for some days. The girls were released because it was very controversial. The boys were sentenced to 15 years in jail. M. is still active in pro-democratic organizations but A. thinks that it is too dangerous and that there is no hope. He does not want to return to Egypt, for both political and social reasons (he finds them too materialistic. I recommended him to check out the scene in China. Arabs in this city still regard A. as an Egyptian, regardless of how disaffected he is.).

A. still wants to take part in leftist groups in Germany and he thought about groups that help refugees. We have only arrived for 2 months so we have yet to find our "组织." I have tried talking with some Socialists here, references I got from the U.S.,  but my German is not at their level yet to be of any help. A. also attended Socialist Alternative meeting in New York, near Zuccotti Park, and was invited to talk about the Egyptian Revolution in 2012. He thinks that this invitation would not happen again these days. The enthusiastic side of American politics is that people are genuinely outraged by racist police brutality against African American males, but Egypt under the undemocratic leadership of al-Sisi does not seem to have a lot of hope in A.'s opinion.

Here's a song by Leonard Cohen about personal loss and political defeats, also the title of this post.





I fought in the old revolution
on the side of the ghost and the King.
Of course I was very young
and I thought that we were winning...

Yes, you who are broken by power, 
you who are absent all day, 
you who are kings for the sake of your children's story, 
the hand of your beggar is burdened down with money, 
the hand of your lover is clay. 

1 条评论:

  1. "in November 2011, and during the massacre committed by the Egyptian military against civilian protesters demanding the end of military rule, the army introduced a new powerful tear gas that it lobbed at the crowds, causing loss of consciousness and epileptic-like convulsions that led many to be hospitalized (Beaumont and Domokos 2011). Not intimidated by the new army tactics, the Egyptian protesters, known for their determined chant “The people
    want the downfall of the regime,” a slogan they share with millions of Arab demonstrators across the Arab world, began chanting: “The people want the old tear gas."
    - Joseph Massad, Love, Fear, and the Arab Spring

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