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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Winter of Our Content

Allahu Akbar! . . . Mazel tov!. . . . Yee haaaa!!

Searching for the right words for our friends in Egypt. It is a glorious day. May the Egyptian sun shine upon many, many more.


At 10:41 PM, Blogger fronesis said...

Pretty unbelievable. What comes next will be complicated and difficult, but it is indeed glorious to see democracy in this form.

At 5:49 AM, Blogger Number Three said...

Well, I guess. Seems to me that the military decided Mubarak had become a liability and thus had to go. The military was in power under Mubarak, and is still in power. Is that democracy?

At 10:56 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Not yet. But as an American (Lockean, Jeffersonian, etc.), how can you not rejoice when an oppressed people take to the streets in peaceful demonstration and depose a tyrant? The military did NOT want this--they resisted the people's demand until it was clear their choice was brutal (and televised) violence against the innocent or accommodation and regime change.

Notice also that the military tried various halfway stratagems to keep HM (or Suleiman) in place and none of them flew. They are by no means certain that they will retain power in whatever now emerges, and they seem divided over whether they even WANT that power--after all, HM was nominally "civilian" and the Military Council that deposed him has actually met only three times in a half century. The younger officers (those trained in the US) are reportedly very sympathetic to the protesters, and the protesters (and Obama) have been smart to play on those sympathies at every turn.

Revolutions are famously unpredictable things. They testify to the awesome force of "contingency" in human affairs. It is no doubt possible that democracy will be snuffed out once again, as it was in the first great modern revolution, the English Civil War, when Cromwell eventually turned the army from a vehicle of liberation into a force of autocracy. But it is hard to imagine Egyptians gaining political freedom without something like the events of the last two weeks. And unlike the English in 1647, the Egyptians have supportive, contemporary models of political freedom and a welcoming outside world. Every once in a while, a nation stakes a claim to liberty, and the lack of guarantees should make us celebrate their achievements all the more. Hannah Arendt calls this "power," and it is a beautiful thing.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Number Three said...

Optimism! From the man who once deplored "the disastrous French Revolutionaries," nonetheless.

At 6:46 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Sure. I think I can say, without self-contradiction, that some revolutions go bad (France and Russia), although I don't think this invalidates revolution per se (England 1688, US 1787, E. Europe 1989, S. Africa 1994). It is instead to judge each by its circumstances and the choices made by its leaders.

Egypt 2011 looks to me a lot more like the latter than the former, although, not believing in any form of historical inevitability, I will admit that events may still go wrong. But on a day when a desert despot is on the run and when Vandy has beaten UK, I vote for optimism.


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