Saturday, March 12, 2011

How to Tell the Difference between a #Counter-Revolution and a Butt-Hole (or how to go from being a reformist to a revolutionary)

The first mentions of the #counter-revolution shortly followed #Mubarak's "I will die on Egypt's soil, but I had no intention of running for another term" speech, that marked the point in my life where I got to see probably what could be historically considered one of the world's largest displays of collective anger (though not comparable to the "I won't step down speech"_. Around that time I remember starting to read tweets and FB posts that claimed that the pernicious #counter-revolution has started. Since then there's been a rapid onslaught of counter-revolutionary accusations hurled by people standing at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, as well as those lying around within the spectrum. Those who want to continue the strikes and demonstrations have been accused by those who fear and love #Egypt and cannot wait to start rebuilding it as elements of a hidden hand that wants to crush the #Jan25 revolution, and vice-versa. Nothing was free from the #counter-revolution whether it was the #workers, the #copts, the women, Ahmed Shafiq's supporters, Ahmed Shafiq's pullover, those who went back to work, those who had decided to stay in #Tahrir, those who trusted the army, those who urged caution in putting faith in the army, those who were scared about safety, security and economy, those who wanted to tear down the current economic structure and prosecute the state security structure, and the list is extensive and veers on infinite. While the different elements of the spectrum couldn't agree on where was and who is the #counter-revolution, they all agreed to one thing: There was a hidden hand that with deliberation and careful strategic planning was behind a malevolent orchestrating of events, ideas and plans to pull the plug on #Jan25. Yet, I would argue that the events and the ideas that have been deemed a #counter-revolution only gain direction, connection and purpose through a retrospective analysis of these events and ideas. In other words, there are many events and ideas that in and of themselves are counter-revolutionary, but the aggregation of all these events and ideas in singular purpose or direction is only through our analysis and conceptual grouping of these events and ideas.

The #counter-revolution has no hidden hand, it is not made up of a group of strategists sitting round a table scheming how to topple #Jan25. I am not saying that many of the events have not been orchestrated or that they aren't counter-revolutionary, I am saying that these acts are random, even those that are planned may not be planned by the same groups or for the same purposes, but they may serve the same effect or outcome. Even if they serve the same effect or outcome that is purely by chance, because these groups may be in direct opposition to each other and their interests may be contradictory and their actions for the most-part may be more directed towards maintaining their interests and an upper-hand in power struggles than have anything to do with #Jan25 per se. In fact, the #counter-revolution in certain instances may not only be a product of groups or institutions, but rather of ideas or boxes that constrain our ideas and imaginations.

The conceptual boxes that literally and figuratively box our ideas are just there, they frame our ideas, but no one put them there, they existed before #Jan25, even before a #Jan25 was conceptualized. These boxes are really just there,they emerged from a long history of historical and political processes. I will not go into an extensive example or analysis of some of these ideas. This will be subject of sub-sequent posts. These boxes are intangible, they cannot be pinpointed but we can clearly see their effects. Their effects are first seen when we automatically have a reaction to something, when we say this is logical. On the one-hand we think something is logical, but on the other-hand we cannot draw a clear line between why it is logical. We also find a strong emotional reaction to anything that may not fit into this box, or you might notice that some people don't even hear it or are able to see it if it doesn't fit their mental framework. The groups or institutions that I previously referred to are also not free from conceptualizing the world from within these boxes.

So, to cut this abstract description short and give a some-what but not entirely tangible example would be to look at the idea of the economy as it relates to #Jan25. The economy is really any group of exchanges between people or institutions that revolves around the appropriation of goods or services. These exchanges can take any form and follow any rules. It is really completely up to us what we all agree on, and we can always change what we agree on. There has been much fear about the collapse of the economy, in our minds the economy is an entity that floats around, but is able to somehow control every aspect of our life. We think the economy will collapse and there will be no food or industry for instance, something many people over the course of the last month have voiced as one of their biggest concerns. But the economy does not control the material reality as directly as we imagine it to. The economy collapsing does not mean that land will collapse or suddenly the factories or the labor that we have will suddenly cease to exist. I understand that these processes are tied to a large global market, but again that doesn't mean that alternative structures cannot emerge, because the land will not suddenly disappear, the earth won't suddenly split open and swallow every #worker, #farmer, factory and piece of land. These boxes I spoke about earlier, or in some circles called discourses, make us create this curious relationship between the economy and our material reality and it seems very natural and logical to us, that we no longer question the relationship between them.

Before I conclude and end this somewhat tedious post, I want to discuss how one can spot the #counter-revolution through a few very simple questions and arguments that one can pose to themselves every time they hear the accusation of #counter-revolution and feel overwhelmed, confused or frustrated. Many people over the last few weeks have reached some sort of paralysis because they feel they do not know who or what to trust anymore, the following section is written with those people in mind. We all know the demands and goals of #Jan25 very well. They were hung in #Tahrir and a simple #Google search could fill you in if you've forgotten, these will not be reiterated here. So instead of searching for a hidden hand to the #counter-revolution, that will only serve to fuel your paranoia, I urge you to take the time to ask yourself a few of these questions to really figure out the difference between the #counter-revolution and #Jan25.

1. When we wait how does that ensure the meeting of the #Jan25 demands? Here you quickly remind yourself of all the times that people asked for waiting and if others had complied what would have changed?
2. Is this idea, action or event in essence really going to undermine #Jan25's demands? Such as #workers and #copts, remember true political representation is important for the true democracy that everyone is aspiring to.
3. The relationship between stability and love of Egypt, and revolution and destroying Egypt needs some specific questions to be posed to it: a) What do you mean by stability, b) what exactly is loving Egypt, who or what exactly are you loving when you say you love Egypt? c) how do you expect stability when you are exterminating 30+ years of corruption, oppression and violence? d) What is the price you are willing to pay when you call for stability? Who's neck are you putting under the guillotine when you are calling for stability? Will you be paying the price or will someone else?

The ideas of this post were theoretically influenced by Mitchell, Latour and Foucault and inspired by conversations with @bassemk, @sumayaholdijk, Dalia Abulfotuh and @3arabawy, and biased towards revolutionary ideologies and #anarchy

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