Thursday, March 24, 2011

You Say You Want a Revolution? Well you know..

"IMPRESSIVE", "WOW", "Now I finally believe there was a true revolution" and @ghonim's comment "Egyptians standing in line to get to a micro-bus. A scene we never experienced during Mubarak's regime. Egyptians are changing themselves not just their regime.", were just a few of the comments circulating around a picture of a group of Egyptians post-#Jan25 that had lined up to get on a micro-bus in the early morning. More recently many people were both impressed and amused at what they considered the genius of stickers that one afternoon had been stuck onto some double-parked cars in the affluent Zamalek neighborhood in Cairo. The stickers stated "This (double-parking) is shameful, the country is changing and you are double parking. Start with yourself". This was preceded by a #facebook note widely urging people to start with themselves. It urged people to not break laws, to pay their fines and to not partake in acts of bribery and corruption. The note even included a number for a hot-line where people could call in and report acts of corruption. The economy apparently was ready for rebuilding and people were going to work harder, work more efficiently and work more creatively. Now that #Mubarak was gone, we needed to focus on ourselves and change had to come from within.

Following the referendum, to my annoyance, one of the most widely shared blog posts was @Sandmonkey's Playing Politics. @Sandmonkey's analysis for the supposedly tragic, according to many Egyptian internet users, referendum results was that not enough people had changed from within. While he wasn't implying that people needed to improve themselves from a moral perspective, he was explicit about the reconstitution of people's political knowledge. The failure was because those who wanted "No" were not able to change the people who wanted "Yes" from within. Again, the call was for an improvement to who we are, not just as individuals, but as political subjects. We needed to focus on others, we needed to help them change from within as political subjects.

We can focus on ourselves or we can focus on others, we can recruit and assemble, convince, coerce or raise awareness, mobilize and reach out, regulate ourselves or regulate others, but as long as the same institutions are in power the space we have to effect change will always be constrained. The space for maneuvering within the political arena no matter what that arena looks like visibly or how it is shaped invisibly will always be constrained by those in power. Playing their game, using their rules and on their board, means they will always always WIN. We can sit and play that game for as long we want, but they will continue to place their rules and their regulations, constraining the political arena so that they always win. They will win because they are making the rules and they will continue to make the rules because they are winning.

But who are these mysterious sinister "They"s?. Who are the ones who own the board-game? Is it the Illuminati or Free Masons? Is it a new world order? Who are they and what do they want from us? Unfortunately, because I really DO love drama, all "they" are those who own the means of production and what they want is simply put accumulation of wealth. By virtue of owning the means of production, whether it is land, whether it is a factory or whether it is an academic institution, they are able to own YOU, whether you are making 10 L.E, 10,000 L.E or even 100,000 L.E. Because whatever they are giving you they are making so much much much much more through your effort and labor. Because they own the means of production, and in many ways have monopolized them, means that you cannot go out and own the means of production, so now you have to pay them to live, so you work for them and they pay you so you can pay them so you can get the different things you need to live. So look at it this way, the reason why they are able to make the profits they are making is because there is a single aspect of production they are able to exploit, that aspect is you. You are putting all the work and energy to make whatever product or service they are selling, their under-valuing of your work is how they make profit. Take a minute to think about it, imagine if they hadn't monopolized the means of production how much more you would be making for the work you are putting in.

Okay, okay, I know what I am sounding like, but I'm sure at this point if you are still reading this post, your probably asking what does this have to do with #Jan25. Well, for starters the current institutions in power in Egypt right now, namely the #Army and certain business owners, are mainly concerned with preserving their interests and as long as you don't work for them or you aren't stopping those laboring to make their profits they couldn't care less what you or anyone else says or does. The army will put the rules of the political arena as it wishes with the sole purpose of protecting its interests, which to sum them up, are the accumulation of wealth. So if you want to really get the army to comply with your demands, you don't play their game, you stop the manufacturing of their game. If you really want a revolution, stopping double-parking, lining up for the bus, raising political awareness or even playing a careful and strategic game is not going to do it. The basis of our oppression is unequal wealth distribution and the closed future possibility of wealth accumulation. There will be no social or economic justice as long as the few are controlling the playing field. If we get rid of the army today, it will be someone else tomorrow. If you really want a revolution then if you don't own your means of production be ready to figure out how to seize it and if you are monopolizing and owning the means of production be ready to relinquish your ownership and control. That is if you really want a revolution.

The ideas in this post are theoretically inspired by Foucault and Marx

The content of this post was inspired by conversations with @sumayaholdijk @bassemk @atlemk @3arabawy and @snefru


  1. Great post, explains the source of our problems in Egypt and propose a vision for an alternative thinking. Two questions 1. With the urgent need to stop the current taking Egyptians in the direction pointed by the army and business men, what do we do to at at least stop this current and take sometime to contemplate a new path?
    2. What model do we seek to establish for the upcoming civil society in Egypt, capitalist or socialist..?

  2. 1. Support worker/farmer strikes, formation of unions etc
    2. We can't think of what should come next before we have taken things down. Most systems evolve organically, but we should assert that the labor cannot be exploited and means of production should not be monopolized. Whatever emerges from that, emerges from it.