It was from a spirit of admiration, respect and gratitude, for the courage of ordinary people across Egypt who were willing to stand up, in the line of fire, with nothing but moral clarity and shared commitment, against the violence of a decades-long tyranny, that the online project IndependentsOfPrinciple.com was born. The moment, in February 2011, was full of hope, inspiration, and a shining example of nonviolent civics.
So now, as Egypt struggles to find its collective footing in the new, uneven terrain of democracy, we observe how the world seems to have lost faith in the possibility that the Egyptian people and their institutions will find a way to establish, irrevocably, the post-authoritarian period. It may be a long struggle, and it would be the first such period in Egypt’s long and much chronicled history.
Some short-sighted naysayers even suggest the fall of dictatorial regimes across the region was somehow ill-advised or counterproductive.
It is not naïve to continue to press for the outcome that most favors Egyptians and the world. In fact, the Tahrir Square Moment has not subsided. The nonviolent uprising is still in process. That moment of historic political transformation engaged people across the world in a new global public space that is itself still coming into view. So, perhaps it is understandable that the post-authoritarian period in Egypt has not yet established its framework for reliable nonviolent civics.
The collapse of the first democratically elected government, the surrender to the temptations of power exhibited by both that government and the military leaders who removed it, the militant tensions between rival factions, these are the consequence of many centuries of authoritarian rule, and they flow all too easily from the false logic of cynicism.
We must remain attuned to the humane forces at work in Egyptian society, that echo very day the voice of the non-violent revolution of 2011. They will win the future, once there is enough collective resilience against the battery and brashness of authoritarian politics. To pretend they are no longer there, or to gloss over them in service of bleak stereotypes, would be a disservice to history, and to the people who showed so eloquently what collaborative non-violent democratic civics can be, even when it is expressly prohibited by a military government.
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This essay is an update to the page “The Tahrir Square Moment”, at IndependentsOfPrinciple.com