Jan 25, 5 years on: 5 years of belief and disbelief

It’s hard to articulate the meaning of the fifth anniversary of the revolution. The memory of triumph over a regime that had already decomposed from the effects of time when the revolutionary wave came and demolished it like a decaying building.

The memory of a triumph that comes in the midst of flagrant defeat, in the midst of the state’s obsession with terrorism — not the one it faces, but the one it created. The terrorism that lies in the acts of security forces as they raid houses, arrest people and search through their most private belongings with no accountability. Or the terrorism it creates by blocking all possible breathing space for young people who saw heaven before the state snatched it from them, throwing them into hell, leaving them feeling that, instead of civic action, there is only taking up arms.

Yet the effects of January 25 remain and will not evaporate into thin air. Those effects will continue to tarnish the state’s authority, which was shattered by the authority of the citizens. And what also remains is belief, and loss of belief. For me, loss of belief on a personal level — whether as a human being, a journalist or a Marxist political activist.

Loss of belief in the phrase “the self-liberation of the working class.” The working class that limited itself to demands concerning dozens of workers — which they have a right to, but to say the working class was the determining factor in Mubarak’s fall when their horizons were that narrow is comically sad.

Belief that youth groups, mostly restricted by their middle-class bias, sometimes have more awareness than those who pretend to be biased to the poor.

Loss of belief that “social hypocrisy” can function as a political tactic, that we should hide our stances so that people accept our ideas. We hide our position on homosexuality or religious discourse so that people don’t consider us nonbelievers or agitators, and believe that we have common rights.

Loss of belief that narrow political groups are superior and more capable than unorganized, decentralized and non-ideological youth groups.

Belief that every protest and stand, even if it was in the dozens, had an important role and is a part of the revolution of the people. Every protest in the 10 years preceding the revolution laid down the road for it.

Belief that the revolution was not January 25 but January 28, the Friday of Anger. Belief that prestige is for the people, and not for an administrative body called the state. Belief that the police and the people are not one hand. Belief that “Egypt first” means workers, students, master’s holders, public bus drivers and all those accused of raising special-interest demands.

Belief that there are those who want the interests of the bridges and the streets at the expense of the interests of the people. Belief that the slogan “Egypt above everyone” is nonsense as long as it means Egypt above Egyptians themselves.

The January revolution made me lose belief in journalism, as I realized that those who seek to document and critique reality are the exception, while the norm is work that’s closer to public relations.

The January revolution made me lose belief in idols. Even the godfather, the gray-haired man we called the imam and father of the revolutionaries, could voluntarily become a servant of the regime — for nothing, neither financial nor moral return.

The January revolution has led me to believe that the “intellectual of the regime” is not necessarily after power or money. He could position himself as the regime’s mouthpiece and take nothing in return, based on a hallucination that there is a new Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Most importantly, the January revolution taught me that time has to take its course. People want to go through their own experiences. They want to be moved by Mubarak’s first speech before revolting on his second. They want to cheer for the military before chanting “Down with military rule.” They want to sympathize with the oppressed Islamists before chanting against them, “Shave your beard, show your shame.” They want to believe the sappy theatrical performance, hanging on to the hope they’ve manufactured, until time takes its course and they reach conclusions based on their experience — not our expectations.


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