Egyptians' Cynicism Was Defeated at Tahrir Square

There is no doubt: Egypt has a lot of potential disappointment in store. The public that was united behind the slogan 'The people want the fall of the regime' is now revealing its ideological and personal differences.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

CAIRO - During the revolution, hundreds of people passed through an apartment in one of the tall buildings on Tahrir Square. One friend would bring another and they would go up to enjoy a high vantage point, use the bathroom, catch a fighter's 40 winks on whatever vacant bit of floor remained, escape the bullies down below and somehow remain in the area.

Presumably there were other apartments in the area like this one, but the owner of this particular unit - a man in his 40s - was known for his cynicism. This was manifested in his total lack of trust in the possibility that anything would change, doubts about the intentions of the people around him and impatience toward his friends. But all of a sudden, as the square filled with more demonstrators, and as the days of the revolution multiplied, he began to shed his layers of cynicism.

There is no doubt: Egypt has a lot of potential disappointment in store. The public that was united behind the slogan "The people want the fall of the regime" is now revealing its ideological and personal differences. It is easier today for the members of the upper-middle class who joined the rebellion to support the army's demand that the strikes stop, and to regard the striking workers - their fellow demonstrators - as now jeopardizing the national economy.

The talk of eliminating corruption might actually be covering up an intention to evade a fundamental change in distributing the national income. The fear that the army will steal the revolution will not be lifted for quite some time - certainly not before general elections are held.

Still, no disappointment will eradicate the Egyptian people's tremendous achievement. In Tahrir Square, cynicism was defeated. These are the masses who revealed that the regime was like a jelly cake, as one local journalist defined it: "Large in volume, but wobbly." The victory demonstration this past Friday explicitly told the army: "The people want a civil, not a military, regime."

This is not a one-time event that will fade away - a possibility raised on these pages by Aluf Benn ("Why was Israel clueless about Cairo?" February 18 ). Benn asks why the government, the intelligence community and academic experts predicted the continuation of "stability" in Egypt as opposed, for example, to an "extreme" leftist like Assaf Adiv, who last May predicted that "Egypt was on the threshold of a grassroots social revolution." The explanation is quite simple.

In the jargon of "leftists," the concept of "regime stability" - especially in reference to oppressive regimes - does not exist. This is a concept immersed in cynicism. It assumes that injustice, wrongdoing and hypocrisy can continue to prevail undisturbed, by means of buying people off, trickery and the cruelty of the security agencies. Naturally, believers in stability seek their information from the ruler and his cronies.

For leftists, "the masses" are always a collective with many faces, voices and thoughts - and can act as an agent of change. Therefore, for the left, they serve as the basic and main source of information. "Injustices" are not marginal stories posted on social networks (weird in the eyes of the respectable media ). "Injustices" for the "leftist" are not the story of a poor Egyptian (or a miserable Palestinian ), but rather of an illegitimate regime - whether created via military coups or born during a war 44 years ago - and of an occupation supported by an American veto.

The information about the waves of strikes in Egypt - from which Adiv concluded that the regime was not stable - was not underground. Nor does one need vast historical knowledge to understand that incredibly wide gaps between classes, as in Egypt, and the lies that the regime tells are merely ticking bombs.

It is the structural lack of interest in "the masses" that creates blind spots. When the consumers of information in the centers of power don't take an interest in the subject, but only in "how it will affect" them, and when injustice is seen as an annoying concept for them - the pages they read will be full of blacked-out lines.



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