I keep on asking myself: what was the upheaval worth? What for did almost 1’000 people die? What for has the economy got ruined and investors backed off? Egypt has not reached anything for what it went out on the streets at hundreds of thousands in winter 2011.
Or was it nevertheless?
Something has very clearly changed. When I think of my first political conversations four years ago with Egyptians, I remember especially one thing: my conversational partner looked carefully around, whispered silently saying that I should not mention the name (Mubarak), that we were not allowed to talk here or if so, that we should talk very softly and cautiously and sometimes I was told to keep silent. No-one dared to criticise, no-one dared to honestly answer my naïve questions. Those were questions of someone who has grown up in a free country, with liberal thoughts, with a certain idea of justice, equality and human rights. Most probably, my questions proved of utter lack of understanding. Neither in buses nor in cafés had I ever heard conversing about politics – ok, I might not have understood it as well L.
Now and then it seemed to me that Egyptians acted or exaggerated. But after a while I realised that proven fear was the reason behind. I got to know that people could get arrested merely for their statements and got tortured. Worse even, they could get arrested only for being at the wrong time in the wrong place.
There was no real independent media and therefore there was no public criticism against the dictatorship. Books and films were censored.
Naturally, there were activists; there were bloggers and efforts for opponent media underground. But the state was stronger, censored, forbade, sentenced and tortured.
To me, people seemed to be apathetic. Everybody cowered, kept silent and went his own way. I remember an Egyptian living in Switzerland describing his fellow citizens exactly like this. That was in summer 2010.
Today, everybody talks politics, including taxi and bus drivers; even shop assistants in the supermarket and in the bakery ask almost every customer his opinion about the present events. Including me although being a foreigner. People sit in front of the TV watching parliamentary debates and elections as they usually only did for local football matches.
There are challenging media and opponent newspapers. And of course, there are facebook, twitter and blogs. They became my most important sources of information.
And something else has changed: Egyptians are aware that they have got a voice. They have realised that they have power when they unite. They know that they can change what seemed unalterable for more than 30 years. Egyptians have woken up. Positive, isn’t it?
Well, they have just woken up recently. Sandmonkey put it to the point on his blog: Egyptians are impatient. It is as if they were playing a football match against the world’s best team – for example Brazil – and in the 12th minute they scored. They celebrate hilariously and forget that there are still 88 minutes to be played.
The first steps are done, the path is far, especially for such an impatient and vivacious people as Egyptians are.