It is wondrous and mysterious that Egyptians overturned over 30 years of oppressive rule in less than three weeks. It appears to be spontaneous solidarity, but we know that the frustration was decades-old and the new media helped to give voice -collective voice – to that frustration.
Still it is nothing short of miraculous that Egyptians of all ages, secular and religious, affluent and poor, rose together – on message, “Get rid of Mubarak,” and succeeded. What comes next is up in the air, but who can doubt that this brilliant collective gesture will be followed by a rational strategy for democratic transformation?
What appears to be spontaneous solidarity is reminiscent of the Solidarity Movement in Poland in the 1980s, although that was based on a simply stated but profoundly wise philosophy, “Act as though you live in a free society.” This very civilized form of dissent succeeded and became the forerunner of an era of democratic revolution in other Eastern European countries.
Both revolutions demonstrated unity, nonviolence and civil ideas. Both were inclusive and did not resort to hate-mongering. One was low-tech and one was high-tech, but both were high minded and promised the cherished freedom that we Americans enjoy.
We were not as helpful as we might have been. But the Egyptians, as other democracy seekers have demonstrated before them, showed us that democratic revolution depends less on the company one keeps than on a nation’s own stalwart determination to be free and its readiness to seize the moment. By its actions Egypt has changed the world and in particular, has changed the fate of the Middle East, by infusing its neighbors with hope and courage.