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Egypt: How to tarnish a revolution

[Editor's Note: Capilano University Communications instructor Dr. Azza Sedky has been in Cairo this winter. She has now returned to Vancouver with some observations on Egypt since the fall of Mubarak.]

In A Tale of Two Cities, Madame Defarge ferociously knits away names as the guillotine beheads one somehow-affiliated-to-the-monarchy person after the other. Her vindictiveness is in charge. Disturbingly, this is a recurring analogy in my mind when I think of the Egyptian revolution.

The euphoria created by the January 25 revolution was insurmountable. Egyptians celebrated by, once again, loving their country and one another. They enjoyed the moment with presidents and countries applauding them; Obama’s quote, "We should teach our children to be like the Egyptians," has resonated deeply in their minds. And they were proud. And they had every right to be so.

Nevertheless, too many things are happening now that can make or break this revolution. The first tarnishing hurdle lies in the aura of vindictiveness that seems to have captured the essence of the people and the media. It seems that everyone has become a watchdog ready to disclose and leak information, and in the process dispose of anyone linked to Mubarak's regime. No valid proof is necessary.

And the pillars of the society -- businessmen, politicians, administrators, and subordinates of those in the old regime are incriminated, humiliated, and destroyed sometimes by mere association. There may be truth in all this, but little has been proven or solidified.

I had thought that Egyptians are not revenge seekers by nature. I'm almost sure they aren't; however, they seem to be carrying the vendetta too far. In Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, it was considered a capital crime "to mourn for, or sympathize with a victim of the guillotine." Are we going that far?

The second tarnishing matter is that the general mood in Egypt is "let's move on." Let's start producing, working, and sending our children back to school. Egyptians are fed up with the threat of crime, unsafe roads, demoralizing discussions, and risky decisions. Talk to cab drivers, retired folks, trades people, and the regular men and women on the street, and they will all tell you that democracy is being lost yet again. They had a dictator once, and now they have another voice coming from the square deciding for them how life should be. Their voice is not being heard, and the country is being controlled by one group in Tahrir Square still making more demands.

These tired and weary Egyptians have begun their own demonstrations in other parts of Cairo and are saying enough is enough. The word "Kifaya" means "enough," and during Mubarak's regime, "Kifaya" was a word used often; "Enough already; go." However, it is used now with a different connotation altogether.

The third tarnishing matter is seen in the amount of hearsay and fabricated stories circulating in the media, on Facebook, and publicly amongst folks. After Mubarak left, rumours had him go off food, refuse medication, be in a coma, die, fly to Germany to get treatment, fly to Saudi and the Emirates to export his money, and die again, all in a matter of two weeks. Rumours had his wife flee to London with 90 money-filled suitcases. It also had her sell unique Egyptian artifacts and treasures. As for the money that the family looted, it keeps growing by the hour until it has reached astronomical proportions that the normal Egyptian cannot fathom—70 billion. I've had ordinary Egyptians ask, "How much does 70 billion mean exactly?"

A wise Egyptian was rationalizing and hoping to get a clear answer. "Say I'm a greedy and unscrupulous Egyptian; what would I do with all that money? Buy 10 mansions around the world, each with its own set of cars; buy a couple of private planes; have lots of money sitting in Swiss banks, and, what the heck, let's throw in the Manchester United team." According to this Egyptian and the rumours, Hosni Mubarak would still be left with an incredible amount of cash. Many Egyptians don't know why he would need all this money. Then again, it’s all hearsay.

Then the impact of Facebook and other social media is huge. You don’t need to go on national TV anymore or be published in a newspaper. Go on Facebook. It has become a means by which one can spread views around the globe and back by merely pressing enter. Much of what is written is logical, documented, and verified by photos.

Still, much is hearsay and propaganda from one group against another. In this mayhem of news, truth has been lost. And those writing these comments are not really aware of how profound the effects are. A remark can easily break or make a nation at this point.

For this wonderful revolution to gain back its strength and rise above the current difficulties, it should return to its original theme: love of Egypt. As for Egyptians, to see the fruits of this historic and heroic event, they must refuse blind vindictiveness, stop listening and repeating illogical hearsay, and start listening to other Egyptians and taking them into account.

It is going to be a long journey.

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