Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt- Of Mummies and Mubarak

On the 2nd of February 2011, the great men and women of Egypt made history. Almost two million gathered in the heart of the city of Cairo, in Tahrir Square. It was a call for democracy, a call for equality, a call for liberty. A call for the very fundamental human rights to be restored to the people of Egypt.

As I sat, enraptured by the chain of events, I could not help but feel fantastic. I felt empowered. I felt moved. The sheer solidarity of the people, and the unimaginable scale of protests, sent shock waves throughout the region and throughout the hearts and minds of people. And I stayed glued to Al-Jazeera for the days that followed, more and more convinced that change was soon to come.

And on the eve of elections in Malaysia, I hope that change will come to our shores as well. Our prime minister said there were lessons to be learned from Egypt. Well, he is perfectly right. There are deep and invaluable lessons to be learned, traditions to be thrown away, and mindsets to be abolished.

Number One.
We can exact change.
Look at Egypt today. A month ago, they cowered under the might of the state apparatus, resigned in their fate. They were angry, indignant, but tired. No longer. They have risen up, the great people of Egypt, Muslims and Christians and Jews, for progress. They have begun a process that can never be undone. They have risen, not bolstered by American troops or UN sanctions, but empowered and emboldened by their wills. There's a saying that great men shape the annals of history. And in Egypt, a great people can shape the course of their country. And so can we. Throw away that apathy, that 'Tak Apa', that resigned defeat. Believe in ourselves. And do something about it. Choose the better and empower our future, because as P. Ramakrishnan, president of Aliran put it, 'by our silence, we contribute to the chaos that ensues'.

Number Two.
Society will not collapse because of a collapse in a particular government. We have long heard claims saying that "the 'other side' has no experience." "We are the best because we are the most experienced." "If we are not elected there will be chaos." "Do not let the ghosts of May 13 return."
Utter propaganda, uttered by a desperate government, in a foolish attempt to blind the uninitiated. The people will provide, and ordinary men and women rise up to the occasion in spite of the chaos. In Egypt, in the face of no internet and mobile networks, people have come up with ingenious ways of communication, such as the relay system. Ordinary citizens have taken it upon themselves to direct traffic, provide food, drink and shelter, despite no galvanizing leadership. And when looters threatened the artifacts of Cairo Museum, the people banded together and formed a human wall to protect their heritage. Such incidents have only strengthened my belief that there are good souls who can become great individuals, normal and quaint people that become stronger and braver when the need is great. And as Malaysians, should believe in the worth of the individual, and of giving those who have been deemed as "too inexperienced", "too young" a chance. We should believe, and have faith in Malaysia, that we can weather anything the cronies, the corrupt and the crooks throw at us, and emerge a greater nation.

Number Three.
There is no such thing as an unchangeable situation.
Mubarak has been in power for more than 30 years now. People believed it would never change. That his party would always be almighty, that the police would continue brutalizing them, that true democracy was but a fragile and far off dream. But now, all that is going to change. Now, Mubarak might as well be a mummy, with Egyptians more than eager to bury his evils, and move forward. We can change too. All it takes is for us to do something, anything. Because there is always hope.

And so tonight, as I close my eyes, I pray. To the noble citizens of Egypt, I pray. And to Malaysia, a country where the ISA still reigns supreme, a country where police brutality is still rampant and cronies and corruption are still the order of the day- I pray.

And God willing, I'm hoping my prayers will be answered.

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