Saturday, 12 February 2011
Hooptedoodle #15 - One Man's Democracy
Like countless other people, I have been very moved by the TV coverage of developments in Egypt. Also, like most people in the UK, I have to confess that, prior to the last week or so, I had little knowledge of the situation in Egypt, and probably never thought about it. I am reminded of another evening - not so terribly long ago, really - sitting up late, watching the destruction of the Berlin Wall, wide-eyed, aware that something unimaginable was happening, yet fearful that the shooting would start at any moment. Watching from behind the sofa.
I have no views that I wish to express on the political or religious issues (so spare me the hate mail), but the impact of seeing live TV coverage of ordinary people, children even, carried along by such enthusiasm, uplifted by such collective jubilation, is very powerful. Our UK media have been very sympathetic, as they always are to anyone who wishes to move towards our own local definition of democracy. I wish the Egyptian people every possible success - they have a lot of work to do - I hope things stay peaceful. It looks promising at the moment - may God (their god, the gods, whoever) watch over them.
In the midst of all this euphoria, that little imp of perversity speaks up, somewhere in the back of the brain. History is ultimately written by the winners. I come from a generation and a nation which was taught that the WW2 French Resistance were freedom fighters, yet the IRA were terrorists. Interesting distinction. A lot depends on who you are, where you are and at what date you are considering the matter. I can't help wondering how positive the BBC coverage would be if suddenly the streets of London were filled with protestors, attempting to overthrow our own government. And how would it be if President Obama started giving Britain directions on how to get our democracy act up to the required standard? It suddenly would not be the same thing at all.
Such ideas are far-fetched and probably unworthy on such a historic morning, but when the Egyptians get organised it will have to be done to suit themselves. It would be great if it lines up with some Western model of what we would like to see, but this astonishing public mobilisation and unity is looking for something for themselves, not for outsiders. We'll have to bear this in mind when the time comes.