I think, for the most part, the non-Arab world may never quite understand the connection Arabs have to Egypt. While the orientalist tendency has always been to lump everyone in this region in to one group, there is a failure to recognize the intricacies that weave in to the social fabric that blankets the Arab world. For us, Egypt has always been umm il dunya; the cradle of life, the bedrock, the architect. My generation of 20-something year olds grew up in the shadow of our fathers’ heroes, predominantly the architect of Pan Arab nationalism, Egypt’s Nasser. It is still, after all these years, often considered a sin bordering on social suicide to insult the memory of Nasser, whether you live in Jordan or Iraq. And we accepted it for a long time. Because there were no heroes. We have been searching in the darkness for the light switch, for the appearance of a leader. We have even conjured up ancient heroes, romanticizing their very existence. Turning history in to legend. Because we have been waiting and no one has appeared.
We assumed that if one day an uprising emerged, it would be at the hands of a bold leader. Another strongman to replace the ones we didn’t like. Never, in our wildest imaginations, did we think this uprising would come from the people. Never did we believe that Egypt, a country that had most convinced only a few weeks before January 25th, that this was a country destined for doom; a country that would collapse under the rubble of poverty and corruption and become the very metaphor of a crumbling Arab world. And with it, place the final nail in the coffin of Nasser’s dream. Never did we think our generation, a generation we ourselves have often labeled as apathetic and alienated – never did we think this would be the generation to lead the uprising. That it would be a leader-less uprising. A secular and ideological-free revolution. A genuine uprising of the people, for the people.
Never did we imagine it would happen peacefully. Never did we imagine millions and millions gathering around a city center. Never did we imagine them refusing to leave; of finishing a journey that has so often been abandoned. Never did we imagine they would write for us a new history. For this has been the failure of the orientalist view – the failure to recognize the relationship of one Arab to another, and of all Arabs to Egypt. The failure to recognize that what happens in Egypt does not stay in Egypt, and what Egyptians did for themselves, they did for the entire Arab world. Every Arab citizen glued to a television screen these past few weeks has been thinking the same thing. They have felt it under their skin, and deep in their bones.
The Egyptian youth have demonstrated for us possibilities we never imagined unfolding within the confines of our region. They showed strength and resolve where we have grown up knowing nothing but weakness and acquiescence. They showed us peace when we have only experienced war. They showed us civility where we have been taught to pursue chaos. They persisted where we have learned to yield.
All of this they have done inadvertently, but they did it nonetheless. They have forced us as a population of youth, an entire generation, to look in the mirror and recognize one important fact: we are the majority. It is we who dictate to them â€“ not the other way around. It is we who have the power to destroy in a matter of days and weeks, the cage that took them years to build around us.
We will wait to see what future Egyptians build for themselves, and its subsequent affect on us living outside its borders but close enough to feel the heat of the fire they began. We will wait to see if Egyptâ€™s next chapter will be as sound and as peaceful as the one it has just finished writing. We will wait to see what happens, but whatever happens, this 18-day history is something no one can take away from them, or from us. It has been embedded in our memories, replacing all others. Because it is our memory. Not the memory of our fathersâ€™. Not the memory dictated to us in faulty history books. Not old and collecting dust. It is a new history. And it is ours. Our own.
As a Jordanian, as an Arab, as a 20-something year old that has been searching for a hero, for inspiration, for a new history, for a new memory, for something to call my own – this is how I feel. This is me, thanking you.
Egypt, we kneel before you in awe.