Events in Egypt this last week show how the consciousness of people in the rural area that serves cities can ignite a whole culture. The amazing pictures of hundreds of thousands marching in Cairo and the Mubarak government’s progressive retreat in the face of the population’s fearless demands mark what the media call a “regime change”.
The question is, whether this regime change will merely be a shift from one para-military dictatorship to another, or from a dictatorship to some form of democracy? Dr. Don Beck often says, “be careful that you don’t confuse getting rid of what you don’t want, for getting what you do want”.
What do Egyptians really want? Will it align with what the rest of the world wants it to want? Because as Ross Douthat has noted, the desires of the USA, Israel and Iran (to name a few interested nations) about Egypt, have not aligned for some time.
The dilemma faced by Egypt is one of growing up. Ironically this tinder box was lit by a young farmer in Tunisia, who merely wanted to sell fresh produce in the city. He was so angry at the refusal of authorities to allow him to pursue his perceived rights, that he literally torched himself – and set in motion a self-organizing inflammation that spread from country to city and city to city and now nation to nation.
The growing up that Egyptians seem to be demanding is the right to free elections and a government that represents their interests for the basics of life. But the world is witnessing Egypt’s challenge like an extended family witnesses the coming of age of a teenager. Will this teenager grow into more self-responsibility or regress into less self-responsibility. The cabal of nation-aunts-uncles-cousins-brothers-sisters-mothers-and-fathers are all holding our breaths to see what the next natural step of development Egypt will grow into?
And this holding our breath – instead of rushing in with a certainty that we know how to fix the situation is hopefully a sign that this extended family has maybe learned a lesson or two, about allowing cities and nations to determine what is the next natural step of development for them. Because you can’t parachute in a fix from the outside that will offer any long term resiliency — you can, at best, support the conditions for developmental capacities to grow themselves. It is a home grown coming of age that is needed most. So whatever the change – be it revolutionary or evolutionary – we must hope that Egyptians themselves can plant it, grow it, nurture it, and own it.
Who knew a humble vegetable plot could sprout such an energizing shift? This story may turn out to be the equivalent cultural shift for the Middle East as Rosa Parks was for the USA?