Revolutionaries are not born; they are made. They are made through social, political and economic turmoil; through dramatic events that change the course of history; through pain and suffering that results from immense injustice; and through an intrinsic bravery and selflessness that is difficult to find in most people. When revolutionaries emerge, when they decide to fight, there is almost nothing that can stop them.
The reality is that we live in a world that has taught us to be obedient and that is slowly breaking us down, one by one. It is a world in which stability and mere survival have become the dream of billions. Life is not about being who you want to be, or achieving what you want to achieve. It’s about surviving myriad oppressive structures that determine our everyday lives, from capitalism to patriarchy, from imperialism to dictatorship. And in that quest for survival, humanity loses pieces of itself.
But there are moments in history when a break in the regularity of oppression occurs. The Egyptian revolution, which began in January 2011, is one of those moments, when the daily rhythm of struggle was disrupted, and when elation, hope, and resistance became the new narrative of human existence.
In the revolution’s early days, there were no limits or obstacles. The people were one and, in the moment of revolution, they were unstoppable. If the country’s elite had failed to react quickly and restructure itself, the revolution might have brought down the entire authoritarian system in 18 days, from the start of the revolution to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Alas, Mubarak-era institutions have remained resilient. Nevertheless, the revolution continued and is continuing, with its highs and lows. There have been massacres and military trials, and there have been (too) many innocent lives lost. The economy is worsening and the struggle for survival has become more daunting day by day.
The country’s new elite is not so new, a fact becoming clearer as disillusionment with so-called “Islamic” rule increases. In fact, the old elite never disappeared, and instead has continued to battle for power behind the scenes.
For millions, the revolution has become a bad memory, seen as the cause of current instability. For these individuals, daily life continues to worsen because of lack of investment and tourism and general instability. Many are beginning to wonder if the fight for democracy was even worth it.
Throughout the ups and downs of the past two years, one thing has remained constant: the heart-stopping bravery of many Egyptians, who simply refuse to stop fighting, knowing that the Mubarak-era system is still alive and very much kicking.
In the face of what looks to be a losing battle, thousands of Egyptians take to the streets on a daily basis, facing tear gas, arrests, and live ammunition. They know they may lose their lives. They know their families and friends will not rest until they return. But they also know that the revolution isn’t over, and that the thousands who died did not lose their lives for yet another Western-backed Egyptian dictatorship.
Ahmed Harara is just one example of these brave Egyptian revolutionaries. In January 2011, he lost one eye during clashes in Tahrir. In November, he lost his other eye during clashes with the military. On the 28th of January 2013, he was hit yet again in the head by rubber bullets during clashes in downtown Cairo.
How do you kill a revolution when revolutionaries like Harara are out there? How do you kill resolve and resistance that is so deep that people are willing to put themselves in the line of fire over and over again?
The answer is you can’t. The system can’t win if there are people willing to sacrifice themselves. Unless Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, the military, and the economic elite are willing to commit a massacre, the revolution will continue. It will be violent and more people will lose their lives. But the fact that people remain willing to continue the fight is the ultimate act of selflessness that will eventually triumph over oppression.
Systems like capitalism, imperialism, and dictatorship rely on obedience. We are all socialized to be the ideal citizen: one that works and one that obeys. Those who unlearn and fight this socialization are dealt with coercively.
As soon as both socialization and coercion fail to ensure obedience, the system begins to crumble. On January 25, 2011, massive acts of resistance showed the world that Egyptians would no longer remain obedient. As long as this continues, the revolution is not over. As long as acts of selflessness continue in a selfish world, there is hope that one day we can all be free.