Hossam El-Asrag was at home in Egypt during the revolution in January. This week he cast his first vote by absentee ballot from the United States, where he is a lecturer at the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University.
The Intersection of Freedom and Chaos
Last March I published an article about the Egyptian revolution here on Colab Radio. The event was so great and sudden that everyone moved with it. The excitement is still filling me up. My future expectations and hopes for my country are still great and enormous. However, my fears are inevitable — as strong as my hopes.
The unique characteristic of the Egyptian revolution was that it was erupted by the people, and the youth in particular, with no specific political leadership. After 60 years of totalitarian governments, preceded by 100 years of corrupted monarchy, the people for the first time find their fate in their own hands. Maybe, or probably, no one in Egypt was prepared for this moment. The former regime left the majority of the Egyptians hopeless and living under the threshold of poverty. The education system was not updated, the infrastructure was aging, corruption was everywhere, research was abandoned, the best educated people and leaders of the country were evicted out of the country. Whether intentionally or not, the majority of people were in social and economic pain, suffering every day. Their hopes were vanishing, and the spirit was as low as it could be.
Suddenly, things can be right for the first time and people can control their own fate: Can they…?. The revolution, by ousting Mubarak and his corrupted merciless regime, left the country with no clear leadership. Now Egyptians have to do two very difficult tasks at the same time. First, is to pave the future for democracy and social justice, and second is to build up their destroyed economy.
The two tasks are incredibly difficult and challenging at the same time for many reasons. One of them is due to the accumulated inefficiency in the inherited system that makes every single task start from ground zero. There is no foundation that people can build on. Some examples of these issues are:
• how to do a democratic election,
• how to reconstruct your institutions to deliver quality rather than quantity,
• how to rewrite the country constitution in a systemic way to ensure social justice and equality between people,
• how to embrace the peoples ideas and needs without compromising anyone (especially minorities).
In addition to answering these questions, we also need to know how can we regain the confidence of people in their government and their institutions. And a more important question is: Where to start? All of this has been really confusing for everyone in the last 9 months. Everyone has been wondering where to go and how to start. People have not been sure what is next and what everyone should be doing in his/her place. No leadership has shown up yet. Everyone is waiting for the next hero that will lead the country to safety and prevent the unavoidable economic disaster that will eventually happen.
Clashes have started over again in Tahrir square. This time protesters are trying to make sure that their dream is not stolen. They object to the slow progress of the supreme military council, fearing that they’ll take power permanently. The picture, however, is not completely opaque. The parliament elections started yesterday. This will be the first democratic election in over 5 decades. Fears are hopping all around, but also hopes that this will be our path to freedom — a path that the Egyptian people have paid with their lives for and were very patient to see it one day.
So far the elections are progressing in a marvelous way. For the first time all the different Egyptian factions went to the ballots to cast their voice. All age ranges, all different education and political backgrounds, different religions but all have the same dream to vote and make a difference.
Nothing will describes the situation better than what Robert Fisk said in his article in The Independent:
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive? It had rained overnight, but with Egypt’s pale and wintry sun came the crowds, lining up outside the polling stations with a patience and an enthusiasm that would put any European nation to shame.”
We are all excited and full of patience to see the first free elections results. It doesn’t matter who wins but what matters that the Egyptians well prevail at the end.
Post by Hossam El-Asrag.