Monday, July 11, 2011

The smartest way to preserve the revolution

FYI: I'm traveling throughout the Minya governorate in Upper Egypt this week with Project Tahrir people to assist in field interviews.  Fascinating stuff, and I'll blog as much of it as possible.

While conducting field interviews in Egypt's Minya governorate today, I asked a room full of young men if they have come into contact with any political parties since the revolution. Do they support a particular political party? Have political parties come to their village to campaign? They shook their heads unanimously and were silent for a moment. "But the Freedom and Justice party is the only one with a real vision," one man piped in, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood's newly established political party. They are the only organized, professional group, he said. The other men concurred- their vote would go by default to the Brotherhood in September elections.

One of Minya's young community leaders
Two hours later and a few miles away, I asked the same questions to another group of young men. They rattled off at least seven political parties they have seen campaigning in Minya and expressed firm liberal affiliations, with the Masr el Horreya party in particular. Clearly, these two groups of Egyptians relate to politics in remarkably different ways. While the former relates to politics via a conservative Islamist movement that has earned more legitimacy in their community than parties could hope to, the latter is savvy to the fluid world of liberal Egyptian politics where parties die as quickly as they are born. But a powerful unifier was, and is at work: the importance of civic education. All are activists in Egypt's bid to get elections right in the fall.

What brought the first group of young men to the Islamic community center in the village of Itsa was interest in participating in a civic education and leadership program.  The shabab, whose professions ranged from farming to accounting (though they were all jobless), expressed concern that average Egyptians are far from understanding suddenly relevant political concepts like active citizenship and social justice. What do elections really mean and how does representative government work? How should Egyptians select parliamentary or presidential candidates, if not for usual networks of patronage? What is the constitution and why is it important to the individual?

The best of these aspiring community leaders will be placed in a training program where they will learn how to conduct civic education and political awareness campaigns. Equipped with ways to explain lofty democratic concepts to all types of Egyptians and expose them to political parties, the leaders are to organize various meetings, town halls, and seminars to put the plan into practice ahead of elections in the fall.

The second, more liberal group was taking the revolution from Tahrir to the theatre. Believing that theatre lends itself to civic education because it allows the performers to communicate directly with an audience rather than behind the mask of political affiliation, they were staging a play on Egypt's journey through authoritarianism, revolution, and the political unknown. But they were not performing the play- which introduces the audience to concepts of civil rights and duties- in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, or any other regions where political activism has peaked. Rather, they are taking it to villages throughout Minya where political awareness bottoms out.

Civic education efforts are gearing up, whether through NGOs, political parties, artists, community leaders, or activists. Many Egyptians seem genuinely eager to ensure that political voices are not squandered come election time, even in remote parts of the country.  There is endless work to be done.  However, I have little doubt that civic education initiatives, though they are often lost in the midst of attention-grabbing protests and political jockeying, are by far the smartest way to preserve the revolution. 


  1. i support a political party & we are facing the same problem ,, it is being solved some how but not as affective as it must be , there is still regions that we need to visit to tell them how our party thinks ,
    & we've been facing lots of problems with the people & the word ( Socialist ) ..

    it's kinda hard in the field when you are talking to old & uneducated people in regions that's hardly reached ..

    another problem is the funding ..
    Socialists as we all know are kinda Leftists :))) which means even more shortage of funding .

  2. Thanks, Meedo. Yeah the problems facing new political parties are serious! What regions are you guys campaigning in? Are you reaching poor villages, or is there not enough time? Who can you get funding from? Actually, we should talk about all of this some time! I'd love to pick your brain : )

    Also, i think people hate the word "capitalist" more than "socialist" in Egypt!

  3. From the point of view of the raw materials, China is a big lead producing countries, are also actively seeking international pricing of the lead product. The main material of the solar power station batterylead, lead materials rich in a certain extent, also boost China's battery industry overcapacity, reflected in the batteries for signal station market, will inevitably lead to the market as a whole has not normative.