A Canadian-Egyptian filmmaker reflects upon his epic journey to Cairo, Madrid and Athens, and sees a striking similarity between the struggles there.
Written by my friend, the Canadian-Egyptian filmmaker Nadim Fetaih
There have been a number of reasons why I haven’t been able to write another blog recently. The most prominent of these reasons was whether or not I should even talk about my experiences in detail — something that would be easily seen in my documentary. I had an internal conflict about what I should write and how I should write it, but in the end, an overpowering feeling came to take hold of me, the following is what has come from the feeling. I hope it makes up for my lack of writing in the recent history.
After first spending some time in Cairo and basically dissecting not only the reasons for the revolution, but how they managed to pull it off, as well as understanding not only their current struggle but the innate future hopes, I came to realize one of the most unbelievable things which I didn’t dare believe could happen.
Let me start from the beginning. To get an understanding of the Egyptian Revolution I had to go to many conferences. In these conferences, came people from all around the world simply to talk about the future of the revolt as well as the corresponding political activity that has begun to sprout all over the world. When I came, I understood the kind of influence that the Egyptian Revolution had — the hope that it gave to people all around the world who were once plagued with a “what can I do” mentality. But as I spoke more and more to these international activists, I realized that I would not be able to finalize my film without speaking to activists who had been inspired by the actions of the brave Egyptian revolutionaries. So, I extended my lay-over in Europe to two weeks.
My layover stopped in Amsterdam where I had to chance to relax for the first time in 2 months — and be that dazed and confused tourist that I was unable to be in Egypt. From there I made plans to go to London, England. Where I was to speak to a contact I made at one of said conferences. Unfortunately, I arrived on the day that the “News of the World” catastrophe hit the mainstream news. So of course, my contact was unable to meet with me due to the protests he needed to start to plan. Instead, then, I decided to ask a number of people on the streets about what kind of influence the Egyptian revolution had on their lives. Unfortunately, about 9 out of 10 average people that I would speak to in bars, on the streets, and in my hotels/motels, didn’t even know that Egypt had a revolution. When I spoke to them about the unbelievable CCTV camera count, they all believed that it was simply for their safety. For a country that I had believed would be one of the most progressive when it comes to political understanding, or radicalized thought, I was incredibly disheartened with what I saw. Though I had obviously not been introduced to the political few that would inevitably have the more politically active friends/community, I had felt in some way that there seemed to be an incredibly hard fight to be fought in England for all those who believed some serious change needed to occur. But, of course, this was all when the “News of the World” scandal had just given to rise — something that I believed would wake up many of the masses to question not only the main stream media, but the possibilities of misuse of such things like the CCTV cameras (one for every four citizens) put all around one of the most populated and world renowned cities in the world.
My next stop from London was the Madrid, where I had set some some contacts through European Revolution. When I arrived, I hadn’t expected as much as I had, but things changed me for the better. I cannot fully explain the impact that meeting my new friends in Madrid had on me — not to mention the new friends I made in Athens, Greece where I had spent most of my time in Syntagma Square. But rather than explaining my own experiences, I will explain what I have gathered from my experience, what I have learned, and what I feel needs to be spread throughout the world — the first of these actions done by simply spreading it to you, the readers of my blog — while fully understanding the risk I am taking of sounding like I am preaching, but something I feel I need to do nevertheless.
Let me explain something that I learned about Egypt — something that I inevitably did not learn with my stay there. The Egyptian revolution was not a revolt against Mubarak, this is a common misconception. Though their major slogan “el shaab ureet escaat el nazaam” or “the people demand the end of the regime” was quite obviously against the dictatorship that existed, I feel that was simply the syntax of the revolution. If one reads into it as they would a book or any kind of art, one can see the symbolic stance that the people had. It was never really against something but rather for the human dignity that 31 years in a dictatorship had demolished — a destruction which had began over 60 years ago with rise of Nasr. And this, my friends, is something that the world connected to. Yes, many of the western societies do not have state mandated torture (although the Canadian actions taken of the Afghan detainees created a despicable image of Canada), and yes, we have a “democracy” (although Canada has no time limit to our Prime Ministers — a truly disgusting aspect of Canadian politics), and yes, many people here have jobs and an education (jobs to pay off a higher – on average — household debt than our neighbours to the South (approximately $15,000/household) and an education system that is based on simple regurgitation of “facts” in our over-priced textbooks and advertisement riddled universities/colleges), but with the widening gap of the rich and poor, the destruction of the middle class, and the above-the-law mentality of CEO’s and prevailing corporate elite, we feel just as the Egyptians did.
See, in Egypt, there existed quite the same situation, a destruction of the middle class, a widening gap between the rich and poor, and a prevailing fearful population. But, they awoke, they could not handle that which was being done to them. Of course, I cannot simply connect the intense human rights violations that the Egyptian government led my Hosni Mubarak and the Military Counsel which still holds power committed. I think that would be incredibly unfair and morally unjust. But what I can say, I believe is far more powerful. If the Egyptian people, stood up against tear gas, rubble bullets, marble bullets, water canons and at times live ammunition, if they are standing up against a corrupt military counsel who has nothing but lethal weapons to fire against protestors and the ability to give military trials to the average person who stands against the injustices, then how DARE we not stand against something as little as the corporate elite? How dare we not stand up against a small percentage of the masses who control our very livelihoods? How dare we not stand against the injustices that occur each time a man or woman is laid off while their CEO’s get millions of dollars in either severance packages or stock? How dare we not stand against the injustices that we all feel continue to go on, but continue to do nothing about?
This is, what I feel has brought the new wave of revolutionaries around the world. Spain, Portugal, Greece, they have all realized the same thing — that if people facing death, imprisonment, and unbelievable pain can stand against an oppressor, why can they not stand against a small percentage of the world’s population who’s only desire is profit over humanity. We are seeing the IMF and the World Bank slowly destroy the global economy, we are seeing a previous bubble (the mass bailouts to international banks and dying corporations) bursting as the global debt crisis is crippling the international market. We are currently seeing governments destroy the contract with their citizens simply to save their economy — based on a GDP which by no means represents how well the people of a country are doing, but rather how well the corporations are stifling money from their wallets — which by the very act, entitles a revolt.
The Euro is in incredible danger. Greece has just put through an austerity package that will cripple all social programs over the next 30 years — something that the people in Syntagma Square have called a war on its people. Spain is awaiting either another bailout or incredible austerity measures to be put in place that are only meant to save the banks and the economy while completely forgetting about the human aspect of their country. Italy’s economy is on the brink of destruction — an economy which has 2,400 tons of gold behind it, which could very well bring depression to Europe if not the rest of the world by defaulting on a loan. The U.S. is currently awaiting to raise their debt cap, which whether or not it is done, could destroy the North American economy and easily rippling to the rest of the world. In no situation whatsoever do I see a decent resolution that would not cripple the world’s economy and — bringing it closer to home — the Canadian economy.
The bubble is bursting, the world is going through a downwards spiral, and what are the people calling for then? Simple. The first international revolution. This, actually, makes incredible sense. No revolution — with today’s current global market and community — can be finished alone. In fact, I cannot see any national revolution occurring without international pressure from every country demanding the same thing: humanity over profit. With the current siege of the prevailing idea around the world, I do not think that this is as far-fetched as it may seem. In fact, I met many activists on my journey that believe in the same thing — who are working day and night to try and create something which has never been done before.
Many people will say the same thing — how can we fight for a revolution with no political dogma behind it? Well, to them I simply need to explain that the Egyptian revolution had no political ideology behind it, nor did it have any religious rhetoric, nor did it have any leader. This was, in many ways, the main reason the revolution was able to be successful. Everyone was united against something — but what they did not realize was that it was far more FOR something (human dignity) than against anything. The current international revolutionary fights for the unknown, a daunting idea, but with the beacon of hope lighting the way. There are currently many groups around the world trying to find a new system that is best for their country and an international one that could be created which is based on direct or participatory democracy. This is the fundamental basis of all the revolutions that are currently being fought for — that “representatives” no longer represent the masses but the greed of corporations and the undying hunger of the market which can only be fed with the slow degradation of our rights and freedoms.
And with the understanding of the Egyptian revolution, we can truly create everlasting change, we can create the path to an unknown future — a system created by the people, for the people. Think about it this way. Karl Marx made a mistake, he created an entire system alone. This will inevitably lead to flaws as one man can not see every aspect of life, every tiny problem that may occur. But, we must all give him credit, while inside a box, he perceived a system outside of said box — an incredibly difficult task. So what can we learn from that? If each individual can simply chip away at the box that we all find ourselves in and have a peak of the outside, no matter how small a peak, then together we can create a system with all our perspectives combined, an overall vision, outside of the box can be created. This is exactly what many groups around the world are trying to create, a system based on individual views and the ideas from every part of the political spectrum and educational background combined.
This, my friends, is the evolution of revolution. We are seeing the growth of humanity beyond borders, beyond the walls that separate us — whether real or not. We are seeing a new breed of revolutionaries, a new means of fighting the revolution, and a goal that has never been believed possible before.
Well, Canada, what does that mean for us? That means that we have a lot to catch up on. We have a lot to think about, to fight for, to change in our society. We are not as immune as one may believe. I know I am not the only person who feels like this system could be better. I know I am not the only one who is willing to fight for a future that is better for the next generation. I know I am not the only one who feels as though humanity has been lost every time profit is put above our rights or dignity. Ladies and gentlemen, let go of your fears of the unknown future that may occur. Let go of the “what can I do” mentality that has been pushed onto many of us. We have seen what the people of a country can do when they unite. Let us unite, not under any political dogma nor under any leader. Let us unite as humans, fighting for humanity, working towards a humanist future.
Remember, simply by reading this you have committed a revolutionary act. Simply by awakening yourself will the revolution begin. Simply by educating yourself on the global and local issues we face will we begin to create the change we all need. Simply by questioning everything — including this very blog — will you be able to say you are a revolutionary. It begins with you, the reader, the citizen, the man or woman, the son or daughter, the brother or sister, the one whose reflections come off of the very screen you are looking at. One person can make a difference, but together, we can make history.
Let me finish by saying one final thing. The international revolution was spawned in Egypt (debatably in Tunisia, but through my views it did not spread until Egypt took hold of the cause), but unless they finish what they started, unless they are able to bring real democracy to their country, I cannot see the rest of the world doing the same. Egypt is our beacon of hope, every Egyptian standing up for human dignity is our revolutionary leader, their cause is all of our causes. We cannot forget about their actions, their inspirational and beautiful actions. We cannot forget about their sacrifices — sacrifices they continue to make for the betterment of humanity in Egypt. And we cannot forget of the need for their revolution to succeed — a revolution that has been called the unfinished revolution by TIME Magazine. A revolution, whose second part may explode (in my own humble opinion) within the next six months, the exact time that I believe the rest of the world will stand up.
Nadim is a Canadian-Egyptian filmmaker. His first documentary, A Tale of Two Revolutions, is scheduled to be released later this year.