- Alain Badiou on Tunsia, Riots, and Revolution
Today, more than ever, Mao Zedong's old motto is pertinent: "There is great chaos under heaven – the situation is excellent."
- Slavoj Zizek, Why Fear the Arab Revolutionary Spirit?
"The story of the tahrir square is not about who is with Mubarak and who is against, it is about a truely civilized, very peaceful people who decided to regain control of their destiny."
- from an email to Graham Harman by a woman in Egypt
Alain Badiou in his recent essay on Tunsia, Riots, and Revolution tells us that in "intervallic periods, discontent exists but it can’t be structured because it is unable to draw its force from a shared idea." He goes on to define an intervallic period as "a sequence in which revolutionary logic is clarified and where it explicitly presents itself as an alternative, succeeded by an interval period where the revolutionary idea has not been passed on to anyone [déshérence], and in which it hasn’t yet been taken up, a new alternative disposition has not yet been formed." Yet, in Egypt the time for Riot has passed, and the time for a revolution has come. Isn't what is happening in Egypt the spirit of revolution personified? Or, is this just another staged prelude to a riot gone bad, a foredoomed experiment always already overtaken by the reactionary forces of both liberal and conservative powers, both inside and outside the present regime to forestall any true revolution from taking place?
Slavoj Zizek in his essay Why Fear the Arab Revolutionary Spirit? also chimes in that even "in the case of clearly fundamentalist movements, one should be careful not to miss the social component." The "social component" which he refers too is their shrewd takeover of the Swat valley in Pakistan back in the spring of 2009 in which, as reported by the NY Times they engineered "a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants." The important question that Zizek asks is Why didn't liberal democrats either in Pakistan or in the U.S. recognize this fissure in the first place, and instigate similar tactics in the name of freedom and justice? Then he turns the knife in the back of liberal democracy as the hypocrisy it is: "Is it that the feudal forces in Pakistan are the natural ally of liberal democracy?" Yet, Zizek, does not let the Left off easy either. He ponders the situation in Afghanistan in which 40 years ago the Communist Party once ruled independently of the Soviet Union and asks: "Where did this secular tradition go?" His answer does not come in this essay, but in another one from an interview with Democracy Now! in which he tells us "Afghanistan is not an old fundamentalist country that we should enlighten. Afghanistan was quite a nice, tolerant country. Its fundamentalization is precisely the result of being caught in the global politics. We, the global liberal system, generate fundamentalisms." And, what about the Egyptian people? Why is the U.S. once again sitting idly by unable to take a stand for freedom and justice against the dictatorial Mubarak regime? As Zizkek states it, the "hypocrisy of western liberals is breathtaking: they publicly supported democracy, and now, when the people revolt against the tyrants on behalf of secular freedom and justice, not on behalf of religion, they are all deeply concerned. Why concern, why not joy that freedom is given a chance?"
But as in all things even the liberal progressives are stepping up their agenda. Just listen to George Soros as he comments on President Obama in his latest Washington Post commentary Why Obama has to get Egypt right on these events: "President Obama personally and the United States as a country have much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy. This would help rebuild America's leadership and remove a lingering structural weakness in our alliances that comes from being associated with unpopular and repressive regimes. Most important, doing so would open the way to peaceful progress in the region." He goes on to say that although "American power and influence in the world have declined, our allies and their armies look to us for direction. These armies are strong enough to maintain law and order as long as they stay out of politics; thus the revolutions can remain peaceful. That is what the United States should insist on while encouraging corrupt and repressive rulers who are no longer tolerated by their people to step aside and allow new leaders to be elected in free and fair elections." And, in his usual hard edged economic nose for a new opportunity he tells us "I am, as a general rule, wary of revolutions. But in the case of Egypt, I see a good chance of success. As a committed advocate of democracy and open society, I cannot help but share in the enthusiasm that is sweeping across the Middle East. I hope President Obama will expeditiously support the people of Egypt. My foundations are prepared to contribute what they can. In practice, that means establishing resource centers for supporting the rule of law, constitutional reform, fighting corruption and strengthening democratic institutions in those countries that request help in establishing them, while staying out of those countries where such efforts are not welcome." Soros as usual justifies his pathetic bid for an economic boon as an altruistic gesture masking his real intent: the liberal economic dictatorship of Egypt by other means than politics. The liberal mask justifying its wayward economic might, seeking control through money and economic pressure is still the oldest game in town, and Soros has been one of its adepts for ages. But his time, along with the western economic dream of dictatorship of Capital is beginning to unravel slowly but surely all over the world. We can only hope that the Egyptian people will not let such insipid smiling jackals into their midst.
What is sad is that no one seems to be thinking of the Egyptian people themselves, it seems that both political and economic powers are surveying the issue of Egypt as just another part of the never-ending power games of the Big Other. While Washington sits idly by as the Christian Science Monitor tells us in this review: "Congress is taking a cautious approach to the massive street protests sweeping Egypt – encouraging cries for reform, but wary that a more radical regime in Cairo could damage US interests, including the survival of Israel." While such democrats as Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Bill Nelson tell us that they want Mubarak to "step aside gracefully to make way for a new political structure", the Republicans stand behind the Obama administration calling for the Egyptian government to adopt reforms and avoid violence against the protesters. The Republican Sen. John McCain urged a restoration to "social networking sites, repeal the emergency law, and “open greater space for political parties to organize and compete peacefully for power,” including independent monitors in next fall’s presidential election." As well as stating that he strongly believed that "the Egyptian military has no role to play in resolving the current situation". While on the other hand a Democrat Representative Gary Ackerman of New York and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio "called for cutting off $1.5 billion in annual US aid to Egypt, unless Mr. Mubarak accepts a transitional government and steps down. Rep. Howard Berman (D) of California, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs panel, called for a “constructive dialogue” between the Egyptian government and opposition leaders, but balked at cutting off aid."
But most Democrats took a seat on the sidelines stating that this "is a really delicate situation, as it relates to the entire Middle East region, especially as so many Arab states are our allies,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri. “I don’t think many of us should say much until this thing has had a chance to work itself out.”
So instead of showing leadership, we see an impasse and a lack of leadership everywhere. But this is not so for the people themselves, for the people of Egypt as one demonstrator said to an Aljazeera reporter: "It's either death, or freedom!" And the Egyptian government hides behind pathetic statements by front men for the Mubarak regime such as Ahmed Shafiq the new prime minister who said Mubarak would not be leaving till September because "We need President Mubarak to stay for legislative reasons". And, Mubarak himself telling ABC News that ""I am fed up. After 62 years in public service, I have had enough. I want to go. ... But he added: "If I resign today, there will be chaos." What a lie, how laughable such a man and his pathetic ideas, as if the people of Egypt were unable and willing to govern themselves. Dictators and tyrants throughout history have claimed as much, but the people have always prevailed against such lame and insipid arguments. One must only open one's ears and hear the voices of the people in Tahrir Square as they chant over and over and over:
"He must go! He must go! He must go!"
For those of you have not been following Graham Harman's blog of late, he has started a special area to honour the heroic dead who have already given their lives for Egypt's revolution against this tyrant: Egypt's Heroic Dead! Also, I discovered after the fact by auspices of Larval Subjects (thanks guys!) that Graham had posted an email from an Egyptian woman who related the following:
“It is a revolution lead by young intellectuals. It started as a virtual idea in the social media. They did not at the time, just ten days ago, think that it could lead to such an astounding uprising. One young blogger told me that they did not think that one can simply set a date and a time for a revolution, ‘we used to joke about it saying let us meet tomrrow at cilantro after the revolution, or we better do this or that thing ahead of the revolution.’ Although it started and was fed by the connectivity of the internet, once it started rolling, people already were connected even in the absence of the internet and the mobile phones. Awreness and beleive is a super network that connected people.
In the media they speak of an international community afraid of a power vaccum, they speak of a fear from Islamic radicalism, others speak of the absence of the building blocks of democracy. This is exactly because they do not undrestand the nature of this revolution, the people, literally for the first time in history, are taking the lead and deciding for themselves, the government will continue to make its concessions and offers, and the street is the judge. It is a different process where the voting is a continuous process, as the street reacts to the government announcements and measures
The absence of a person or a group of persons as a recognizable leadership group or figures is intentional. The intellectual young people who started all this are actually leading by spreading awareness among the people in the square, rather than by giving orders and this is making the pressure of the street crowds even more forceful. Simply because it is the people rather than this or that specific name who is reacting and deciding…
The story of the tahrir squre is not about who is with Mubarak and who is against, it is about a truely civilized, very peoceful people who decided to regain control of their destiny. This is a total super change. It means that they have given up their let go attitude, they have broken the seal of fear that has been stamped allover their bodies and soul. they will for ever be responsible and work to rebuild the whole country.”