Friday, August 08, 2008

Egypt: highlighting Baheyya's excellent blog

Baheyya: Egypt Analysis and Whimsy بهيّة: Four Myths about Protest

"It’s now widely recognized that social protest has become a staple of Egyptian politics, what some journalists and researchers have taken to calling an emergent “culture of protest” among an aggrieved citizenry. Opinions differ on when to date the formation of this ‘culture.’ Some date it to 2002 with the pro-Palestine solidarity protests, others to 2004 with labour protests and the birth of Kifaya, still others to 2005 with the mobilisation accompanying the presidential and parliamentary elections. I’m inclined to see it as a grand wave of protest that began in 2000 with several triggers, including the recession and the outbreak of al-Aqsa Intifada. But even more important than the issue of dating protests is interpreting their causes and effects. Since 2005 when pundits dubbed protests a phenomenon, there have been several stock ideas repeated over and over again as if they were self-evident. I want to focus on four that are especially egregious, ideas that are quick to either laud or dismiss protest but are no help in understanding it.

"The four myths can be roughly divided into two that are chiefly concerned with the causes of protest and two with its effects. The bad ideas about protest causes assert that: a) the government allows protest as a safety valve and b) that social protest is not about politics, it’s about survival. The bad ideas about protest effects claim that a) widespread protest will topple Mubarak’s regime and b) protest will lead to democracy.

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