Here’s a Tweet for dictators in De Nile

2011-02-06 09:15

Transphinxed. That’s what the globe has been this week, with all eyes glued on Egypt, where epic scenes of revolution were beamed live out of Tahrir Square. Who said the revolution would not be televised? But who could predict that the revolution would also be tweeted? The army of Egyptians which has revolted against the regime of Hosni Mubarak made every possible use of technology to show that in the 21st century you just can’t keep a good revolution down.

Al Jazeera and other television stations, as well as brave journalists, from around the world kept the message coming out, no matter the jackboot tactics of Mubarak’s third force. People were killed and journalists attacked as the octogenarian leader pretended he could not hear the roar that said “Go. Now.”

Egypt has shown that oppression and violence can still happen, but that where there is widespread use of mobile phones it can no longer be hidden until it is too late, as happened all too recently in Bosnia and Rwanda. Those death camps and killing fields would not scar our human consciousness in an era of human rights if people then had access to the powerful and cheap means of communication which ensured that the world saw, graphically, every act of Mubarak’s goons.

It was an awesome show of people’s power, unorchestrated and popularly led, that rose wave upon wave to fight the state-sponsored violence. Tahrir Square is now burnt into the popular imagination just as Tiananmen in China was. Of course, it must and will end. And what will take its place is still unknown. Fearful Western pundits predict that the opposition Muslim Brotherhood will ride into a new prominence, threatening Israel from its southern flank. Or that a different Egypt will export radical Islam south into the Horn of Africa.

Who knows? There were no signs that the Brotherhood led the Egyptian uprising by stealth and it certainly was not Muslim alone in its support base. Perhaps the rise of a new Egypt will be fuelled by a more popular desire for a better life and an end to corruption.

It won’t come from Cape to Cairo, because our system is not oppressive while a massive social safety net keeps the ANC’s mass support intact. But surely no modern leader can be immune to the poignant lessons Egyptians taught us this week: You needn’t be saddled with useless old leaders forever and there is no force greater than people united.

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