Red Shift on Tahrir

we-want-internet-egypt-revolution_largeOver recent months, an obscure general awareness has been emerging: there is a red shift clearly observable in the global geopolitical and ideological spectrum of our time. From the twentieth century's main fracture, at work in the hercynian folds of History, i.e. the gigantic confrontation between democratic, or would-be democratic capitalism, and first and foremost racist and neo-darwinian Fascism/Nazism, then bureaucratic, but equally murderous and totalitarian Communism, we have now passed on to a new, ever more clearly traceable tectonic fault-line. Not as the neo-conservative line of thought desperate to retain us in its clasp would have us believe, that between ‘Civilisations', but one between global transnational capitalism ever on the make - or at least, a certain form of the latter, it still remains to be seen if there may really be any other - and the truly democratic self-expression to which the peoples of the world aspire.

Isn't that precisely what is already at stake in the tsunami of non-violent movements, popular uprisings, political and social claims, free of all initial manipulation, currently engulfing the north-African and middle-eastern client states, forcing Europe's complicit elites to ‘eat their hats', astonishing the rest of us with the enthusiasm of again witnessing a genuine volcanic eruption of history, though now beyond the confines of our own tamely quiescent shores? And what is it - to the highest disappointment of these same dominant gangs of the global, transnational Order - that fundamentally characterizes these movements, which have succeeded in so thoroughly slipping the sticky noose of bank credit and the whole Pandora's Box of the planet's cruellest and most inhuman regimes (sanctimoniously operating in our name)? To put it in a nutshell: the total absence - at least in the current initial phase of upsurge onto the global arena - of any sectarian religious agenda.

It is no doubt in this light that we can already read between the lines, ever more boldly scrawled in characters of fire, that the main current of history, for a time thwarted and contained by the wiles - and within the endless, corrupt meanders - of post-colonial capitalism, has once again surfaced. For a certain time, the scarecrow of ‘the return of religious fundamentalism', plus the tall tale of the ‘Clash of Civilisations', succeeded in mesmerizing and/or intimidating many, while darkening the gates of dawn with a radical pessimism. A monster of Terror, an absurd and improbable wraith, was conjured up before the face of the peoples of the world - as though the nations who had defeated Hitler, Stalin, the KGB and the SS - the richest, best armed and technologically most advanced - were henceforth doomed to tremble powerless before a sect of desperate fanatics.

And it is already probably a safe bet that therein lies the rub for the mighty, the dominant and the ‘decision-makers' of this world. What? Insurrection chokes the "Arab street", and there are no bearded fundamentalists with Koran aloft claiming for the return of the Shariat and the restoration of the Caliphate in full view of the cameras? Islamists and Copts are fraternising and presenting a common front of protest? No Crusade to save the persecuted Christians of the Middle East to be immediately scheduled! Hellfire! How can we intervene, how send in Blackwater and the special forces, our supposedly seasoned war dogs and other doughty "specialists" in order to "miraculously" save vassal and friend?  Who would have thought Saudi Arabia would so soon become a land of asylum for fallen dictators? Where else might they go? And, yes, note it well, there's one deleterious, delirious voice that we are no longer hearing in the global media storm: that of a certain cave-dweller named Osama...

No -  how many today would call this into doubt? - the tidal wave of the global democratic revolution which is already up and running before our eyes, on every screen, along the non-linear pathways of the new electronic supports of viral communication, is not only unlooked for, joyous and liberating, but somehow fundamentally necessary. It is even in its own way providential. The muffled depth-charge of the Wikileaks scandal was already prophetic, if not a solution for change in itself, at least a precursory rumble and stroke of genius. It is not only such or such a government of the dominated periphery, raddled through with corruption and cruelty, which is on the line today. It is today's trends in global governance, today's world economic elites and the bought out, ‘cronified' political classes (follow my gaze in direction of a certain resort called Davos!) who so obsequiously kowtow to the former, who have suddenly gone into a serial tailspin.

Indeed, the World-system itself has been destabilized. The immediate proof of this is that the ‘money markets' and their glitzy traders, ever athirst for higher bonuses, have ‘voted' against democratic change in Tunisia and Egypt by trading down the exchange rates of their respective currencies. Of course, it may well be that such ‘market-driven' sanctions against pluralism and freedom will have precipitated the fall of the very regimes they might erstwhile have sought to restore. Also to be retained is the fact that, according to a chart of CIA 'Social indicators' posted by the BBC, among the countries of the region, while Tunisia and Egypt are far from having the highest percentage of their populations below the poverty line (Algeria, Syria and Yemen, and even Lebanon beat them both easily on that count), they do have among the highest rates of penetration of the Internet. So rather than conforming to the conventional pattern of hunger riots, the events in Tunis and on Tahrir square should be seen as belonging to a new ype of 'Indiduo-global' protest, and even, perhaps, as being among the first 'Individuo-global' revolutions to take place in the dominated periphery (erstwhile the 'Third World'). Thus it is not only - and perhaps not even in priority -the governments of the region , but rather those Western nations where the middle classes are losing purchasing power and status and being enraged by the downward pressure of government 'Austerity measures' (like Italy, already, for instance...), which need to watch out for that redoutable 'domino-effect'..

For there are already clear signs that a tipping-point has been reached. Egypt, the most populous and culturally the most influential of Arab lands, has begun a process of non-violent democratic makeover, initially with success. Even companies like Facebook or Twitter have begun to redeem the hideous compromises of other "flagship enterprises" of "new Capitalism", like Google and Yahoo with the Chinese police state. Here the individual and the global, the personal and the societal, are no longer to be opposed. All that so breathtakingly near to the killing fields of yesterday's unrelenting resentment...Who would have thought such a conjuncture possible only 5 years back?  

And, between you and me, so much the better, it is high time! In front of us lie - we structured-by-language, hallucinatory, infinitely desiring mortals (humanity, by any other name!) - so many huge issues barring the horizon, so many major upcoming challenges - just think climate change, overpopulation, food shortage already on us - so many grave injustices, such imbalances, backlogs and hang-ups, monstrous social and moral distortions to be corrected, gigantic institutional and structural reforms to be resolutely tackled, with hardly any leeway... It is already more than high time to "strip down the motor" and change our global ways of thinking and doing business.

‘Old Europe', you may object, has been slumbering in the bad dreams of comfort for too long, humanity itself is tired of the Beethovenian striving to become its own Prometheus, to self-transcend and engender tomorrow's ‘thieves of fire', as Rimbaud once put it, the central conduit of the human volcano is definitively obstructed...

Only the day before yesterday, such a verdict would indeed have been defendable. No more so: Are we not today witnessing more than the premonitory signs of the contrary, the long repressed dream of a resurgent humanity reborn from its own ashes, rising from interminable years of oppression, servitude and obscurantism, in living ciphers of fire surging from the planet's slums, jails and torture chambers, before our very eyes?  Humanity may yet buck the trend. Respectful greetings, in any case, to each and every woman, man, child, anonymous, unprompted insurgents of the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Tunis, honour to the brave, bloodied youth so hideously relegated and yet so moderately impatient to know, to get a firm grip on their fair share of our common legacy of modernity! We have recognized you! It's going to be a hard, hard day for Islamophobics! You have short-changed their lies! We know who you are! You are our brothers and sisters!

And the pathway to change you have traced, with all its complexities, pitfalls and possible reversals, is only just beginning... But you can indeed be proud.  It was you who opened the way!

>Follow Patrick Hutchinson on Twitter

>The WRW Dossier

>Read French-language original version

>Read Michel Camau's article on Europe's responsability in the longevity of Authoritarianism in Tunisia

>Read William Pfaff's article in the New York Review of Books

>Read Alain Cabras's French-language article "L'Union pour la Méditerranée : être et dire"

>See BBC live coverage and minute-by-minute Twitter feed on Cairo's Tahrir square

>Read what other Bloggers from Tahrir Square have to say

>See the BBC online map of the protests in Cairo

>Read Elodie Auffray's article: "Tunisia : "Social networks were a centerpiece of this revolution"

>Read Gilbert Achkar's interview on the events in Cairo and Tunis on Znet

>Read Yasmine El Rachidi's Cairo Blog

>Read Olivier Roy's article "Revolution post-islamiste" on le monde.fr