May 22, 2011

Leaderless!! A second revolution?

It's with a heavy heart that I declare that I am not supporting the second revolution. I'm not supporting it the way it is being presented. I share the same fears as everybody else. I do not see the results of the revolution the way I imagined them on January 25th nor on February 11th. Our media is still as ignorant and corrupt, our police force as infested as ever, the political process is nothing short of a joke and our government is – to say the least – in Lala Land. Yet, I do not agree with the second revolution. I do not support the demands and I do not support the process.

On January 25th, we had a "specific" list of demands:
1.       Remove minister of Interior
2.       Lift the emergency law
3.       Change the constitution
4.       Minimum wage
By January 28th, we had a national consensus, Mubarak has to leave. Even with such a clear demand, on February 1st in the evening we had a split in opinions. Some people thought maybe we should let him stay till September. Sadly but luckily, February 2nd happened and opinions were unified again.
When I look at the list of demands for May 27th, I see very ambiguous demands. The demands are neither specific nor measurable. The only measurable demand is – to say the least – controversial and lacks a definition of the mechanism.
1.       Presidential council: there is already a huge debate between activists on whether a presidential council should be a demand or not. Some are saying that it is against the results of the referendum, some others say that the appointment of this council is controversial and could end up with the SCAF choosing the members and resulting in exactly the same situation. I tend to agree that the mechanics for selecting the members and the definition of the council's mandate and authorities are quite complex. Moreover, it contradicts the verdict of the referendum.
2.       Purifying the police force and reinstating security: That is such a general statement. Who are the top ranks that we want removed? Do we have a list of their names? Do we have any idea what the MOI plans are? Are there specific measures that we want them to take to be able to reinstate security? The ambiguity of the demand itself is dooming it to failure. Unless the objective is to provide a list of demands that cannot be achieved. If we were asking for the removal of the Minister, then that's something else, because it's a specific objective. What we have now is merely a "wish".
3.       Purifying the judicial system: same argument. It's too broad. Nothing concrete there. What do we know about the problems that it's facing? Do we know the corrupt judges? And wouldn't you think that the judges would know best how to go about bringing reform to this system? Did we talk to honest judges? Do we know what they want / recommend?
4.       Purifying the municipalities and governorates: same argument as above. Are we suggesting a specific mechanism going forward? Are we ready for those elections? Do the parties / coalitions / movements have a list of candidates? Are we calling for the removal of this organization all together? When will we consider that this demand has been met? When what happens? Again this is such a general "wish" nothing more.
5.       Purifying the media: again and again, broad demands. Nothing concrete. The reform of such a sector will not happen overnight. First, we need good leadership. Asking for the revamp of the entire sector is not a task that will be completed in a week or two. Do we have suggestions of names to head a board to restructure the sector? Do we have ideas on who to remove? Maybe at the top layers but do we have replacements that can head such organizations? Wouldn't it be better if we had some sort of a plan? Some ideas of what to do?
6.       Release of all political prisoners: I was under the impression that they were all out. I might be mistaken. Do we have a list of the names? Same thing, a very general demand without concrete deliverables. How many should be released? 200? 2000? 10000? Does anyone know who they are?
7.       Trying all the corrupt figures from the previous regime and specifically Mubarak: again, the simple answer from the SCAF will be that this is happening. That this is happening through a civil court and due process has to be ensured. So, what are we asking for? Faster trials? More people to be tried? Military court for the corrupt people? The demand is so broad it is impossible to put a deliverable to it. Are we asking for trials for political corruption? Shouldn't we have a board of judges to formulate these demands in a professional way? And to set clear objectives? When will we consider that this demand has been fulfilled? If Mubarak is tried? El Adly? 20 More? 50 More? 1000 More?
8.       Retrieving all stolen money and execution of corrupt individuals: I'm not going to even get into this one.
I find the demands to be naïve and immeasurable. They do not offer a plan or suggest solutions. It's a wish list, the sort you make for your birthday. And I honestly think that they are as such only because there is a lot of frustration but no real game plan. And most of all, because everyone shares the same frustrations but not the same views on how to go forward.

Moreover, the problem is that these are all "demands". It is as if we are waiting for permission. The sense of ownership over this revolution is lost. I keep hearing the same bitter complaint from activists and revolutionaries: "Those who started the revolution are not calling the shots". Well, what did you think? Did you think that the next phase was going to be managed by 20'000 activists, with 20'000 opinions, with zero organization, zero agreement on basic steps, trashing one another for the smallest of differences in opinion? I said it in February, in March, in April and again today: if there is no unified front with elected leadership that can speak on behalf of the revolutionaries then nobody will listen. Not because they don't want to listen, but because none in their right mind will be able to fulfill 20'000 aspirations of 20'000 individuals. I can see the tweets and the blogs. There are hundreds of opinions and the minute you start discussing one of them you're considered a traitor, a coward, feloul, unpatriotic or fascist. If we want to be heard, we have to be organized. We cannot just offer complaints, we need to offer solutions. Solutions that we are willing to back and implement.

The lack of leadership was a strength when the demand was one but today it is a curse. It's confusing people, the same people that we need to be able to exercise pressure. We need to unite under a legitimate or at least an organized front. We need to elect representatives that will talk on our behalf, lobby for us. Ones who will be able to negotiate, understand the challenges. Ones who will be able to put specific demands and use the power of the unified people to exercise the needed pressure. We need to work in groups under this front. A group to work with the police force, another to work on the media a third to follow on the reforms of the judicial system. We need to work on building a vision, putting together a workplan that is specific and realistic. A workplan that we can all work together to achieve. The time for occupying the square and putting up demands is over, we will not be able to mobilize the millions that hit the street before. If we want to make a change we have to make it ourselves and not in random acts but in an organized manner, only then will the protests make a difference.

You might want to read this one too: why this time around it will not work this way.. 

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