Egyptian Christians guarding Muslims in Prayer. Tahrir Square by Nevine Zaki
“Holy the crazy shepherds of rebellion!” – Allen Ginsberg (from Footnote to Howl)
Egypt is on my mind, as I am sure it is on most of yours. I am no political analyst, no Anarchist Pundit, no journalist. Just a human, responding to the pictures of my brothers and sisters half-way across the globe, and there does not seem to be much that I can do. More tech-savvy people dedicated computer space to enable Egyptians to still communicate with each other during the internet and Twitter black outs. Some of us have been writing to government officials. To be honest, in this case, so far all I have done is read the news and hold Egypt in my heart.
In reading the Twitter feed of people like Sharif Kouddous, or watching al Jazeera and the BBC on my computer, I bear witness. And this morning I remembered that sometimes that is enough. Over and over, during the course of many years, friends have held space for me, and I for them, as we have gone through deep and often wrenching transitions: deaths, births, dissolution of jobs or marriages, suicides, bankruptcies… Sometimes we could offer each other material or logistical help, but mostly, we just listened, watched, said a few words, offered some comfort.
The people of Egypt know that we are with them, watching, listening, holding them in our arms from far away. I can only hope that gives them courage, just as my friends have given it to me.
The Middle East is a lens for us all. The world is in upheaval, including the planet herself. In stating what I am about to next, in no way am I wishing to diminish what the people of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen are experiencing, but I am saying that, from far away, we can look to our own governments, our own policies, and even, at rock bottom, our own lives. What will it take to incite ourselves to revolution? How oppressed do we have to become? I see people living in tight boxes of their own making. Isn’t it time to overthrow something in our lives?
I’m saying all of this for a reason: it is my firm belief that changing culture has to go hand in hand with changing ourselves. If we do not do the work of self revolution, no external change will last. We cannot build anything new while holding our old thought forms, habits, fears, and prejudices. Lasting change begins with the self, every day, and then we take those selves to the workplace, to relationships, to our economic choices, to our temples, groves, synagogues, and mosques. We take those selves of ours down to the public square, where our transformation has an opportunity to spread. Don’t topple one dictator in order to give way to another. Don’t vanquish one demon in order to have a consortium arise. Stare at yourself, unflinchingly, and ask, “What do I choose today? Freedom, or the oppression of my soul?” This brings to mind something I oft say about Anarchy: There is no self-government without self-governance.
In standing up for ourselves – in learning self-governance – we learn to stand up for each other. Stand tall, my friends. Every day is a chance for revolution.
Egypt, we are with you.