By Rami G. Khouri
|The Daily Star|
".....Much of the analysis about Egypt these days misses how life, ideology, identity and politics actually operate across the Middle East, which is basically through a process of constant negotiations of identities and authorities by a wide range of citizens who often are not formalized in clear organizations, and for the most part do not have websites, or Twitter and Facebook accounts. If Egypt teaches us anything for now it is that dozens of different groups of citizens will continue to engage each other in political battle until they agree on the outlines of a national governance system that they can all accept as legitimate and appropriate for their country.These many actors, including the military and the Islamists, all evolve and continue to reconfigure their alliances, as their fortunes and public attitudes change on a month-by-month basis. Arab citizens, who now can express their identities and mobilize in the millions for mass political action, represent the agency of the individual citizen that remains, in my mind, the single most important development in the country since January 2011.
This is the main reason why I feel that so much of the absolutist, almost apocalyptic, analysis of Egypt’s condition is wrong and demeaning. Together, millions of active citizens comprise that “popular legitimacy” that is now the great driver of national reconfiguration and re-legitimization. Everybody, including Islamists and the armed forces, is now ultimately accountable to the Egyptian people.
Egyptians are not mobs who must choose only between democracy and army rule; rather they comprise thousands of citizen groups that rise and fall according to the times and conditions. Some go to public squares, some give to local charities, some stay home and watch television and vote when they are given that opportunity, and many millions do some or all of these things. This historic assertion of citizen agency in the past 30 months has resulted in indigenous political movements whose fortunes rise and fall. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the revolutionary youth, Salafist Islamists, the National Salvation Front opposition grouping, the traditional parties and the armed forces have all continuously evolved since January 2011, and they all have only one thing in common: They are accountable ultimately to the will of the Egyptians, and cannot try to impose a system of rule or national policies that the citizenry does not accept.
Egypt will be defined ultimately by the consequences, consensuses and compromises of this great amalgamation of different indigenous groups who now speak out, organize, mobilize, vote, protest and take long afternoon naps, with the certitude that they will make up, and once again with the opportunity to speak out, organize, mobilize, vote, protest and take long afternoon naps. This beast has many, many more options than democracy or military rule......"