"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt's "Marianne": "Brave, intelligent, handsome young woman"

Viva Egypt and its forward-thinking Arabs. May the feminists among them have something to say about the new society they're now making possible. I still know very little about Egypt's internal affairs, but the big story going on there this week commands attention, and bits of news and commentary are beginning to leap out and speak to me and help the whole thing to coalesce into something I can relate to. Here are the two things that have topped that list for me.

1. This is something I came across on the music-sharing site Blip.fm. Once in a while someone "blips" an interview or something else that isn't music as such, but it strikes a chord. Here, I love what DJ @eleniap wrote in her comment introducing this offering, which is a woman-in-the-street interview with a protester:
"I conceive of this brave, intelligent, handsome, Fayum-looking young woman as democratic Egypt’s “Marianne”, i.e. new national emblem"
(I took this as a reference to Iran's DJ Maryam [ see earlier post ] though I really know so little, I could be wrong about that. "Fayum" refers to a central Egyptian province; the area also lends its name to a style of portraiture. I looked it up. So it was a rather elegant tweet-sized introductory comment.) 

Anyway, back to @eliap's blip -- Here it is:


Interview with anti-government protester – Tahir Square, Cairo, Egypt; Jan 31 2011

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Mona Eltahawy
2. When the Egyptian event began to unfold, for news and interpretation, I was pretty much at sea until I came across this blogger/commentator (courtesy of Reader Supported News): Mona Eltahawy
Here's her blog address. Lots of good pieces on there.

Here she is putting the "Muslim Brotherhood" concern in perspective: "This is not about Islamists. This is not about Al Qaeda. This is about Egyptians!" Here she is talking to Amy Goodman and covering all the points. Seems to me she's pretty "brave, intelligent, and handsome", too - an Arab Muslim feminist living in New York. In one post she describes her conversations with people in New York, as she stood demonstrating at Park51:

Mary wanted to know how, as a woman, I could remain a Muslim when Muslim women were treated so badly.

I told her I would be lying if I denied that women in Muslim-majority countries enjoyed equal rights but also said I belonged to a movement called Musawah, which means equality and which aims for equality and justice in the Muslim family by working to remove misogynistic and male-dominated interpretations of Islam.
This wonder woman writes for publications all over the world (including my fav, the Guardian UK), and standing up to the idiocy of what passes for tv news these days. Since I don't watch much of that, I hadn't been aware of her before. On her blog she tells her readers she
was on BBC Newsnight to stress that freedom and dignity must win out in the “stability vs democracy” debate as Egypt’s uprising unfolds. On CNN, I urged media to use “revolt” or “uprising” rather than “chaos” and “crisis” when framing events in Egypt and NYTimes.com The Lede picked up on it.
And on CNN With Wolf Blitzer I explained the magnitude of events in Egypt and gave some background on how rendition links the Mubarak regime and the U.S. administration.
You'll find links to the programs referenced, here on her blog.

And here is Mona
writing just two weeks ago about the Tunisian revolution: very prescient. And video.

Most of us don't know much about Egypt, and I think we can assume the US media are full of errors and the usual skewed, self-serving perspectives, and possibly misinformation, but thanks to the Internet we're not limited to US Pravda anymore. Here are a couple of other articles that looked pretty good to me, sent by email correspondents:
http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/temples-of-doomed-democracy-begin-to-stir-from-their-coma-20110131-1ab3l.html

http://readersupportednews.org/off-site-opinion-section/133-133/4794-us-cynicism-explodes-in-egypt

I repeat: Viva Egypt and its forward-thinking Arabs. May the feminists among them have something to say about the new society they're now making possible.


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And here's an update to this post, added 5 minutes later. Here's a great article on Mona Eltahawy. Apparently I'm not the only one to fix on her. They say she's emerged as the person explaining Egypt to the West. Lots of good quotes in that article. Lovely!
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Update: Speaking of media coverage of Mideast news...

I had just written a recommendation here of Control Room, the fine documentary about the Arab news organization AlJazeera , when my internet connection suddenly closed and when it returned, the whole paragraph was gone. No time to re-do it now (off to exercise class) but the link is there - check it out. Everyone should see it! It's an excellent piece of documentary film-making and a fascinating piece of journalism about what journalism is really all about (when it's done right).

I've liked Fareed Zakaria and been inclined to listen to him since reading his fine book The Post American World. However, even though I liked the story he told there, and appreciated his perspective which took in something beyond US borders and national interests, I was aware that the story he told was aligned with things-as-they-are economically and politically (or things as they were, before the current economic collapse), what's called "centrist" these days but is really pretty far to the right, politically, as it's entirely in the service of those currently in power. One must assume anyone who can keep a job as editor of Newsweek (international edition) is coming from an essentially right wing establishment/corporate point of view and this does come out in many of his pieces so one takes him with a grain of salt.

if you have any doubts about how that works) what Egyptians themselves are pointing out is that the "belt tightening" has hit ordinary people very hard, with lessening of essential services. It has not made them prosperous but lowered their standard of living. And they are the ones in the streets -- by the millions -- saying things are NOT all right. Zakaria, here, is very obviously in right wing fantasy land and revealing his colors. How will he redeem himself? Or will he? Not, I suppose, until the powers he serves are brought down. I'm not holding my breath on that one, but you never know. If people ever wake up here...In his "Take on Egypt," the essential flaw in Zakaria's thinking is bizarrely apparent; he says the revolution  in Egypt is caused by the success of the World Bank sanctions, which have made the country so much more prosperous. Yes, he says that! It was a shocker to see him so blandly toe the line, in the face of everything we know about what's wrong with that picture. His reasoning here is that rising expectations, which always follow eonomic improvements, have awakened the people up to new possibilities and that's why they're demonstrating. Wow! Not a 30-year dictatorship, not brutal "security forces," not a political will to win democracy? Not dissatisfaction with the government's looking the other way while minority religious extremists gutted the universities of their best academics and persecuted secularists? Not a human need for free speech? Not poverty in a land of proud people?
***RANT ALERT****Honestly, Fareed, do you really think "rising expectations" would be the spark to inspire people to do what they've been doing in Egypt? I wonder if he's ever actually demonstrated himself, and known what it takes to do that, or if he's one of those types who assume it's all beer and skittles to put your body on the line, not knowing what you'll be up against? Zakaria's silly position makes sense if you really believe that people (people, mind you, not the few on top serving international interests ripping off the people) are served by what the IMF does. So, ask the people. How do they feel about it? Mainstream journalists never do that. Because they're telling the corporate story. And because it's the only one most people hear in this country, they buy into the delusion even while their own lives crumble economically.

What makes much more sense to me -- and other commentators have pointed this out, but you have to watch Amy Goodman or Free Speech TV to hear it -- is that while the economic situation in Egypt might look good on paper to corporate types, because that strata is doing very well by it (after all, the World Bank serves those on top and designs its programs to do their bidding; see
John Perkins

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