So here we are, a year later, waiting for January 25th again. At the end of 2010 the country felt like it was at the end stages of some lingering, incurable disease, like it was stagnating. It had been a year of breathtaking police brutality, casual election violations and mass murder, at the Qedesayn Church. Even ordinary everyday life was infected with a sort of resigned hopelessness interrupted by spectacular acts of National Democratic Party mismanagement, failure and injustice.
A year later and the ordinary everyday hasn’t changed greatly. People are still poor, young men and their dreams still drown in the Mediterranean, life goes on. For a brief moment early in 2011 there was the delicious prospect of possibilities and new starts. Teams of volunteers joyfully repainted curbs and polished statues, as if wiping off this surface dirt would ever be enough.
People talked about the revolution as if it is a living, breathing, tangible thing, a thing in need of a protection or a thing that will protect them. But they also said, we are the revolution, or, when hearing about a positive political development, the sacking of some entrenched regime figure in a government institution somewhere, the revolution is everywhere, as if it’s a contagion.
Schisms between the Pro- and the Counter-revolution were identified, classified: regime remnants and the Sofa Party, content to condemn revolutionaries from their living room. On the other side the revolutionaries and their martyrs.
An unforgiving dichotomy emerged. Street children caught up in street battles became either revolutionaries or thugs. Acts of violence against state institutions is resistance or vandalism. Tahrir Square protests protect the revolution and stall the economy. Protests in Abbaseyya Square are held by lunatics and honourable citizens. An entire vocabulary was formed, revolutionary metadata that confounds more often than it elucidates and – like a man who complains about the heat of the beach while one metre away another basks in the sun – tells you more about the speaker than what is actually happening.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has been fond of exploiting this, in its clumsy way. It has marketed itself as the supreme protector, uber alles, of the revolution while investing in the basest forms of demagoguery against proponents of this same revolution, apparently in the belief that in doing so, it covers all its bases. A crude, risible technique, but strengthened by the authority of the Egyptian Army, the last bastion against the vagaries of a chaotic, leaderless Egypt.
And now the January 25 anniversary is a squabble over nomenclature, and ownership. Will it be a protest, carnival or memorial? And elsewhere life goes on, the million invisible battles, unchanged and real but invisible. Fitting, perhaps all this, when all that promise of January has been diluted to a parliament on a leash, and the phantasm of a revolution.