I've been having conversations about Egypt's predicament with Maria Golia for a decade or so now, and every time her long-view take on events humbles this political junkie's fixation on the now. I think there is some truth to what she writes in this New Internalist piece:
In his Anatomy of a Civilization, Egyptologist Barry Kemp reflected on the similarities between ancient Egypt, with its rigid hierarchies and ritual displays of power, and the world today, with its presidential cavalcades, popes waving from palace windows and monarchs celebrating diamond jubilees. ‘History is a subversive subject. It undermines our claim to live in an age of reason and progress. Technology streaks ahead… but institutional man (and sometimes thinking man as well) still struggles to escape from the Bronze Age.’ This struggle reaches deep into human nature and societal – indeed, biological – attachments to aggression, defence and the ‘leader’.
In Egypt, where high officials tend to view themselves as stern but wise fathers, the people’s response has devolved over time from dedication and respect to fear, mistrust and often loathing. From the start, the uprising’s focus on Mubarak was personal; he embodied the public’s disillusionment, resentment and the resulting contempt for power. Yet emphasizing Mubarak’s responsibility for Egypt’s impoverishment obscured the people’s role in that same process. ‘Has he some power over you other than that which he receives from you?’ asked 16th-century anarchist Étienne de La Boétie in his Discourse on Voluntary Servitude. Egypt is not just fighting tyranny, but the traditions that uphold it, including deference to authority as a pillar of the societal order, which has so far guaranteed survival. Like much of the world, it is fighting itself.