Victory to the Egyptian People!

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“Only those with a heart of stone, and a mind of mulch, will fail to feel inspired by the events in Egypt,” writes Brendan O’Neill.

Tens of thousands of people have been cockily challenging President Mubarak’s regime, demanding that this Washington-backed authoritarian step aside and allow Egyptians to enjoy political and individual freedom and exercise real democratic control over their futures. Mubarak’s concessions so far – sacking his government, installing his first-ever vice president and promising a few political reforms – clearly do not measure up to the Egyptian masses’ expectations of meaningful political overhaul. This can be glimpsed in the much-reproduced banner sending a very modern-sounding message to Mubarak: ‘Game over.’

But if the protests tell us a story as old as history itself – that people want freedom and will take extraordinary risks to get it – they also reveal much that is new and peculiar about today’s political world. The contradictory reaching for historical antecedents to the Egyptian uprising, with some observers saying it is the ‘Arab world’s Berlin Wall moment’ and others claiming that Egypt could become another Iran circa 1979, only shows the confusion that prevails in relation to these events. It reveals an understandable inability to grasp that this – and Tunisia before it – might represent a new stage of politics in the Arab world and the Middle East, one that is more unpredictable and less shaped by clear, clashing interests than the political upheavals that went before.

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12:12 pm on February 5, 2011