Watching Egypt 2 – “We r all vry hpy”
The quote in the above headline, “We r all vry hpy”, is a real email from a real colleague in Egypt, received not long after the fall of Mubarak. The extreme efficiency (12 letters) was in sharp contrast to another email, from an old college friend, which positively exploded with emotion and language, including the admission that “I have been crying for 5 days.”
Everything has changed in Egypt. Or rather, everything is just in the process of starting to change. And yet the world’s attention — as I write this — is on Libya, because that is where the “news” is. Egypt has practically fallen back into global news invisibility by comparison. That’s a pity, because what happens in Egypt, even more than in Tunisia, is ultimately going to become the template for an entirely new order of things in the Middle East and North Africa. Egypt serves this region as a hub, not just geographically, but culturally, politically, and economically.
Watching Egypt has become a bit harder than it was during the height of the uprisings, thought not a lot harder: it requires actually typing a few search words into the computer, instead of just looking at the news. It has also become less pleasant, since these days the news cites “tensions” and “violent clashes” between “men and women” and between “Christians and Muslims.” It’s almost as though the news is following the “there-will-be-chaos” script offered by Hosni Mubarak before his ignominious departure.
Now dethroned, the news is not being kind to former President Mubarak: CNN ran a piece (which I watched in Latvia, or maybe it was Japan) showing how the pinstripes on one of his suits were actually made up of the letters spelling out his name, over and over. The letters were so tiny you would have had to be him, staring at his own suit, to really appreciate it. This suggests a rather enormous ego, of course; and yet I suspect the man truly believed he was doing what was best for the Egyptian people. And that he truly deserved the suit, as well.
My friends there have had their lives turned upside down, in surprising, unpredictable ways: A schoolteacher at a private international school watches as those who have worked fewer years than she get laid off, because many expat families just haven’t returned. The budget has to be cut. A younger colleague SMS’s me that he’s so, so happy, amazing things are happening … Why? What? I ask. I got married! he finally remembers to explain. It was obviously a snap decision, probably driven by the dynamics of this moment, though he doesn’t explain why. He is now seeing the revolution through the eyes of a newlywed.
Meanwhile, I wait to see if I will be re-engaged to continue the work we started last year, thinking about Egypt’s Green Transformation … Such a thing seemed both far-fetched and timely before “the change,” though the project was actually mandated by the Prime Minister. Now there is a new Prime Minister, and an entirely new set of political and economic circumstances … but whether this increases or decreases the timeliness of moving forward on renewable energy investments and green job creation is not terribly visible to me, just now.
Watching Egypt now means googling, getting emails, and reading SMS’s, usually through the tiny window of my telephone. I will keep watching, hoping my window gets bigger again … and praying, which I do very rarely these days, for a good outcome in that very ancient, very modern land. The world needs Egypt to succeed … and my friends certainly deserve it.