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Posts tagged ‘Constitution’

The Peak and Limit of Revolution 2.0

Although Activist Wael Ghonim coined the term Revolution 2.0 to describe the Egyptian Revolution, it goes without saying that the roots of #Jan25 preceded the advent of social media (Web 2.0). Nevertheless, the importance of social media over the past five years in raising awareness, mobilizing Egyptians and actually coordinating the protests on the streets is undisputable. Perhaps the significance of social media is best established by the Egyptian government’s decision to shut down the Internet on January 27th.

Yet although the importance of Web 2.0 for the Egyptian Revolution is obvious, it appears that Egyptians soon reached the peak of their 2.0 experience and at the same time realized its limits.

Within a month of Mubarak stepping down, the Egyptian constitution was revised and several key articles were modified in order to allow for a democratic transition. For the amendments to be legitimate, they had to be subjected to a national referendum set for March 19th. However, many, especially the core organizers behind #Jan25, contested the concept of merely “revising” a constitution after a revolution, and of course social media became a platform for their debates. A look at Wael Ghonim’s tweets on March 14th captures in a nutshell the status of Revolution 2.0:

Ghonim: Whats interesting about this referendum is that for the 1st time in 50 years we don’t know the final results in advance! #Dostor2011 14 Mar

Ghonim: A screen shot from my Facebook account. Friends changing their photo to Yes / No to referendum 🙂 Campaigns 2.0 14 Mar

Egyptian Facebook users changing their avatars into the words ‘Yes’ (Green) and ‘No’ (Red) to reflect their intended vote.

As Referendum Day approached, Facebook and Twitter users started changing their avatars into either a green ‘Yes’ or a red ‘No’.  Yet, the zenith of Revolution 2.0 was, in my opinion, when the very icons of Twitter and Facebook were flipped and rotated so that the ‘t’ and the ‘f’ would resemble the glyph for ‘No’ in Arabic. At this point, the Egyptian Revolution had fully exhausted the resources provided by Web 2.0 after adapting them to its particular needs. Only then was it able to reach for its very icons to convey an authentic expression. The moment the Egyptian Revolution engendered a new meaning to icons with an unambiguous interpretation within the Web 2.0 culture is the peak of Revolution 2.0 and is of enormous significance, namely because it meant the revolution had fully ‘incorporated’ Web 2.0 as a means to serve an authentic end.

Caption: The word “No” in Arabic in various scripts and by flipping and rotating the logos of Twitter and Facebook

Zadie Smith reviewed David Fincher’s film “The Social Network” for the New York Review of Books. It was a spectacular piece because not only did it critique the film, but Facebook in general, and our generation at large. She ended by concluding

“In this sense, The Social Network is not a cruel portrait of any particular real-world person called “Mark Zuckerberg.” It’s a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore.”

I argue that the moment Egyptians flipped and rotated the Facebook icon to spell the Arabic word for ‘No,’ was the moment they were no longer entrapped in the thoughts of Mark Zuckerberg. Instead, those Egyptians outgrew the minds behind social media and turned the very icons and logos of Web 2.0 into symbols for their own dreams.

Such is the power of importing popular symbols to express a personal meaning. You become One with the culture, yet Independent in your thoughts. The Egyptian Revolution became One with the culture of Web 2.0, yet transcended it and became Independent in its dreams and aspirations.

Although the Egyptian protestor raising a placard with “Egypt” spelled in the logos of Internet Explorer, Google, Yahoo!, PayPal and Twitter signifies the peak of Revolution 2.0, he also expresses its limit. A close examination of the picture, beyond the eye-catching placard, will bring to attention his winter gloves. This picture was not taken in Tahrir, but in Toronto. The majority of Egyptians living in Egypt however are offline without even an email account, let alone one on Facebook or Twitter. In fact, half the population can’t even read or write their own names.  Welcome to Egypt 0.5.

Reflecting on the referendum results (less than 25% voted ‘No’), online activists began reciting the mantra “Egypt is not Facebook, Egypt is not Twitter” to reinforce the paradigm shift needed for the next phase. With that came a renewed interest in grass roots organizing, this time not for popular dissent, but rather for political and social development. The creative innovations to facilitate an interface between Web 2.0 and Egypt 0.5  are bound to set the tone for the future of the Internet in the Arab world.

Democracy 2.0 after #Jan25

تصورات دستورية 1/6 – هم الدستور الأساسي

إن المجتمع بوصفه تجمعا لأناس ذوي إرادات مستقلة، بحاجة لنظام يسمح بالتعبير عن هذه الإرادات دون طغيان بعضها على بعض. وهذا النظام يثمره العرف وقد يقنن من خلال قوانين مدونة. وكلما جاء القانون معبرا عن المتعارف عليه كان اتباعه وفرضه أسهل، وكلما جاء منفصما عن المعروف لدى المجتمع كان مخالفته والتحايل عليه أقرب.ـ

والدستور في أصله اتفاق يحدد الطريقة التي تقنن وتفرض من خلالها أعراف المجتمع، لكي يضمن أن القانون إنما هو تدوين لما تعارف عليه الناس واعترفوا به منظما لمعاملاتهم، وليضمن أنه ليس فرضا منفصما عن عرفهم. وكلما ضمن الدستور تعبير القانون عن العرف كان دستورا حافظا للمجتمع، وكلما سمح بافتراق القانون والعرف أدى إلى التفريق بين أفراد المجتمع وطغيان بعضهم على بعض.ـ

ومن ثمة فإن هَمّ الدستور الأساسي هو تحديد آلية تقنين العرف في صورة قوانين منفذة بما يضمن بقاءها تدوينا لما تعارف عليه الناس وارتضوه بينهم، وبما يحول دون تحوّل القانون إلى أداة لطغيان فئة على أخرى. وبالتالي فإن الدستور يعني بالإجراءات بعد التسليم بمسلمتين، وهما أن الطغيان مستنكر مرفوض وأن أية قوانين مفروضة تفتقر إلى اعتراف المجتمع بها. ثم يحدد الدستور الآلية والإجراءات التي تضمن إقامة المسلمتين المذكورتين.ـ

وما عدا ذلك في الدستور فديباجة وحشو، فيهما إثم كبير ومنافع للناس، وإثمهما أكبر من نفعهما.ـ

The fate of Revolution 2.0 in Egypt 0.5

The results are out and 73% said ‘Yes’ for the amended constitution while 27% said ‘No.’ The huge surprise is the gap between the two numbers in what was projected to be a tight race. The secret lies, I think, in the influence of off-line Egyptians who voted, are pro-stability and were amused by #Jan25 but never fully invested. Remember, this was a Revolution 2.0 in an Egypt 0.5 where only half of the population can read. These results predict that the new Parliament and constitution committee will echo an Egypt still far below its revolutionary edition.  #Jan25 is at stake by its incompatibility with the  broader society, and the main task now is to reach out and get down with the barseem-roots community organizing and activism to work hard, hard, hard against being sucked into the whirpool of the Egyptian cynical status quo. We’re trying to move pyramids here … much of what is against us is ingrained deep in the our psyche and heritage and it will take years of sustained effort to budge.

The socio-political lines are being drawn; a cautious block tied to the predictable rhythms of Nile and Pharaoh, and a change-yearning out-shoot trying to bring a virtual reality into existence. The Muslim Brotherhood and NDP are rooted in the cautious block (by virtue of pre-Jan25 allegiances) and will learn to play with each other. The various groups behind #Jan25 will be the core force in the change-yearning current, and the pre-existing parties will probably continue to hop from one table to another.


Read also: Is the Revolution being hijacked by Normalcy?

Is the Revolution being hijacked by Normalcy?

Is the Revolution being hijacked by Normalcy?
With most Egyptians backing the constitutional amendments, it is a reminder that for the majority, the revolution was a risk that luckily didn’t back-fire and normalcy is now desperately needed. Normalcy, however, means falling back into the pre-#Jan25 political configuration, which beyond Cairo seems to be hued with entrenched in NDP and MB alliances. The ultimate challenge for the revolutionary spirit in Egypt is to prove relevance at a sustainable level amongst the 70 Million that are *not* online. The danger, is that at the end of the day, when all of Egypt speaks, the revolution discovers that dismantling the Mubarak regime only made a dent in a larger pyramid, an Egyptian psyche well protected against sudden change and a cynicism that accepts as fate that the Nile flows and that Pharaoh (in one form or another) will rule.
The Revolution is at stake, not by a counter revolution, but by our deepest complexes and millennia of history. There is no way to effect a larger change without in-the-trenches, one-on-one, outreach and real conversation with rural Egyptians that are influenced not by ‘events’ and ‘tweets,’ but by harvest, custom and sincere appreciation.

Read also: The fate of Revolution 2.0 in Egypt 0.5

Egyptians in Boston vote “No” on Amended Constitution

In a symbolic vote, close to 50 Egyptians gathered in Harvard Square to take part in the Egyptian Referendum on the Amended Constitution. The final result was 36 No (97%) and 1 Yes (3%). The event is likely to appear tomorrow in the Boston Globe.


Read also: Egypt’s First Dilemma

Egypt’s First Dilemma

As Egyptians head out today to take part in the first national referendum after #Jan25, they experience for the first time ever an uncertain outcome. Gone are the days when we knew the results of an election before it even took place. The referendum is to determine if the majority accept the recent amendments to the 1971 constitution which would act as a transitory constitution until a new one is developed and agreed upon. Its a difficult decision, in fact a dilemma. For the Yay camp, its a predictable transition into a democratic state that speeds the departure from the current military rule. For the Nay camp, revolutions obliterate consitutions, they don’t amend them, and we must start afresh, even if means an extended military rule during the transition.

The dilemma has sparked a marvelous national debate, in living rooms, at cafes, on facebook and twitter, and even here in Boston, where Egyptians in the area will converge onto Harvard Square to cast a symbolic vote (Egyptians abroad are still not able to participate in elections and referenda, a vestige of the old Egypt). Despite the uncertainty of the outcome, what is certain is that the times have changed and Egyptians are growing into their new democracy. The journey however, has just begun!