The Revolution WILL Be Televised: Liberation in Egypt

Ahdaf Soueif: "Something wonderful is being born here: an inclusive, grassroots, democratic movement which is - even in this time of extreme crisis - enacting ideals of non-violence, creativity, courtesy, public service... what can I say? This revolution is not just Egyptian; it belongs to everyone in the world who believes in the possibility of a better way for us all to live together."

Urban poetry

There’s a great piece of urban poetry on Gil Scott Heron’s first album released in 1970, called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

I think many of us who have been glued to our TV sets watching live pictures from Tahrir Square in central Cairo these last few weeks would probably want to argue with Gil Scott Heron’s prognosis, brilliant though his poetry is.

The revolution WILL be televised. It is being televised. It will go on being televised.

The revolution is not over yet.

The moment of revolution

I’ve always said that the moment of revolution is when the army changes sides. It’s when the guns turn round and point in the other direction. The situation in Egypt is that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who were complicit in Mubarak’s crimes, are now running the show. They have promised free and fair elections, but they haven’t said when. They have not promised to try members of the old regime for their crimes. This is because they are members of the old regime.

On the other hand, the lower ranks and the ordinary conscripts are definitely on the side of the people. If the orders come to shoot at the people, they will not shoot. They will join the people in their revolution. The guns will be turned in the other direction.

I think that what we have learned in these last few weeks is that the revolution is not to be feared. The people rose up and by sheer force of numbers broke the back of a police state. It was the young people, full of fire and energy, who threw themselves at the ranks of the police, and who died in great numbers, who were at the forefront of the revolution. This is always the case. I think we should remind ourselves of this when the young people in our own country rise up, burning with indignation at the sight of injustice, as they batter themselves against the police lines, seemingly without fear. It is always the young who are the martyrs in a revolution. It is always the old who take the credit.


The revolution has been half-heartedly welcomed in the West. It wouldn’t do to lose face at this critical time. Obama has been making speeches. There is a breathtaking hypocrisy in this as it is the West who have kept Mubarak in his position of power all these years, in full knowledge of the extent of his crimes. Indeed, the United States has been directly complicit in the execution of his crimes, having used the Egyptian regime as a one-stop shop for torture for a number of years.

The interim government has said that it will not break its treaty obligations. But in the end this will be for the people to decide. It depends on whether the provisions of the treaties are just or not. If the treaty with Israel means the continued incarceration of the Palestinian people in that open air prison camp that is the Gaza strip, then this is not only against natural justice, it is against international law, which expressly forbids the collective punishment of a people. I think that the Egyptian people, who have shown themselves to be an honourable and a just people, will not countenance this continuing stain on humanity, and will insist on the opening of the Rafah Crossing to allow for humanitarian aid at the very least.

I hope that even now aid convoys are being organised to break the siege and to take much needed relief to the people of Gaza.

More than anything I think that what this revolution has shown is the generosity of spirit that lies in the human heart, once free from the fetters of oppression. Who has not been moved by the scenes of unbridled joy and celebration coming out of the cities of Egypt at the overthrow of a dictator? It would be a stony heart indeed which would not be moved to dance with the dancers in Tahrir Square in the sheer exuberance of expectation, in the hope of all humanity, in the joy of liberation.

“Tahrir” means Liberation, of course.

May the people of the West find their own Tahrir Square one day.

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Comments 15 comments

Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 6 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Great Hub, Chris - This generational conflict is something that has been brewing for a while. The Arab nations have a very well educated generation of young people who want their voice to be heard.

There is still a long way to go, but I am optimistic that the Middle East can finally begin to fulfill its potential :)

CJStone profile image

CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hi Sufi, yes I'm optimistic too, though I've seen a number of revolutions in my time on this Earth, and not many have turned out all that well. But what it shows is that you can't hold the human spirit down forever and that there will always be a new generation ready to rise up to overthrow the oppressor.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

I am also optimistic, though all around me in the US (Florida) all one hears is "the Muslim brotherhood will take over -- oh dear -- and we will have another Iraq on our hands." My comment that the US should leave Egypt's fate to the Egyptians and stay out of it has so far earned me "go home, back where you came from then." Ah well! Speaking of the desire for liberty ....

CJStone profile image

CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

If the majority of the Egyptian people want it, then the Muslim Brotherhood will indeed take over. But it can't be worse than having a torturer and a murderer in control of a police state. Whatever anyone says, Iran is better off now than it was under the Shah. That is, it's better for the Iranian people. We'll just have to see what happens next in Egypt.

pam 6 years ago

Wonderful essay, Chris. Thank you.

Maybe if democracy comes to Egypt it will eventually spread to the United States.

CJStone profile image

CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

That would be good Pam.

D.C.Gallin 6 years ago

Maybe by 2012 we could have a world wide re-evolution...?


dave 6 years ago

Always loved that Gil Scott Heron track, Chris. Brilliant

but . . .

The revolution will be no re-run brother

the revolution will be Live

-- on Al Jazeera English channel

CJStone profile image

CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Yes, I put a link in Dave. I've been watching it too.

dave 6 years ago

and something more considered but appropriate I think:

"On the other hand, proletarian revolutions, like those of the nineteenth century, criticise themselves constantly, interrupt themselves continually in their own course, come back to the apparently accomplished in order to begin it afresh, deride with unmerciful thoroughness the inadequacies, weaknesses and paltriness of their first attempts, seem to throw down their adversary only in order that he may draw new strength from the earth and rise again, more gigantic, before them, recoil ever and anon from the indefinite prodigiousness of their own aims, until a situation has been created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves cry out:

Hic Rhodus, hic salta!

("here is Rhodes (the rose), dance here". -- a phrase from Aesop's fables about the boastful traveller who said he had witnesses who could testify he had made an enormous leap in Rhodes, and was told, well if you did it there, you can do it here -- i.e. put your money where your mouth is.)

(Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte)

yours in hope


CJStone profile image

CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

That's a great quote Dave, and I agree, there is cause for hope. I'm not sure it's exclusively proletarian however. It was the youth in Egypt who rose up. The workers went on strike later. Once the workers go on strike and the army changes sides, you can say that's pretty much it: game over. But it takes a spark of rebellious anger first, and a great deal of courage and that's not exclusively proletarian. I think a lot of those kids would have been middle class, perhaps even the majority, which sort of blows apart some of that old Marxist rhetoric I feel. It was EVERYONE out there dancing in the streets, not just the proletariat.

dave 6 years ago

you're quite right of course Chris. by no means exclusively proletarian.

Still quite amazing.

(interestingly, one of the first things the army council has done is to ban all meetings of trade unions and professional associations -- long way to go)

CJStone profile image

CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Yes I saw that Dave. If my knowledge of previous revolutions is anything to go by, it's by no means over yet.

LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 6 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia


CJStone profile image

CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author


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