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Revolution and the American Fever Dream


This post originally appeared on Guernica.


A report from the Pew Research Center says that over 50% of the American public doesn’t know about what has happened in Egypt. Or if they do know about the revolution that occurred over there, they don’t really care all that much about it.

We’re looking at this thing from a tired old script.

Some Americans, feel the Egyptian protesters were looking for a U.S.-style democracy. Basically, they wanted American nylons and Hershey bars, and whatever else liberated people want in those old movies. It seems these people were also inspired by George W. Bush and his belief in the one-size-fits-all exportability of democracy.

Of course, the shiny people (they’re the ones who believe that America is a shining inspiration to all, since World War II) forget that there are many strains of democracy, and that it doesn’t always lead to the same kind of corporate one that we have here. They forget that democratic governments emanate from national identities. And these governments operate out of national interest, and nothing else. What’s in the national interest of some country elsewhere may not match what’s in ours.

Meanwhile on the far left, they’re running with the unicorns, predicting that these changes will mean a new, more peaceful world. Or revolution here (I went to a rally for Egypt that was hijacked by Maoists who said that, with our pathetic little posters, we were going to rise up and take over New York City and then the country). Many on the left attack Obama for not having urged revolution, right away. Of course, they forget that the United States serves its corporations first, and that it has long-been entangled in a variety of foreign alliances. We’ve hardly ever (have we ever?) supported a people’s revolution. Yet, Obama is supposed to be a superman. He isn’t. America hasn’t elected a revolutionary into office in some 200 years.

As Americans, we have inherited a stacked deck. We’re in a headlock with our corporate masters and in exchange we’re kept numb by entertainment and assurances that we’re the strongest country on the face of the earth. We serve our corporations and what they want. What these corporations want from Egypt is a territory kept cooperative enough for America to pick clean of its resources.

The Egyptian revolution is inspiring, even more so because it occurred at the edge of U.S. power. We can’t control what’s happened. No one can, not even the lords at GM GE Exxon Mobil—and that’s what a revolution is. It’s, well, revolutionary. what happened in Tahrir Square happened without us, and we weren’t even invited. It was the result of what Steven Berlin Johnson calls emergence: it was leaderless, and all the more powerful because of that.

For over 30 years, we gave Egypt the shaft, because it was in our national interest to do so. Now it’s time for Egypt to find out where its own interests are, without a strongman leading the way. The country has a difficult and terrible road to walk. I hope they’ll have enough of a jaundiced sensibility to look to themselves for guidance, because the United States and its allies will first be interested in keeping the world safe for 9 to 5, not in engendering equality and economic parity. One can only hope their revolution succeeds—and that it spreads.

Source: Guernica 

Image by mshamma, licensed under Creative Commons. 

Copyright 2011 Meakin Armstrong

Meakin Armstrong is a freelance writer and fiction editor at Guernica. His nonfiction has been featured in Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, TheAtlantic.com, TheAlanticWire.com, Time Out New York, USAir Magazine, and in the books, New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg and Museyon Guides Film + Travel North America. In 2007, he received a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference scholarship for fiction.  

jeanette jeneault
2/25/2011 7:56:52 AM

We need to make genuine democracy in this country a reality. What is happening in Wisconsin's and Ohio's anti-union proposed legislation actually is a direct attack on the middle class. Have we, the vast majority, not been squeezed enough? We need to rise up from our apathy, turn up on those street corners holding signs and passing out leaflets, chanting, singing, raising hope. We have numbers--remember a country should fear its people not the opposite.It should work to make our lives better, not more painful and burdensome. It should help us rise up from poverty, not push us back down, by removing our means to rise such as through quality education. I urge all American patriots to exercise their right to protest, to move into the streets, and start making ourselves into the great country we can be. We don't need material wealth; we don't need to be debt burdened by corporate and banking greed. We need to speak up and loudly. We need to take the youth and those with vision in Egypt, Libya, and other places as examples of how all will not be lost if we are willing to speak up. Do it now and quickly before they can react. Be a true patriot with us and lock arms against corporate greed and bullying, and federal institutions that were set up to protect us, and make them help us. Let the cry be "We are America!"