Thursday, February 10, 2011


1919 Egyptian Revolutionary Flag

[Reports say Mubarak is to hand over power to the military today/tonight (Egypt time), conceivably within the hour -- 11:00AM 02/10/11]

[That didn't go well. When the Old Fossil finally got around to addressing the people, he essentially said that he wasn't going anywhere, that he would serve out his term no matter what, but he was -- sort of -- delegating some authority to his VP, and everything would be fine, go home, Revolution's over, mkaybai, thx. The crowd in the square became furious. Where it will all lead, nobody knows... Stay tuned.]

Egyptians are recalling their Revolution of 1919 as the closest model to what's going on now, though of course there are vast differences. Egypt and the Middle East have changed a lot since then after all, but the spirit of the era seems to remain.

From a personal perspective, of course, I see what's going on Over There through my own narrow lens, based on limited cultural knowledge and a long time fascination with the Pharaonic Age. To my gimlet eye, what's been going on -- there and to an extent here -- is somewhat related to events in ancient Egypt, especially the revolutionary and counter revolutionary period surrounding the Pharaoh Akhenaten, whose sculptural portrait I often use to illustrate Barack Obama.

Every time I see the Old Fossil Mubarak on the TeeVee, I am reminded of Pharaoh; then his ministers seem to be modern day avatars of the perfumed flatterers and sycophants who populated the Court when time was. Of course, they are probably not following the Pharaonic model at all, they are probably more inclined to follow the Ottoman model. With a dash of Antiquity for history's sake. But they are such anachronisms, and so out of touch with the People and their legitimate grievances and demands that they may as well be living in an earlier era. One that has long past.

So. 1919.

Yes, well.

Egypt was nominally still part of the crumbling Ottoman Empire until 1914, but it had been under British "protection" since the 1880's. This meant British occupation and rule by the British consul-general through the native Khedive. Understandably, the Egyptians as well as the Sudanese to the south were not amused. British authority was often imposed with surpassing brutality and gross abuses of the most basic human rights, dignity and justice.

During WWI, British authority was imposed on Egypt and Sudan in typical British fashion. The people chafed under the British lash and after the Armistice, they demanded their freedom. When Britain -- as was its wont -- said "no," the people rose up, utilizing the tactics of civil disobedience pioneered in India by Mahatma Gandhi.

Needless to say, Britain had a serious colonial problem on its hands, particularly after WWI, as the aspirations for self-determination of colonial peoples all over the world ran up hard against the British Imperial need to preserve the tattered remnants of the Empire.

After continuous disruption in Egypt during 1919, a British commission recommended "sovereignty" for Egypt in 1921. Provisional independence was granted in February, 1922. This semi-autonomous regime (Britain controlled Egypt's external affairs and the Suez Canal) endured, more or less haltingly, until the 1952 Revolution that overthrew the previous rotting regime and secured full independence for Egypt under Nasser who, in 1956, nationalized the Suez Canal.

That's the Cliff Notes version. There's lots more:

(Wikipedia just skims the surface, though more completely than I do.)

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