January 30, 2011

Egypt: A Humble Request

Hey, I'm not trying to get all Edward Said on the readership here, but I do have one small request: can we all agree to stop using European historical analogies to describe what is taking place in Egypt? It's not Europe in 1848 or Eastern Europe in 1989 or France in 1789: it's Egypt in 2011.

What is taking place in Egypt today is the result of sui generis social, political, cultural and even geographic phenomena. When we use "western" frames of reference to make sense of what is taking place, by contrast, we a) sound really freaking narcissistic and b) fail to take those local phenomena seriously and thus miss a lot of what is going on.

Egypt has been doing this civilization thing, it occurs to me, for quite some time. Maybe even longer than Western Europe (by, oh, a few thousand years or so). So let's take Egypt and the Egyptians seriously -- on their own terms.