Sunday, December 18, 2011

50 Words for Dignity

This week, Time magazine announced its 2011 person of the year: the protester. Protests were this year's defining motion in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and even in the United States with the Occupy movement. Like waking up from a long sleep, disenchanted persons all over the world started to express their anger toward corrupt and ineffectual governments. The protesters are hungry for fair societies that have the people's needs on top of their agendas and they are fed up with governments and structures of power that cater only to the members of these exclusive clubs.

Two regimes down - Tunisia and Libya - and still counting: the Time magazine's editors correctly challenged the idea swirling around in springtime that Egypt had actually seen a revolution and was on its way to a full democratic recovery. As of now, we are far from this condition. Egypt is still in a pre-revolutionary phase, having seen President Mubarak ousted as a result of a military coup, masked by 300'000 protesters on Tahrir square, and being replaced by General Tantawi who calls the shots in Egypt since February 12. 

I was shocked to see the pictures coming from Tahrir square yesterday, December 17. What a humiliation to the person of the year 2011! Protesters, male and female, beaten, dragged, assaulted, even when they were already knocked down to the ground. A female protester lying on the asphalt, almost stripped naked, with a soldier kicking her breasts, adding injury to insult. Who are these men, these soldiers, these policemen? Who are their mothers, how were they brought up? Who and what fired up their rage? How much must be at stake for them, for their bosses, so they crush any idea of regime change so brutally. How distorted their minds must be to act so savagely on a very personal level - against their fellow Egyptians (although they don't recognize the protesters as such, I presume). In an army, in a police force, one is taught to obey. Blind obedience is what holds these organizations together. But obedience also kills your brain cells and this was never more obvious to me than yesterday, in Cairo, on Tahrir. As Thucydides put it so well in his telling of the ancient Athenians' subjugation of the island of Melos, "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." This Saturday in Egypt will hopefully be another beginning of the reversal of roles: the weak are getting stronger, the strong are getting weaker. 

humiliating the person of the year: Cairo, Dec 17, 2011

Change of scenery: on this same December 17, I was listening to Kate Bush's new album all day. Kate Bush holds a special place in my heart since one of her songs once helped me to ease my fear when facing time in a hospital. Her new record is called "50 Words for Snow", and I recommend it to everybody for a time of contemplation. The title track refers to the idea that Eskimos have 50 words for snow because snow is such an important factor in their lives. If I had one wish for Christmas, it would be the following: that we develop - each one, in his or her language - 50 words for freedom, peace, humanity and dignity. Because we perceive them as integral parts of our lives. It's difficult, I know. But it's possible.

Kate Bush is a very reclusive "pop star" and she will never be the Time's person of the year. She hasn't performed on stage in 30 years and she rarely gives interviews. But here is one, given to Marco Werman from Los Angeles' KCRW radio station in November of 2011. Lend her your ear.


  1. Thanks Yorikirii. I loved this post! Short, bitter-sweet and to the point. I love how you make extraordinary and poetic links as you did here between what's happening in Egypt and Kate Bush. The video of the protestors being beaten up in Egypt gave me goose-bumps and I loved the interview with Kate Bush (always a favourite of mine). Great stuff ! Thanks Boudicca007 :)

  2. Thanks 007 for commenting. I'm starting a new "genre" here: the musical politics blog. My last post featured Duke Ellington and Hard Power. You might check this one out too.

  3. Good morning Yorikirii i'm very happy with you with your outrage at the they call themselves "army" army my ass LOL they never taught us like that to kick a person when he/she is down and 10 men against a hopeless woman on the ground this woman is egyptian LOL if you want to defend your country go the borders thats whwere the army should be not in the city against hopeless people they want their rights to defend their country and i will bet you these people will help their army when they are in trouble Good night from me Jason Farook @Jfarook