Friday, January 21, 2011
The Egyptian Protest Manifesto
The complete control over every aspect of the protest seems to be the main reason why protests have not managed develop much in Egypt. Protests as they stand are like choreography where both the protesters and the police do a little dance; each slightly improvising but certain of the moves. This goes well for the police but not too well for the protesters. I think the police are more aware of this. Police control everything but the chants, but even in that regard they are still partially in control. This subservience that the protesters experience is the most defeating part of the protest. Even onlookers are controlled by fear and abuse as they listen to chants and watch police violence.
The battle ground is set for the police, they know where it is and more than that they know exactly how to handle every aspect of the territory. The protests happen in centralized places near to the repository of goons and men in black. While protesters take their time to rally and regroup, the police are already deployed and ready for any move.
Protests in Cairo are far too conventional for the stronghold Egyptian police have on people and places. There must be new and creative ways of protesting. Like everything else, Egyptians have a way of immitating things without fully comprehending them. One of the aims of a protest is to give a police a hard time shutting you up, at least in countries where it's the police's job to do so. In a police state such as Egypt the question isn't whether or not they will shut you up, but how long it would take and how difficult it would be to do so. It shouldn't be as easy as it is today.
In order to make it worth the effort, protests should move to locations where it's much more taxing for the police to deploy an arsenal of goons and privates. Certainly it won't be difficult but it will be expensive and will give them some homework to do. It will at least distract some of them from other illegal activities. If things are organized correctly, many protests in decentralized locations should take place simultaneously. This will make the task difficult for the police to apply security measures adequately to all places and it will exhaust them. Protesters will be exhausted too, but they should be more mobile. If the police have too much trouble trying to control the protests (they shouldn't even attempt to terrorize and control) they might find it cost effective to avoid them by doing things right.
The point is that, like any other market system, if you change the cost, something will have to change. It may be argued that t this point protests will get more violent and it will be ahrder to keep track of people arrested and kidnapped. This is true but the decentralized nature of the protest might bring in more people to the protests from various neighborhoods. The added advantage to doing protests in various neighborhoods is that other people are exposed to the slogans that the media censors. It brings the protest to them rather than keep it something remote. Far more people must talk to people on the street and explain what we're protesting. If no police are around, it should be less threatening. The chants will be heard by people who need to protest rather than fall on the deaf ears of central security and contracted thugs.
That's why the slogans and chants need to change. They need to be less violent and less antagonistic. They should be focused and give a feeling of rational anger. They should be a voice of peace until more people know what's going on.
Violent chants antagonize the police, some of whom may be reluctant to inflict pain but are forced to do so. Their feeling of helplesness is fueled by the insults and turns the matters into something personal. Antagonizing chants can be a good thing but not when the numbers in the protest are small.
Police, much like the rest of the people are motivated by fear. It's fear of punishment, fear of failure and fear of everything but God. The duality of the nature of the police as both opressed people and the opressor might be vital in changing their attitude.
It is actually more important than all of the above to avoid direct confrontation until absolutely necessary. Hanging flags from windows is an example. It will be difficult for police to control every building of every neighborhood. Dressing in common colors or tying a ribon of some sort can be effective as well. What is the use of all the social networking and blogging if we can't spread a practical idea rather than a virtual group? There are things that will make it difficult for police to control and that should be the focus. More ideas are bound to be born if the approach is agreed upon. That is why protests and smart ones at that should be an additional resource rather than the main method of protesting.
Protests are fueled by fear on all sides. People are afraid to demonstrate because of police violence and humiliation and protestors are afraid of being kidnapped, beaten and arrested indefinitely. The police are afraid not to follow orders and the hidden hands of the oppressors truly fear a real uprising from the people. The chain of fear must be broken and it must be broken through the weakest link.