Like most people, I’m watching the exciting turn of events in Egypt with great joy. Mubarak, a corrupt dictator who has run the country for thirty years, is retiring to a small sea side resort town in the south.
It came after a bizarre, pleading, patronizing speech. It revealed that he was unaware that the curtains had been lifted, and that the foundations of his authority had been effectively shattered.
His resignation also illustrated the true mechanics of power in Egypt are controlled by military and big business. It announced what has always been going on. It is an improvement, of course, if only because now the truth, in all its messiness, is more clear.
We should also not be surprised that once the king has been cut off, ritually slaughtered, condemned, denounced, there will be a period of euphoria and peace. For a while, there will be grand expectations, and perhaps a new covenant will arise. There will be remarkable unity, for a while. But rivalry will not cease – it will merely be dispersed.
The locations of conflict, however, will be altered. Smaller groups will vie for power. In a dictatorship, there can be only one winner, and that winner is absolute. In a polyarchy, people can win, or lose, and they can win or lose on another day. The levers of power are dispersed, ensuring that rivalries can be contained. How will Egypt manage that sort of transition?
Those condemning these turn of events may be nostalgic and sentimental toward the past; they will condemn the perceived perversity of the Muslim Brotherhood; cynically note that any change is futile; or argue that the cost of any change is too high. But once freedom is tasted, it cannot be easily contained except through even more violent forms of tyranny.
So now the God, the tyrant, has been slain. Let us enjoy the euphoria, the momentary delightful bliss of unanimity of having defeated the devil. Still, even the Israelites, wandering in the desert toward freedom for forty years eventually wanted to return.
Now that Mubarak has gone, however, there will continue to be conflict. Governing between competing political groups is messy, difficult and imperfect. May the revolution expose the lie of the incompatibility of Islam and democracy.
For the hard work has just begun.