When Mubarak stepped down as president, the Egyptians and people around the world rejoiced in this victory of People Power. Tunisia began what has now spread to many other countries.
But few of us understand how People Power works. Why would we – nonviolent struggle is usually ignored by the media and in our schools.
We have been raised to believe that power “comes from the barrel of a gun,” and those with the most power are the ones with the guns, the military and the secret police.
But we are now catching a glimpse of the true power of the people – the power of nonviolent struggle.
What we have recently seen in Tunisia, and now in Egypt, is that when people get mad enough, and someone says the right thing, it can ignite a massive show of power that neither the military nor the police can put down. When people reach the point where their anger becomes greater than their fear, dictators should rightfully worry.
The reality is that the most repressive dictatorships (you have to create a great deal of fear in the general populace to stay in power 30 years) stay in power because they create an illusion of complete control. They control things so well that people believe that there is nothing they can do.
The problem with this illusion is that it is just that – an illusion.
It doesn’t take much to shatter that illusion. It takes someone who is brave or mad enough to overcome their fear and take some kind of action that shows the rest of society that they don’t need to be afraid. In Egypt, the initial spark was the self-immolation of All Khaled Saeed.
But the real spark came from a young female student who challenged the men of her society to stand up, because they had mistreated their women long enough as a result of being so disempowered by their government. It was her challenge that mobilized their society.
The weakness of the dictator, Mubarak, became evident relatively quickly.
After 30 years of absolute rule, it took only 18 days to force him from power. The people in Tahrir Square were the only most visible expression of this resistance. Resistance was taking place throughout the country.
What finally drove him from power was the planned escalation to take place Monday – the unions and professionals were calling for a general strike throughout the country.
That morning, Mubarak had refused to step down and had announced he would wait until his “term” was up in September.
That evening, after the announcement of the strikes to come on Monday, Omar Suleiman, his recently appointed Vice President announced that Mubarak was stepping down and the military would be in control for six months or until elections were held.
This might be an even bigger problem, if the military wants to control society. In an interview this morning, one of the leaders of the resistance reported that she believed that the military was on the side of the people here. This would appear to make sense because they had not taken part in any of the violence against the uprising.
This is an amazing victory for People Power – for the power of nonviolent struggle.
There was a great deal that has not been reported about this revolution.
The leaders had been using a booklet written by Professor Gene Sharp of the Albert Einstein Institution titled From Dictatorship to Democracy – A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. It is available to download for free, along with many other similar publications.
This booklet has been translated into 24 languages. People desiring freedom in countries around the world have been using this booklet as the source for developing their strategies for their nonviolent struggles.
In one of my next posts, I will focus on this booklet and insights it provides into what is happening in Egypt and many countries in the Middle East.