International Herald Tribune Daily News Egypt
November 30 2011
CAIRO: As Caesar approached the Rubicon at Ravenna returning from Gaul to Rome, he passed thought into legend: iacta alea est – the die is cast.
As many as 15 million Egyptians stood on the cusp of history deciding their destiny. Before midnight half of Egypt signaled its intent. The rest will follow.
Their largely peaceful procession out of oblivion is a majestic moment.
The conquest of evil is being achieved without blood being spilt. It is a landslide win for democracy and return to civilian rule.
The Arab Awakening has been the emergence of women as the driving force behind change. One image grabbed me. A young woman with her baby pressed gently into her bosom, guiding her Mum and her Grannie into the polling station – four generations of Egyptians making their mark on history.
Even the so-called Facebook revolution was a woman’s cause. Nadine Wahab an Egyptian immigrant and activist in Washington DC lent her Facebook account password to Wael Ghonim keep the page up.
History may dub this the Petticoat Revolution.
If I have discovered a means of ending the war will you all second me, asked Lysistrata… Oh! sister women, if we would compel our husbands to make peace, we must refrain…
The comic playwright of Athens Aristophanes (446–386 BC) portrayed the women barricading themselves in the Acropolis denying their menfolk their favors to persuade them to end the Peloponnesian war.
This week the men of Cairo looking for dinner on the table went wanting. Their womenfolk were still in line at the polling booths.
If there were any villains around they were restricted to petty crime – handing out fliers and setting up information offices outside polling stations. Not worth the trouble. Voter after voter said they knew exactly who they’d vote for before leaving home.
The European Union’s observers seemed to be satisfied. By and large the poll was devoid of fraud, they said.
I suppose we’ve come to expect people to turn up late for appointments. So the sleepy-eyed election judges that got out of bed late were admonished, kept up late to monitor after normal hours.
People who got out of bed on the wrong side in Tahrir Square looked sheepishly forlorn, dragging on fags on their dripping wet traffic island. Tahrir is a shrine to democracy, not a redoubt for shrilling.
Not all is done, however. Democracy is not won at the poll. It is won during the counting. There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip, goes the English proverb.
Who watches the watchkeepers?
Fortunately the ballot papers are so complex they’re probably too confusing for your average plod to fathom, even with the opportunity.
My guess is people standing in line shared their intentions with their neighbors. They’ll know if the election gets rigged.
I’ve had faith that truth will out ever since I met the people who assembled in their hundreds of thousands in Tahrir Square on January 25. There’s always been a patent purity about them – the determination to disavow the bullyboys.
Their demeanor is infectious. Their perseverance is persuasive — from Tunis to Cairo, from Tripoli to Sana’a, from Manama to Homs the message is clear.
This is the most important event of modern history.
The integrity of Egyptians cannot be disputed. Who fills whose shoes is tremendously important. But it’s subordinate to the achievement.
Even those who seek to disrupt the process are being disarmed. A report from Suez says stevedores are refusing to unload 21 tons of tear gas sent from Jamestown, Pennsylvania to rearm the police.
They’ll run short of bullets as well. Denied their weaponry, the militia will soon be ineffectual.
The military have run out of ideas. They’re bunkered in bewilderment. Their every twist and turn is countered by people who have shown they are prepared to die for the cause.
My guess is that the ideas of people such as Mohamed ElBaradei and Naguib Sawiris will be sought in earnest. Both have vision for the country and the experience to run a large bureaucracy.
It’s time the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) listened.
What Egypt needs now is a period of calm. It’s imperative the economy is put to rights, back on its growth track. Egypt needs a strong helmsman, someone with the credibility, smarts and persuasive powers to put the ship on course.
Thus far SCAF has chosen from a pool of has-beens.
Egypt has chosen new representatives to enunciate their wishes. For once SCAF can get ahead of the game and give the people women and men who espouse that.
Et tu, Brute? were the last words of Julius Caesar, the fallen hero, despised for his dictatorship as Marcus Brutus held the assassin’s dagger.
SCAF was the hero of Tahrir at the beginning of the year. As 2011 closes it has a chance to leave the City Victorious with one glorious gesture: respond to the people and go gracefully garrison-ward.
In politics… never retreat, never retract… never admit a mistake, said Napoleon Bonaparte.
Look what happened to that male chauvinist.
Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator.