Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The dream of the revolution is sweeter than its reality | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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As the revolutionary year of 2011 came to an end, it was natural for media outlets to compete for reviews, analysis, documentaries, interviews and exclusives that appeal to their customers.

Here we have Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. These countries, at a conservative estimate, have given rise to dozens of stories and issues; most of them puzzling, few of them clear. There is a strong desire among those in the media to try and satisfy the curious hunger of the people of the Arab Spring region. There is a desire to describe to them what happened, or at least to make them think that they know what happened, and to uncover many of the closely guarded secrets.

This is why the “Father of Secrets” and mysteries in the Arab World, veteran journalist Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, got on board. News is out about his brand new book that offers the “definitive assessment” of the overthrown Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is currently under trial. The media hype in the press aroused considerable controversy before the book was released officially by Egypt’s Dar al-Shorouq Press, which has served as the main publisher of Heikal’s works for some time. Some have claimed that Heikal used accounts by other Egyptian journalists active during the Mubarak era, and claimed them as his own. They argue that Heikal’s “stockpile of exclusives”, which he has excessively exploited and milked, chiefly relate to the Nasserite era and in part to the Sadat period, but he has few connections to the prolonged Mubarak reign. Others point out that Heikal had already publicly pledged to stop writing, in what he called a “permission to take leave”. So what prompted the Sheikh of the Nasserite journalists to renege on his pledge?

I believe the temptation of the moment was hard to resist. Heikal the “journologist”, as he always likes to present himself, responded to this great temptation as did many other writers inside Egypt and abroad. Hence, they quickly produced books misleading others into believing that the hidden has now been revealed, that the Arab Spring revolutions can now be studied and interpreted, and that the future can be predicted.

The truth is that we are still in the heat of the battle, and our eyes are still dazzled by the brightness of the spectacular big bang we have witnessed. We haven’t yet managed to restore our clarity of vision; we follow events on a blow-by-blow basis. There is a mixture of surging emotion in the Arab street and a nostalgic feeling harking back to the Mahdist revolt, naively believing the world will return again to vast green pastures. We have been given a massive shot of revolutionary adrenalin, and the effects are yet to wear off. This explains why contrasts and contradictions are rife in Egypt, between the unstable revolutionary current and the more conventional political; the latter believing that the revolution has now ended, and that the stage of building the revolutionary state has begun. This also might partially explain the stark contrast between the scenes in Tahrir Square and other protest hotspots across Egypt on the one hand, and the simultaneous convention of a parliament elected by the Egyptian people on the other; the parliament of the revolution following the overthrow of the Mubarak regime.

Some people are still dreaming while others believe that our silent, dreamy slumber has come to an end, and now the stark reality has begun. But dreams are always more potent and more dangerous than reality.

As I was looking through the vast media material celebrating the gains of the Arab Spring, together with the dreams of ordinary people and truehearted revolutionaries, I remembered a documentary I had watched before the start of last year’s events. It was entitled “Days of Mr. Arabi”. The film contained a lot of dreams similar to the classics of the 1919 Revolution and the many romantic aspirations of the July 1952 Revolution; carried out by the Free Officers Movement. Who could forget the memorable catchphrase “hold your head high, my brother”? Indeed, yesterday is not that far away.