Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution. As the years pass rapidly by, we sometimes forget who we were then, and don’t recognise who we have become.
The question is whether Egyptians have changed in this short span of history or not. Another pressing question is whether this change, if indeed it occurred, was for the better or for the worse.
In 2011, as Tahrir Square filled to the brim with activists calling for change, the majority of Egyptians, perturbed and distressed, stayed put and uninvolved, preferring to safeguard their homes from marauders and to watch Al Jazeera from the comfort of their homes.
By the time 30 June rolled around, Egyptians were ready to partake in the ousting process, having turned Al Jazeera off for good. Since then, change continues to take place. Today, Egyptians are acutely aware, intensely critical, and exceedingly outspoken, but more importantly they have fallen in love with their Egypt once more.
Prior to 25 January Egyptians had a depoliticised approach. They knew things weren’t right but hardly ever thought of effecting change; though disgruntled, they accepted their fate as irreversible.
The end result was that they were completely unconcerned with where Egypt was heading. Today these same Egyptians are cognisant of all happenings. This awareness is not restricted to intellectuals, but it extends to the masses: workers, farmers, and tradespeople.
Start a conversation with a taxi driver, and he will quickly respond with factual details. He may be worried about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and about western and north-eastern borders. He may realise how historic the visit of the president of China to Egypt is. He may see the bigger picture, and how some nations would like to mould Egypt to their liking.
In the meantime, he expects the president, government, and members of parliament to be dedicated and loyal Egyptians, fit for the positions they hold.
This acute awareness has its drawbacks, too. As Egyptians hunger for knowledge, they fall victim to fabricated stories and photoshopped photos. And once they don’t see eye-to-eye with someone, suspicion prevails.
Today they may respect a person; tomorrow they may consider him, or her, a traitor. Many distinguished society figures were jerked from love to hate, appreciated at one point, but denounced at another.
Egyptians are critical not only of one another but also of officials. If someone is unable to deliver, they cast him, or her, as a loser. With social media offering them a window to fan their criticism, they flag the slip-ups and the blunders. The call for the governor of Alexandria’s resignation is a case in point.
One other change that occurred with the January 25 Revolution is how exceedingly outspoken Egyptians became. Today they are bold enough to say what they please about whomever they please, whether they are prestigious presidents or prominent nations.
This, too, has its drawbacks—respect towards those who were once respected is out of the window, and civility has become a trait of the past.
But the most noteworthy change is in the newfound zeal for everything and anything Egyptian. Of course, the faultfinders, those who exude negativity, remain steadfast in their complaints and disgruntlement, but this new breed of Egyptians who focus on the positive, loving Egypt unconditionally, is worth noticing.
Today, Egyptians take pride in all successful stories: the young taekwondo and squash champions; the diaspora who prove themselves abroad; the many esteemed women who joined the 2016 parliament; the non-permanent UN Security Council seat Egypt secured; the exotic beaches and picturesque spots all over Egypt; and, more importantly, the Egyptian army’s guarding of borders and fight against enemies.
This stance is not out of nothing; it is the result of many stockpiled events equal to the rungs of a ladder, each rung taking Egyptians a step further up towards the state in which they find themselves today.
The January 25 Revolution initiated the change by giving Egyptians a voice. It allowed them to speak out and demand improvements if nothing else. Then the despair associated with Morsi’s year of reign told them that they were about to lose the Egypt they knew for good. This utter hopelessness translated to love for their about-to-go-astray homeland.
Two turbulent years were followed by another Egyptian grassroots movement, this time encompassing all Egyptians—June 30. The exhilaration associated with this victory brought out even more love for Egypt. This love for Egypt is definitely a worthwhile change.
Egyptians are indeed changing, sometimes for the worse, but more often than not for the better.
The writer is author of Cairo Rewind, the First Two Years of Egypt's Revolution