Today is a special, heartbreaking day for everybody who participated in the attempt to liberate Egypt from the yoke of oppression. We tried, and we failed. Our attempt was at first noble, then grew more pathetic, more desperate. We clung to the unworthy, put our hopes in the undeserving, and our dreams slipped through our fingers like so many grains of sand. Our friends got murdered, and we tried to resurrect them as symbols, as icons of our struggle, if not to give them back some life, then, at least, to keep our hope alive, as though the memory of our fallen would somehow drive us to success. Our failure was as tragic as our attempts were quixotic. We imagined a better Egypt, a better life, and were gruesomely punished for it. The state punished us, first with violence, then with deceit, then, when we lost power, with more violence and imprisonment, and a level of oppression heretofore unseen. The people punished us, first with mockery, then, eventually, with despair, and abandoned us to the wolves. The so-called educated elites of the country punished us, first with their lack of ambition, and then with their complicity with the regime, and finally, by their sheer and utter incompetence and their hubris, their failure to acknowledge that they have nothing to offer, nothing at all but jaded hearts and an embarrassing poverty of imagination.
I understand why people look back and try to claim pride and try to claim some kind of moral victory, but all I see are the survivors of a catastrophe indulging in a painful nostalgia. I understand it, but I do not share it. There is no Sisyphean victory to be had. The ‘nobility of trying’ despite all odds does nothing for the more than 100 million Egyptians who are condemned to live in this ongoing nightmare of tyranny for the rest of their miserable lives. We were, in retrospect, more Quixotic than Sisyphean, more deluded than rebellious, because we had actual hope, because, unlike Sisyphus, we believed we could defeat the gods, we believed we could succeed.
This is not a day of celebration for me. It matters not that our constitution, written by our mortal enemies, admits to a revolution because we know the acknowledgment was instrumental to our defeat; it was a way to disarm us, to move the finishing line so that we’d believe we’d reached our goal, it was their way of making fools of us all, of rendering futile everything we’ve done. It matters not that we tried, because although this may have been, for many of us, a personal victory of our principles against fears, a demonstration of bravery in the face of unimaginable cruelty, it was, in the final analysis, a political and social battle. It is on that level, and on that level alone that history must judge it, and on that level, we all know that it was nothing but a horrific loss, and no amount of nostalgic pride will heal this country, nor release its prisoners, nor resurrect its dead.
I would pray for a god to take the matter into their own hands, but, as Thoth explained to Hermes, the gods have long departed from Egypt, and they’ve left nothing behind but a broken people and a fading memory of what might have been.