Egypt: Casting down the mighty from their thrones

By Symon Hill
February 12, 2011

Barack Obama and David Cameron have said that Egypt must move rapidly towards free elections and democracy. It's a shame that this point didn't occur to them when they were selling weapons to Mubarak.

Obama and Cameron seem to be last at the party, welcoming Mubarak's departure only because it would now be politically impossible not to. Obama in particular missed an opportunity to gain support from the Egyptian people when he dragged his heels about calling for Mubarak to go. He sat on the fence while people in Egypt collected gun cartridges used against them by Mubarak's forces with "Made in the USA" stamped on them.

Even now, there are those who are saying that Mubarak has finally gone because the USA pressurised him. Others say that generals told him he would have to leave or they would remove him themselves.

Both these things may have happened. But if they did it was in response to a situation brought about by millions of ordinary people who have spent weeks on the streets, facing a dictator's tanks and demanding that he leave office. The vast majority did so without violence.

While the doomsayers of the Western media warn against an Islamic state, the reality is that Muslims, Christians and others in Egypt are acting in solidarity in this revolution. Muslims have prayed in front of tanks with Christians surrounding them to protect them. The Muslims returned the favour to the Christians. That's real interfaith work.

I'm reminded of the words attributed to Mary in Luke's Gospel:

"My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour... He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty."

By working in our hearts, God provides a power that baffles those who understand only the sort of power that is based on guns and profits. There are some who simply refuse to believe that a grassroots movement can achieve this sort of thing. They persist in thinking that political change happens because powerful individuals talk with each other.

But the people at the top can only exert power when the rest of the people go along with them. When those they rule collectively refuse to accept their authority, they are easily outnumbered, their titles are useless and their power is exposed as a sham, built on the compliance of others.

As I listened to the news last night, I was reminded of the closing words of Shelley's poem, The Mask of Anarchy:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.

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