The Good News from Egypt

The Good News from Egypt Isn't the news on Egypt great? I am sure I was not the only observer with tears in his or her eyes all day yesterday hearing and watching the good news of the Egyptian uprising. How moving it is to see the young being brave and standing up for their rights and those of their country’s brothers and sisters!

Among other lessons the events reveal the healthy and sane side of Islam which so rarely makes the news: the fact that the young people were so disciplined and committed to non violence moves me deeply. What a great moment! The Arab world will never be the same again. And it came 'from below,' from the young whose parents went through so much agony. Yet it was wisely intergenerational as was clear from the crowds of professionals and parents that washed into the streets. I wish them well with a government of the people, for the people and by the people. (Us too, but that is another story!)

The uprising was spiritual in the deepest sense of the word for it was based on courage—as the participants said—“to conquer fear”—and once that was accomplished everything else flowed. All spirituality begins with courage. That is why, sad to say, when courage is lacking (as it is in many church circles today), there is no spirituality. Only hiding so as not to be noticed, not to be abused one more time. It was Martin Luther King, jr. who also praised courage when he remarked that one must “love something more than the fear of death if one is to live fully” and to stand up for justice.

It was also marked by community, not by ego and violence or power for power sake or ego sake. This was so clear in the many commentaries of the organizers of the event who did not want to call themselves or anyone else “heroes” other than those who gave their lives to the great cause of social justice that was at stake. There was respect all around. That happens when ego is checked at the door for the sake of a greater cause, namely the good of community. The role of community was also on display because both Muslims and Christians marched together on behalf of their common cause of freedom and justice. (The Christians had to march in spite of the Coptic pope’s siding with the regime—but march they did.) A common brotherhood and sisterhood was engaged in by this common quest for justice.

What will come of the new Egypt? What forms will it take? Of course we do not know but the first step has been taken with grace and courage and a deep sense of community. And that makes the next steps more likely to be positive.

What concerns me the most is that unemployment is so thoroughly a human problem world-wide today. How can Egypt employ her many unemployed and especially the young? America is now part of that unemployment picture and we are feeling it up close and personal. I know many people in America who cannot find work at this time. It is the primal issue all around the globe. When humans don’t have work they don’t feel good about themselves. Boredom sets in. Resentment and self-hatred or despair can easily take hold.

As a species we have to reinvent work and economics so that the work that needs to get done gets done and the workers who can work can find work. As I pointed out in my book on The Reinvention of Work, humans are the only species out of work. The plants and trees, the fishes and stars, all have work. Why do we insist on inventing unemployment when we should be inventing employment? Are we misdefining work? Is art work? Music and theater and film and dance? The art of protest? If so, can one make a living doing such things? How closely is unemployment related to the kind of economic injustice where a man like Maburak and his family amass up to 50 billion dollars while his people starve and have no work? Is economic justice possible in the USA and in Egypt?

These are questions we need to pursue. But first we celebrate the courage and grace of the Egyptian people, especially the young people.