Once in a lifetime Middle East event! Thanks, The Internet

Personally, my eyes were glued to a combined Balkan Beat Box and Infected Mushroom show being streamed live from Tel Aviv, which was amazing. It looked like one of the biggest performances I’ve ever seen and while obviously I had huge FOMO for not being there, at least I could have some idea of the experience, due to amazing advances in the internet and video streaming. Although Infected didn’t play much of their early work, which is their best in my opinion. They seem to be transitioning from the world’s number one psychedelic trance outfit into some kind of Linkin Park clone, but luckily they aren’t there yet and still put on an extremely impressive show.

That said, according to my Twitter and RSS feeds, everyone else was watching Hosni Mubarak not resigning. Luckily, the whole transcript was online, so I know what I didn’t missed. Here are the highlights:

Hosni Mubarak’s speech to the Egyptian people: ‘I will not . . . accept to hear foreign dictations’.

Our priority now is to facilitate free election – free presidential elections and to stipulate a number of terms in the constitution and to guarantee a supervision of the upcoming elections to make sure it will be conducted in a free manner.

…This time is not about me. It’s not about Hosni Mubarak. But the situation now is about Egypt and its present and the future of its citizens.

See? It’s not about him! He doesn’t have to resign, it’s just about facilitating democracy!

He even went on to tell everyone what a good, patriotic guy he is:

I was a young man, a youth just like all these youth, when I have learned the honor of the military system and to sacrifice for the country. I have spent my entire life defending its land and its sovereignty. I have witnessed and attended its wars with all its defeats and victories. I have lived during defeat and victory.

But apparently he did relinquish some power…to his newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman, also the head of his brutal secret service, which he has used to oppress any opposition for the last 30 years. What a generous dude!

Apparently Suleiman told everyone that it’s ok and the protests are just Al Jazeera’s fault. Sounds reasonable, right? Anyway, back to Mubarak:

I have delegated to the vice president some of the power – the powers of the president according to the constitution. I am aware, fully aware, that Egypt will overcome the crisis and the resolve of its people will not be deflected and will [inaudible] again because of the – and will deflect the arrows of the enemies and those who [inaudible] against Egypt.

Now, I’m not Egyptian, but I have a feeling that the protestors were not quite satisfied with this whole thing. You see, I feel like contrary to Mubarak’s apparent sentiments, this whole thing really is about him. In fact, apparently the protestors didn’t take so kindly to the speech…at all:

People silently held up their shoes in disgust, and a great rallying cry “Leave! Leave! Leave!” went up. I have never been in a crowd wracked with such intense emotion. After he finished, men wept openly while their friends consoled them. There was rage and screaming and shock. People could hardly find the words to voice their frustration. “It is promises in the air!” “He wants to keep his military honor!” “He cannot imagine that his people are telling him to go.” People shook their heads and looked up to the sky as if for some answer. One woman told me with a cracked, inchoate voice: “I’m angry … we’ve been waiting for years … wait until September? And he’s sorry!” she spat with sarcasm. “It’s too much! Sorry is in actions, not words. It’s the same old story. It’s no change. We’re just running in circles.”

Huh, guess he wasn’t as convincing as he hoped.

That said, there is some sense in what he’s doing. One Tweet that came-up on my feed sums this up pretty well:

Annabel Crabb

What do we want? INTERIM OVERSIGHT! When do we want it? IN DUE COURSE! 

You see, emotions run high in protests like these, but as Middle East guru Daniel Pipes observes, democratising a country requires a huge shift in culture and infrastructure and can take decades, it won’t happen overnight. So the current regime does need to hang around, at least for a while.

There have even been suggestions that the army is allowing these protests to continue because the military leaders had grown tired of Mubarak and did not want his son taking over. This was supported by an announcement yesterday that Mubarak was transitioning power to the army. Even if Mubarak is eventually forced out, this scenario would spell more of the same for Egypt in the foreseeable future. I guess only time will tell.

Images from this photoessay from The Atlantic.

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