Deviating From The Script

by Patrick Appel

An American PhD student who was in Cairo until yesterday writes "about the things that are not happening." Thoughts collected during his last night in Cairo:

When you hear about a revolution, in the Middle East or elsewhere, some assumptions and images pop automatically to mind. You probably imagine gangs roaming the streets, people using the anarchy to take personal grudges out on each other, or steal some stuff, or beat people up just because they're sixteen and drunk on power. You expect the movement factions to start maneuvering for to turn on each other as soon as the tyrant is gone. You expect scenes out of Hobbes. And around here, you expect people to start targeting Westerners. Introspect a little. Does this resemble the images that pop unbidden into your mind? It's okay. I'm not judging. They pop into my mind too – I grew up in the same media environment as other middle class Americans, after all.

The images fit so naturally together because they're from a script, one that's been developed and elaborated in reportage over decades, in several countries. It's an extremely polished, high-resolution image, backed by decades of examples, tastefully aggregated into a narrative so that details of actual countries and events fall away, and what's left is a sort of higher-amplitude Truth.

But so far it just isn't so. No “death to America”, no-one calling on anyone to hurt foreigners, and nobody actually doing it. There's looting – half of which I still think is being orchestrated by the government to scare people – but people organized neighborhood watches out of nowhere to prevent it. I admit I'm a little creeped out when teenagers with furniture fragments offer to walk me home, but I also have to admit that my neighborhood is quiet and safe.

The rest of his posts are also worth a look.