Notes on Egypt

So much has been written about Egypt at this point that this is a drop in the bucket, but a small thought: I woke up this morning to a different kind of story. In the first few days of the protests, they boiled down to a confrontation between the people and the police - the representatives of the state. In many respects, this story provided a familiar narrative, both for the Egyptians on the streets and for everyone following along from outside of the country. Mubarak may have quickly realized that he wasn't going to win that battle, so he seems to have taken a new tack.

Instead of confronting the protests with the police, he's simply withdrawn the police entirely. The military is still certain a presence, but it's as though the state - understood as something that functions through institutions like the security police - has drawn in upon itself. What's left is something far more terrifying - depending on your optimism, it's either the people or the mob, but I couldn't shake the feeling this morning that Mubarak is planning to let the protests now feed upon themselves.

From the BBC live blog - but echoed in numerous other places: "With ongoing skirmishes between looters and vigilante groups, several hundred escaped convicts reportedly on the run, and a complete absence of police on Egypt's streets, the situation remains precarious." Perhaps it's Mubarak trying to remind the country why they need him - as that which protects the people from themselves.

I want to be optimistic, but it's difficult.


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