Saturday, February 12
Egyptian Antiquity and Tahrir Square
More than 4000 years ago, a moral conscience developed among Egyptians. I have been reading Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt by James Breasted.
Absorbing the evolution of ancient thought as I watch 21st century history unfold in Tahrir Square has created a remarkable convergence of underlying truth. I realize anew the depth and strength of the human spirit. It cannot be denied.
In this civilization along the Nile, people created a cradle for our civil society. From prehistoric roots, they developed the first awareness that social behavior is linked to human development and the will of the gods. Some experts say that their social consciousness was well established more than three centuries before the Ten Commandments.
Even Pharaohs are subject to judgment. Carved into the walls of their tombs are pleas of innocence.
“I did not slay men. I did not steal from one crying for his possessions. I did not take away food. I did not diminish the grain measure. I did not commit adultery. I did not stir up fear. I did not stir up strife. I was not avarice. I was not puffed up. I did not make falsehoods in the place of truths. I was not deaf to truthful words. My heart coveted not. I did not wax in hot temper. I did not do an abomination of the gods.” (Adapted from Book of the Dead, translated J. Breasted, pp302-303)
Injustice does not stand. As Martin Luther King said to a powerful country still needing to address its own injustice, “…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Before January 25th and the start of the protests in Egypt, I was emailing Omar. You may recall him as the artist I met in the Egyptian Museum, just a few blocks from Tahrir Square. He was the one who recommended a cafe on Tahrir Square.
I did not know then that the cityscape I was exploring would soon be filled with tanks, military and millions of ordinary Egyptians fed up with the dictatorial system .
Omar writes one week before the start of protests:
“the weather here is kinda cold, winter break just came by, my birthday in 2 weeks and my 6 months anniversary with my girlfriend, I am really excited about the 2nd one because I really think she is the one :)
I am starting my own company too; Vinyl designs - as in records not the material :D - , WISH US LUCK. WE NEED IT!!!
best wishes from the ever green Egypt :)”
A very normal and friendly note from an almost 21 year old. It’s what you would expect and then a few days later I receive this email:
how are u doing? yea things have been crazy the past week! a lot of people escaped prisons and were stealing malls and homes. i almost got shot like 6 times and i almost killed a man. feels weird but thanks god me, my family and our home are unharmed. the good thing is that people are uniting again, everyone cares about the other and our love to our country got restored. pray for us. btw i am 21 on the 7th :D”
I honor his request for prayer and celebrate his birthday by sending a home-made birthday card. I write the following to him:
“I am very glad to hear from you. It must be a very scary time but also a time for much needed change….
I can only imagine the fear of being shot at and the terrible feeling of almost shooting another. I am glad you were spared that experience. May it continue.
Are you sleeping on the square? Are you protecting your area from criminals? I of course will pray and trust that good outcomes will happen for you and your country.
I will celebrate your 21st Birthday on Monday.”
I assume Omar celebrated his birthday on Monday, but did not hear from him. Of course, I worried as the stalemate became more intense. The news had a face and it was Omar's. Then history was made on 2/11 and Omar wrote:
“YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HAPPY, ALIVE AND DIGNIFIED WE ARE AT THIS MOMENT I CRIED OUT OF JOY! I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT!!!
it has been a long journey, I myself almost got ran over twice, almost got shot 8 times
and full of bruises and scars now. i have lost friends and i ve seen bad things
but i gained freedom and got my country back :D”
Like all the commentators say, Egypt has so much to accomplish for freedom and justice to flourish. But this is a land and people who first gave voice to our higher ideals.
Like a kind of unintended immortality, we have the words of justice inscribed on the walls of ancient tombs. Even now they strengthen our human spirit. I have a feeling that something good will emerge and I think my young artist friend will be a part of it.
Omar, God bless you….