I spent election day in Mexico City with Santa Muerte followers. By nightfall the country had returned to “The Perfect Dictatorship,” after a 12 year fling with democracy that didn’t go so well.
From Tunisia to American and back again, the revolution is being passed around like a good jug of apple cider.
Occupy Tunis represents.
It was a casual affair compared with the revolts this place has seen. And I’m sure a good deal more smoking was going on than in New York. The only stir was an impassioned argument between the organizers and the communists. The protest was against the capitalist system that created the 1% and the 99%, but not everyone was sure they wanted to replace it with communism.
A photostory I just published in October’s Playboy Germany on the war in Nuba mountains. Still going on, still not reported on, and not going away anytime soon.
Friday was surreal, drifting through someone elses happiness. Hoping for resolution, peace and prosperity, but hearing form everyone, even those cheering the loudest that this was just the beginning, that the real change still had to come.
A girl complained that her parents who forbade her to protest (she did anyway) wanted to have a party the next evening. “She was insulting us just days ago, she said, and now she wants a party!” Another man Mo, short for Mohammad told me next to a crowd of protesters at the building where the army is keeping all the disappeared people, that he had lived in America, that he had had 5 wives, and traveled to 50 countries.
Cynical after all his travels he said he had set up a camp in the Sinai a place without laws he said. ” I have a Camel. I feed it grass, it shits, I take the shit and grow a garden. I don’t believe in all these demonstration, look at the British asking the authorities when they can march, then walking around in circles under the gaze of the police men. They (the powerful) want us to demonstrate, but what I have done is build my own world. He mentioned his Camel again and said. “ I can probably provide for 1000 people. That’s a start.”
Meanwhile a solider had started sweet talking the crowd into dissipation. One solider took his hand off his gun to stroke an infant’s hair, while another spoke into a mega phone. The protesters interrupted him with chants calling for the release of the disappeared. But it was growing late and the rage that bought us here left with the setting sun. “We want them to know that we are still here,” said one young protester.
Across Cairo families and groups of young people walked through the streets, those with money bought pizza and falalfal, those without, just walked. Walking through their new freedom savoring it Ike it was a dream that could vanish.
As I left for the airport after 24 hours in the capital of the revolution, the morning after was clear present everywhere. As we drove through the city of the dead, where people live in apartments on top of graves and the old regime wanted to clear and turn into shopping malls, Sam the taxi driver , complained about the lack of tourists while telling joke about Mubarak. “When Mubarak died he met up with our first two rulers. He asked them how they got there. The first said I was poisoned, the second said he was assassinated, then they asked Mubarak what killed him, Facebook he said and they laughed at him. The next joke concluded with someone interrupting a dream Mubarak had about 3 chickens. The chickens the dream interpreter said, mean fuck you your mother and your father. And Sam laughed, more amused by the chance to say fuck you to his ex- dictator than the jokes wit. Then we turned onto the highway passing out of the city of the dead to find a bizarre traffic conundrum.
One on side of the highway was a traffic jam, but then we noticed a line of cars moving the opposite direction. On our side of the highway the traffic was light and we turned against it following in a a line of cars driving directly against the traffic weaving back and forth in the anarchy of the revolution. Later we passed the blockage. Military were evicting people who came from the slums and moved into new apartment blocks owned by the government. This was happening across the country as the poor took matters into their own hands.
As we neared the airport Sam pointed out business after business owned by the military or Mubarak’s family. Then we passed a middle class family walking down the divider of the highway painting the curb. One girl arched her back in discomfort, obviously not used to doing anything physical, the father mixed another bucket of paint and smiled at the slow line of traffic. Sam exclaimed “this is the new Egypt.” They only had completed a few dozen feet, but the work was high quality and the fresh black and white brush strokes stood in sharp contrasts to the dusty grey of the highway, the cars, and the sky. A grey that continued until we go the gleaming shopping centers of the airport. Owned by the bother of Mubarak’s wife said Sam before dropping us off at the airport for a plane to Morocco. The next country planning protest, and the next country where a revolution was deemed “impossible” by many analysts.
Morocco starts it’s Revolution.
Egypt Celebrates a Revolution
I just arrived in Egypt. It will take years to figure out what will come of this, but the scale of change surpasses anything I’ve every known. Yes the Berlin wall was a massive moment, but that was because it was in Europe. Now change is sweeping the Arab world. If this happened 50 years ago, it may have been be a flash in the pan, inconsequential. But in our brave new world, where China rises, America flounders, and a few extremists define all Arabs, what is happening turns everything upside down.
In Bahrain where money flows like water, liberal middle class youth join the long standing grievances of the Shite community. In Morocco’s an educated minority tries to convinces Maghreb’s poorest country to rise up for something better. In Yemen students cast aside their Kat and demand change. And everywhere dictators scream and point fingers at terrorism, the ghost unleashed by Bush that has propped up ruler after ruler across the Arab world. Bahrain’s King points at Iran using the Shites as proxies, The Egyptians point to the Muslim brotherhood, Morocco’s points to Western Sahara, and Yemen’s ruler points every direction.
And this is the issue at hand. For years the west has seen the Arab world as too violent and unstable for true democracy. (An exception was made for Iraq to settle old scores) This paternalistic perspective has never allowed Arabs to prove otherwise. Now the fears of America will be put to test. It’s completely possible that democracy could be hijacked by the many ruthless interests in the region. But if it does, we can take a large part of the blame for it. Not because of some massive conspiracy, but because US policy is driven by short term economic interests and not what is good for the world. However in this increasingly connected globe there is only one way out. What is good for the People is good for the world.
I’m in Egypt to document the celebration of the achievements of a people who went beyond fear. This is the beginning of a project documenting the change Arab Youth have brought to the region and to the world. I will be photographing for a variety of media, but this story is an attempt to document what has so far been one of my generations proudest moment.