I suppose that throughout the past 2 days, the topic which has been the most prominent for me is that of “revolutions”. Today I attended the session on “The Role of Arab Universities in democratic transitions”. The session was run by Dr. Barbara Ibrahim, from the American University in Cairo. The session explained the political environment that academic institutions and civil society faced, which ultimately resulted in the “Youth Revolution”.
When Dr. Ibrahim spoke, I could see the amount of respect she had for the youth activists and organiser’s of the events that happened at Tahrir. There seems to be a sense of pride in being a witness to it all and in the ability of the youth. The session resonated with me because, in a few days, South Africa celebrates its own youth day in commemoration of the Soweto student’s uprising which occurred 35 years ago.
From the conversation we had, there were two fundamental elements which I feel drove both the Egyptian and the South African protests. These were; a love for the country, and an anger at how society had been hijacked from ‘the people’ by a select elite.
As a current youth member in South Africa, I feel that many have grown complacent. Apathetic to the issues we face. Perhaps this is because we are not all directly influenced by the by-products of Apartheid that still plague our communities. Or perhaps the issues we face are less abrasive and so go unnoticed. I feel that we have once again handed responsibility onto the older generation, and only once a year we remind ourselves of the power of youth.
Perhaps this is what happens decades after a revolution. After new policies are written and regimes considered, we create a status quo that we become comfortable with and we gradually stop evolving. But I feel like Egypt could be different. The social platforms that they used has now created an international expectation and, in a sense, accountability of the Egyptian youth. The conversation I had with Dr Ibrahim following her session made me feel like Egypt was energized by the idea of everything being up for change. I suppose a revolution does that. It makes the impossible seem possible again.
But what we (as the youth) need to remember, is that we can invent our future – we don’t need a revolution to drive change. We’ve got the power.