From New EGYPT -Short Lessons

New York Times

The Opinion Pages:


Op-Ed Columnist
They Did It
Published: February 12, 2011

“In the end, President Obama made a hugely important but unintended contribution to the democracy revolution in Egypt. Because the Obama team never found the voice to fully endorse the Tahrir Square revolution until it was over, the people in that square now know one very powerful thing: They did this all by themselves. That is so important. One of the most powerful chants I heard in the square on Friday night was: “The people made the regime step down.”
Yes. They did it by themselves. No doubt.
…..there are undoubtedly circumstances and conditions at the backdrop, whose coincidence and conjunction, had been so crucial, that without which the victory could have been, I think,  impossible (at the moment in just getting rid of the higher brass of the Mubarak regime).

This can be summarized as follows:

1. The benefit-diversification of the Egyptian ruling clique converging along two attractors of meaning. (The nationally anchored section  /here the military subsumed in this section /with the small share of the wealth vs. the globally affiliated with the lion share of corruption and benefit /the Mubarak clique and “elite” )*

2. The mass base rallied along one main trajectory of common sense of WILL – Mubarak has to go! – The embodiment of the regime

3. The selfless strong will & conviction of the “new” youth and intellectually well versed elite to struggle for Freedom, liberation & fair prosperity;  A big will for change, morally and ethically strongly anchored in universal humanism;  free of any dogma and ideology or religiously or ethnically contaminated prejudice & alienation.

4. The objective deteriorating standard of living for the vast section of the Egyptian people in an apparent contra-distinction  to the extravagant abundant living standard of a section of the ruling class; in a relatively developing economy (I presume).

Thus, with all appreciation and understanding of our (including mine) infatuation and passion, to hope for a similar wave of change to come in the immediate future in similar regions of autocracy, be it in Ethiopia, North Africa and the rest or elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula, it is important to reflect, understand and work on the necessary social conditions (similar to the above) to come true, with all the different specifications prevailing in the different regions. Revolutionary romanticism by its own would not bring about social transformation and people’s empowerment. At times it would even be adventurous, irresponsible and it would cause a big social set back, backfiring on the social momentum of the change to come. 

What are the relevant and crucial questions or inquiries for  a serious reflection to promote the transformation, by working on the necessary conditions? Without a big fuss around it and avoiding any obscurity, this can be transparent by a summary of the following highly relevant questions:

1. How can the “higher brass” and the top section of the ruling clique/elite be pinpointed and isolated from a presumable “mass base” it may have succeeded or anticipate to manipulate and/or how can the different attractors of benefits and interests among the ruling clique be differentiated to rule out their co-operation in times of crisis?

2. How can the potentially glowing energy of the whole people, disenchanted through a growing poverty, hunger, destitution and dissatisfaction at all levels, be bundled up under a single line of nationwide struggle for freedom and prosperity, without any distinction of any quality; be it ethnic (extremely important! no discussion, since equality in post-modernity is so evident, that it is anachronistic to question it ), religious (in a similar fashion, extremely important!), ideological controversies, (always stressing the fact that it is as clear as a blue sky, that there is plenty of space and abundant room in the universe or in our Space of modern Ethiopia,  for unfolding, be it ideas or quality of life etc.)
3. All talk of transformation is meaningless, without a strong WILL of common sense for change. Thus how, and  through what means can this BIG WILL for Change be cultivated & nurtured, specially in the vast mass of the Youth – the “new”  and modern YOUTH, the embodiment of CHANGE per se, which should be free of any legacy prejudices and bias of ethnic, religious  and ideological nature –  entrenched, enlightened, thrilled and steeped in the only “Faith” it may learn to incorporate –  ” The FAITH”  for “FREEDOM, SOVEREIGNTY and LIBERATION” of the “SELF”  to come to a collective WILL of working for a modern empathic Ethiopian community, developing under democratic and humanist principles of the 21st century, eye to eye equally positioned to all the modern youth of the globe?

4. How can the vast mass of Ethiopia, in advance the big urban mass of the Ethiopian Community in all social sections ( very crucial and important – to deprive the ruling clique of all its rallying “catechism”) be mobilized to a solidarity of common- purpose – The Purpose of liberation from impoverishment and tyranny by a small – a really small ruling clique, – with specially a strong emphasis of differentiating, the rank and file  from the ruling leadership – letting them / the rank & file/ know,  to be free of complicity; i.e.  without the slightest indication of charging them for complicity in the oppression of the Ethiopian people. – That means, let alone Ethiopians of the Tigrai community (so far I am sorry to notice this all over the promoters of democracy in Ethiopia today.  A non-violent struggle can never win by intimidation but by teaching moral courage and a sense of clemency),  I would even stress and say – even the rank and file cadres of TPLF and EPRDF ?( fyi. Have you observed how the Egyptian young demonstrators rushed to literally embrace the policemen, who were sent to fight them?   See Non-violence struggle, )

Thus a conscious leadership ( intellectually well versed, committed and mature) anchored, entrenched and contained  in the spontaneous creativity of the mass is still unequivocally necessary. Moreover, Egypt has not made it either without its Young LEADERSHIP – not leadership to contest for state power but to fight the tyranny.  Contesting for state power comes much much later in the process of the liberation; after the victory. And that would be an unequivocal outcome of democratic procedures, well after the democratic state is constituted by the best minds of the whole nation from all corners of the people for the people! Like what, I hope the Egyptians are now deliberating to do!!! AND to succeed!

People & Power – Egypt: Seeds of change

* Nonviolent strategies awaiting creative 21st Century applications:
are in my opinion very useful for our Ethiopian “bewildered ” state of affairs!



Will Egypt Revolutionize Democracy Itself?

by Tom Atlee

Thomas Friedman suggests that the special strength of Egypt’s youth-led revolutionary movement has been “the fact that it represented every political strain, every segment and class in Egyptian society.” But then he turns around and says that diversity “is also its weakness. It still has no accepted political platform or leadership.”

Of course, from a majoritarian electoral perspective, he’s right. But perspective that may not provide the most potent and useful democratic approaches for Egypt’s future — or ours.

If Egypt’s 21st century revolutionaries want their revolution to turn the world, they will make this supposed weakness — their inclusive diversity — into the greatest strength of their emergent democracy. They will cherish, develop and institutionalize their cross-section diversity AS a political platform AND AS the principle underlying their new forms of democratic leadership.

My advice: Make random selection as fundamental to Egyptian democracy as majority vote will be. Properly institutionalized, random selection is harder to manipulate and co-opt than elections.

* Unbeknownst to most citizens in modern democracies, ancient Athens’ democracy functioned largely through random selection. Athenians even picked their public officials by lot in a process known as “sortition”. Aristotle reported that “it is thought to be democratic for the offices to be assigned by lot, for them to be elected is oligarchic” !

* While we certainly don’t need to choose our public officials by lot — although it might be good to balance them out with a fourth branch of government made up of randomly selected citizens, as proposed by the Yale School of Democratic Reform
We can use random selection to oversee the activities of politicians, to generate public wisdom, and to work through major public issues.

* Random selection of citizens produces a microcosm of the community through which we can discover an overview of public opinion (through polling) or develop informed public judgment (through deliberation).

* Ad hoc, randomly selected citizen deliberative councils like Citizens Juries have proven at least as perceptive in policy creation, policy review, and watchdogging democracy as traditional juries have in determining the guilt of accused criminals.

* Annual, randomly selected citizen “Wisdom Councils” can awaken the citizenry to its “We the People” power and provide grassroots inspiration, guidance and oversight for the functioning of their community or country.

* People scientifically selected for their conflicting interests, beliefs, or demographics from a randomly selected survey pool can work through major social tensions in well-publicized, high quality conversations, with a powerful effect on their fellow citizens.

In the long-term, a revolutionary challenge for Egypt and all the rest of us who love democracy is to create cultures that understand and honor randomly selected forums, that do them well, and that institutionalize and empower them in all parts of our public, private and social sectors.

Even now, high-visibilty forums of randomly selected Egyptians, run independently in parallel, could be competing to generate brilliant ideas for the structure of their new democracy. Then elections and widespread conversations — online and off — could decide on the best of the best.

It is time for new and old democracies alike to start tapping the collective intelligence, collective creativity, and collective wisdom of their WHOLE society. Well designed randomly selected citizen forums may be the best and most secure way to do that in the intensely competitive environment of modern politics.


Random selection may be my favorite angle on revolutionizing democracy, but hundreds of other democratic innovations are being thought up and tested around the world. Some, like organizing with social networks, are evolving right under our noses in Egypt and elsewhere.

Many such ideas and methods are listed on the Innovations in Democracy Project website, which is currently being updated, expanded and transformed into a wiki.

In the meantime, some great sources for democratic innovations to inform grassroots revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere include

  * Innovations in online democracy:
  * Innovations in collaboration:
  * Innovations in powerful conversations and group process:
  * Nonviolent strategies awaiting creative 21st Century applications:

What new versions of these and other democratic breakthroughs will we see from social innovators — especially tech-savvy, street-savvy youth — in the months and years to come? Many, I hope.

Together they could evolve into ever more wise and powerful forms of democracy that enable global civilization to finally ripen into a collectively intelligent, sustainable, and mature form of joyful aliveness for all of us on this “little blue dot” of a planet spinning around our average star-sun in its unimaginably vast spiral galaxy sailing through an unbelievably creative universe whose innovative spirit is operating even now within, among, and through the tiny humans alive in your home, at my desk, and in Cairo’s Tahrir Square…

NOTE: If you know of democratic innovations we have failed to identify, please send info and links to with “democratic innovation” in the Subject line.


Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440
Please support our work.  Your donations are fully tax-deductible.

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