March 18, 2011

Reporting from Cairo: Mubarak's gone, now what?

“Before, when I had trash, I would just throw it onto the street. I didn’t care, it wasn’t my problem. Nothing around here worked anyway; the system broke long ago. But now, I don’t put my garbage in the street anymore. After February 11, this is my country again. I even pick up other people’s garbage! We are now a free country, and it is up to us to decide what we do with it. Egypt is ours to fix, ours to rebuild.”

These remarks were from a Cairene shopkeeper sharing his take on recent events earlier this evening. Zack and I were sitting in his small, cluttered shop sipping cups of steaming red tea. Two blocks away, in a jubilant Tahrir Square, is where we later took the above photo. There, Egyptians had gathered to celebrate. Giddy toddlers wrapped in Egyptian flags waddled through the crowds as their wizened grandmothers, with a flag painted on each cheek, looked on.”No Mubarak!” barked street hawkers trying to wreathe us with commemorative necklaces, and to hustle our pocket change.

“But what happens after Mubarak?” I ask.

“We don’t know!” comes the gleeful reply. “But now, we celebrate. Later, we decide. But,” there is a long pause for emphasis, “we will decide.”

And so tonight Reboot is checking in from Egypt, where Zack and I will be based for the next two weeks. We are here to explore at just how the Egyptian people will indeed decide what happens after Mubarak. Just  what exactly happens on ‘Day 2’, after a successful uprising transforms a country’s governance equation? One area of focus is the sha’b, the common people. Though less digitally connected—and thus less media-friendly—many of these groups have and will continue to play significant roles in Egypt’s modern history. We hope to bring more of their voices to the fore.

How are the popular classes organizing and how are they advancing their agendas moving forward? What about the labour movement and the judicial system? How are disparate opposition groups coming together to create cohesive and operationally viable political entities? How are communities working together to coordinate critical service delivery and social protection efforts? What informal or ad hoc governance structures have disintegrated, and what new ones are emerging?

We will be speaking with communities that have been underrepresented in the larger narrative that has emerged around Egypt. And we will be working with experts, both in and out of Egypt, to try make greater sense of the data in the weeks ahead. We’ll be updating the site regularly with observations and findings, so please check back. In the meantime, if you have suggestions for specific areas of investigation or people we should talk to while we are in Egypt, we’re all ears.

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