The Impossible is Now Possible

By Sarah Levy

Writing in 1846, Karl Marx stated, “The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.” In other words, those in power, or those in whose interests the current system works, project their “ruling ideas” into the mainstream, to the point where they are simply accepted as fact. It makes perfect sense that the ruling class wouldn’t want the rest of the world to think that there ‘just might be’ another way to organize society, because this would be a constant threat to their position of comfort. And so the idea that the current way-brutal dictators, capitalism, what-have-you included-is the best and only way, is established and taken off the table for debate. Even as things around us don’t appear to be all that great, the most we can do are little things to make it easier to swallow. But we could never talk about changing the whole meal.Today, it’s precisely these ruling ideas that are being challenged.

The events in Tunisia that sparked a revolution in Egypt have lit up revolts across the Arab World as the ideas of what is and is not possible begin to shatter. Throughout North Africa and the Middle East, impossible things-like taking down a 30-year-long dictator with intense military backing in a country that receives $1.3 billion from the U.S. annually-have now entered the Realm of Possibility. Thus, protestors have taken to the streets in Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, and now Morocco, as ordinary people are newly convinced there is a point in standing up to extreme military brass, wealth, and autocracies. In other words, people are realizing that they aren’t stuck with the way things are-and it’s empowering.

Evidence of the horror this mass flirtation with the impossible has triggered among the ruling minds can be seen in governments that have begun to concede preemptively, in hopes that their last-minute facelift will convince people to step away from the impossible. The laundry list of late includes: the Algerian government declaring it would end its 19-year-old state of emergency and proceeding to further subsidize basic food items; Yemeni President Saleh promising not to run for reelections in 2013 and beginning to grant a series of economic concessions, including wage increases and tuition decreases; the Palestinian prime minister disbanding his Cabinet; and finally, the Jordanian equivalent doing the same.

Besides the possibility of taking down the not-so-good, the Egyptian people have shown the world the possibility of creating and putting up their own better option. Throughout the nineteen days of the revolution, protesters demonstrated their own ability to fulfill the needs of everyone much more effectively than the regime ever had-distributing blankets, food, and water, not to mention makeshift clinics that arose in response to the government’s brutal assault.

Beyond necessity, many noted examples of beauty that unfolded amidst the revolution. Dancing, singing, even stand-up comedy flourished while recycling was organized and street-trash was turned into street-art. Remarkably, when it was made known that mass looting was taking place, protesters rushed to the national museum to form a protective barricade.

Even in a country where 82% of women report dealing with sexual harassment, female protesters said they had experienced a wholly new atmosphere of equality since the revolution began. This immense respect and cooperation amongst all people-young and old, men and women, Christian and Muslim-is only another glimpse of the Possible. As Dr. Ali El Mashad told Democracy Now! last Wednesday, “the longer the revolution lasts, the more beautiful it becomes.”

While shattering the impossibility of reorganizing society, all of these actions simultaneously threaten the ruling idea that “masses” always translates into “riot,” or “chaos.” Thus further opening the doors of what can be thought possible.

Overall, events across the Arab World are showing us that things can change, and people can cause that change-real, ordinary people, not just official politicians. They cannot only tear down bad systems, but they can potentially create and install their own good ones, and so we shouldn’t be made to think that anything is hopelessly permanent.

This is not just about Egypt-this is a moment of great hope for all citizens of the world.

Another Middle East is possible. Another world is possible. The Impossible is now possible.

Sarah Levy ’12 is a Contributing Writer for The Mac Weekly and can be reached at [email protected]