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Monday, 14 February 2011

University Fees, Egypt and Protests - Is there a lesson to be learned?

Well did we expect that result in Egypt? What with relatively little violence and no major intervention by the army or police?

I thought it was really interesting to hear the rhetoric of various politicians of different political persuasions and countries telling now ex-President Mubarak how he should listen to the wishes of the people.

Cut back a few weeks to the rallys, marches and ?riots by British marchers complaining about the new upper limit on University tuition fees. There was no intention of British politicians to listen to the wishes of the people whatsoever.

I started to think about how the Egyptians (and before them the East Germans, Poles and others) managed to overthrow a whole government relatively peacefully whereas we can't even overthrow an incoming government policy.

The answer that came to me was twofold. Firstly the word "peaceful" was very prominent and the second thing that became apparent was the longevity of the protest.

It seems to be that the typical western approach to these things is to all turn up at pretty much the same time, march about shouting for a while and after a few hours all pack up and go home again. In order to break up the boredom there are always a number of people who want to turn violent and stir things up and bit bringing the riot police in and no doubt exasperating those who only want to protest peacefully.

If we go back to Egypt we'll have seen that the protesters were united in their ultimate aim, were organised, seemed to have some kind of plan and stuck together. There were seemingly no factions running around winding up the police or army thus keeping them, if not necessarily on their side, in a position where they had no real reason to intervene. The other point of note was the longevity of the protest, none of this turning up and 9 and clocking off at 5 again to get home in time for tea. No, the people of Egypt were in control and stuck to their aim and ultimately succeeded.

It makes me wonder what would happen if those protesting about the rise in University tuition fees really got their act together and arranged a long protest bringing in protesters almost on a shift basis to keep up the pressure.

What would happen if Trafalgar Square was brought to a stop for a number of days with nobody going out of their way to antagonise the police. Would President Obama and other world leaders be standing up telling David Cameron how should listen to the people? Maybe not, but we can dream.

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