There is something happening on the streets of Cairo that could potentially spread to backwards, repressed capitals around the Middle East.
The kids have had enough. They would like to join the rest of the world now, thank you very much. Tens of thousands of mostly secular, mostly young protesters are facing down security forces as I write.
The internet has not only disrupted the music retailing and print journalism worlds – it is helping to shove some of the last remaining corroded and corrupt regimes off the precipice as we bore our way into the young 21st Century. The dictators know it; their playbook involves silencing social networks and online access at the first hint of unrest.
Ibrahim Abdelkhaled, 25, a mobile-phone repairman, said: “The government is trying their level best to make sure these protests don’t happen. But we already agreed on the place yesterday. We expected them to try to shut down the networks.”
He added, “We’re here because we’re demanding the resignation of Mubarak and his government because after 30 years we are all fed up with him. We will march in the streets so that he leaves.”
On Thursday, the Muslim Brotherhood, which had remained formally aloof from the earlier protests, seemed to be seeking to aligning itself with the youthful and apparently secular demonstrators, saying it would support Friday’s protests. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and an opposition leader, returned from Vienna saying he would join protests, whose passion and scale had taken him by surprise.
Even if this week’s activity fizzles and becomes yet another false revolutionary start, it signals the inevitable awakening that is coming for one billion people in our lifetimes. To be sure, a democratic takeover of the Middle East and other regions won’t necessarily produce leaders friendly to the west, but the nature of democracy means that western ideas and ideals are bound win out in the end.