The pressure cooker
Close to 90 million people live in a pressure cooker, every minute they are squeezed a little. Egyptians have been living in a pressure cooker for decades. The cleverness of the chefs has been to regulate the letting off of steam in a way that would keep the pressure stable enough not to explode. For many years, they succeeded. Practice over time led them to believe in their abilities to keep “everything under control.” For a long time, it appeared this way as minor explosions here and there went unnoticed or were eventually covered up and ignored. Unexpectedly, a big explosion made it to the surface. This time it could not be controlled as the lid came off and a big part of the pressure was released. Many were relieved, others shaken and more were fearful of the unknown. The explosion released the top layers; much of the accumulated pressure beneath the surface is yet to be.
Those in control had practiced over years how to regulate the pressure. Control has changed hands a few times since. The newcomers quickly adopt similar tactics to maintain the pressure amidst a sloppy attempt to keep it under control once more. On the surface, they seem to lose control more often than not. In the depths, the pressure continues to increase unnoticed or ignored. The next explosions could be nastier. The response has been disappointing to all; those who continue to try to control and those who continue to let off the steam. The fight continues. It is almost impossible to put the lid back on, as difficult to keep it tightly there. The explosion has already created enough holes in the pressure cooker to keep it steaming all the time.
Egyptians had been suffering the increased pressures of everyday struggles to survive. The added images of slain youth, sexually abused and harassed females and males, wounded and shot teenagers amidst the clouds of tear gas have added to the daily dose of pressure immensely. Sights of burning tires, flying flames, shattered glass, charred vehicles and daily counts of the abducted, injured, tortured and dead make the pressure almost unbearable for many. This picture is only the fight on the surface, the one that makes its way every day and night to the living room screens. The reality that lies beneath is even more daunting. The process to acknowledge other realities on the ground is painful yet vital to begin a healthy release of the pressures. Millions of children growing up without a childhood, millions of youth unemployed, millions of Egyptian men and women broken and bent to make ends meet every day. Egypt’s social and economic problems are enormous and accumulated over time. The suffering has been immense and cannot be denied.
There is yet a brighter reality emerging; one of imagination, faith in human potential, creative alternatives and the energy to turn anger into positive energy for productivity. Those are the builders, not the controllers. Hundreds of initiatives that distance themselves further away from existing models, driven by passion, compassion and confidence are sprouting out all over the country. Unbelievable as it might be, it is these small but growing groups who are able to see beyond the pressure of the moment to create a different future. They think and act outside the pressure cooker.