Great days

Hosni Mubarak looking strangely like Silvio Berlusconi (who also doesn’t get it) has handed over power. Once the middle classes – especially when thousands of doctors and the elderly – joined the young, it was probably all over. But earlier that evening it had looked like a dangerous stalemate. I made the mistake of watching the remarkable Peter Watkins film made in 2000 of the 1871 Paris Commune and the role of the media  – and went to bed listening to all night radio full of dread of a mighty massacre. Then it was all over.

Western leaders seem to be welcoming the change in tones both avuncular and hesitant. An Egypt directing its own affairs, influencing the rest of the Arab League to do the same, is a whole new world. The Western media, especially those whose journalists weren’t in Cairo or Alexandria, has largely erupted into worried negativity, evidence of just how far the caricatures and fear of Islam has penetrated since 9/11.

The Muslim world is not all the same.Turkey is not Saudi Arabia.Yemen is not the Lebanon. Indonesia’s transition to democracy was peaceful. Eqypt is more secular, more educated, more cosmopolitan than we often recognise. It is also much younger and  poorer than we can comprehend. Many of the institutions needed for the next stages already exist but aren’t the same as ours. The task is enormous. We might even learn a thing or two.