Reading the coverage of protests in Egypt arouses in me that odd mix of feelings of helplessness, restlessness, and excitement that I have become familiar with. I observed the lawyers movement from the comfort of my living room on internet with anxiety and excitement, reading news and analysis, and updating my facebook status to show solidarity with the protesters. That was the extent of my contribution to the biggest popular movement in Pakistan in some years. It’s not that my feelings of solidarity with the protesters were not genuine: they were. My stomach turned, eyes welled up, hair stood up. My emotions seemed to be in tune with the ebbs and flows of events. But while I was with the protesters in heart and mind, I wasn’t there physically. I wasn’t writing, conversing with, and aiding the movement in any active way. I felt useless and helpless, and I still do. I resented my privileged distance from the events, and I still do. I didn’t write much (and still don’t), so that avenue to engagement with the movement wasn’t open either. I felt it would have made no difference if I didn’t support the movement, was opposed to it, or was indifferent. Would it mean anything, for instance, for me to wear a black armband to work? No one would know or care about what it signifies. The gesture would be meaningless out of its context.
What can I do so far away but useless desktop activism? (If I wasn’t away, would I have done the same?)
I wish I was there: broken ribs, bleeding head, and all.