The Square

I had the privilege of seeing this over the weekend, and it was like a gut-punch. I had friends working in Egypt during some of the events depicted here, and the film does a great job of giving you the scale of what was happening while still making room for the personal stories (and personal consequences) of the revolution.

There’s a moment at the end where Ahmed, the young man in the trailer, talks about what the real achievement of the revolution was, and how it gave rise not to one specific change in regime or law but in culture, because people now are expected to protest wrongs done to them. People who have been living in fear their whole lives aren’t supposed to just sit back and take it anymore. They’ve heard what their own voices sound like and once you’ve heard that, once you’ve felt what it can be like to be powerful, it’s over forever because you can never go back to being afraid ever again. Not the way you were afraid before.

And that’s a tremendous thing. We’ve talked here before about how the worst thing an abuser does to you is to make you afraid of yourself. Is make you think, “There’s no point in speaking out. There’s no point in speaking up. I’ll only get hit. I’ll only get hurt.” Is not just make you small but make you want to be small, and want others around you who agree with you to be small as well.

How many times do we hear this, every single day? Sit down, don’t make trouble, don’t be bitchy or obnoxious or needy, don’t talk about what you think is important. Don’t sing up to God the only song you possess about the rage inside you to be more, because you’ll only call attention to yourself. You’ll only make yourself a target. And instead of screaming GOOD, instead of saying “I am pissed off because there are things here to be pissed off about,” we settle back down and we stifle ourselves, and we tell ourselves we’re helpless.

We’ve never been helpless. We’ll never be helpless. Occupy, the union movement in Wisconsin and Ohio, the protests against the Iraq War, all the things we’re told are so silly and un-serious, all the times we’ve spoken up and been told that we failed … Don’t think I’m making a direct comparison to Egypt because I’m not, there are different kinds of risk involved and vastly different costs, but you tell me where standing up hasn’t made things better, if in no other way than remding us what we sound like, when we open our mouths and speak.


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