Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Colorless Revolution

Nobody has, to my knowledge, named this uprising after a color or a plant. No cedar or green or jasmine here, so far. I find something glib about jumping to name revolutions like that, to weave them into a story that they may not rightfully be a part of. It's basically branding, this string of color revolutions, and setting up your revolution as a franchise in that brand conjures up exactly the same advantages and drawbacks of branding. It makes a movement more legible and recognizable, but also ties it to a brand identity that may not suit the, err, product.

So far, the revolution – if I may call it that – has shown an incredible lack of branding. I can't think of any particular colors that have dominated the palette at Tahrir square – save for the Egyptian flag. The slogans are straightforward, “down with the regime,”, “down with Mubarak,” “the people and the army are one hand”, and so on. It hasn't been particularly secular, particularly leftist, particularly Islamist, or particularly anything. These things can change, of course, along ideological and sectarian and other lines, but right now, the protesters are inspiringly, incredibly, united. They always refer to themselves simply as “the Egyptian people”.

So what should that be called? My friends and I used to joke about what the revolution here would be called: perhaps the Lotus Revolution or the Papyrus Revolution, a reference to the two flowers associated with ancient Egypt. Although: the lotus seems like a drug reference, and 'papyrus revolution' sounds awkward. And anyway, people spend far too much time thinking about ancient Egypt, and seem to think of actual Egyptians as inconvenient. I'd hate to perpetuate that. Someone suggested the Koshary Revolution, after Egypt's ubiquitous starchy comfort food, but that that just makes me want to put down my bullhorn and get some koshary. Maybe the Brown Revolution, since Cairo's color palette is dominated by browns and faded yellows, sandstone and concrete and dust and smog. Accurate, but not very inspiring.

As of this writing, it looks like the revolution still has no name. No jasmine petals, no cedar boxes, no rainbow colors for Egypt. So, for lack of access to flashy international brands and color-schemes, I have a humble suggestion for what to call it: the Egyptian Revolution.


  1. bad news... some dude on Al Jazeera English just dubbed it the Lotus Revolution

  2. I appreciated your insights and eyewitness accounts. Very thoughtful and free of cliches. Thank you.