Egyptian Protesters: Meekness Be Darned!

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

Courageous Egyptians are saying, “Meekness be darned” in their quest for freedom, human rights and democracy. Their voices resemble that of another Egyptian named Moses. The protesters are inspiring others to claim their voice and imagination. In the process they reminding us of what meekness really is.

Egyptian voices for freedom refuse to accept the wily machinations of their modern day pharaoh. They know all too well his manipulative and corrupt use of power to deny the fully humanity of his fellow citizens. Their voices for freedom know that the journey to creating the new human involves claiming their own humanity. They’re breaking out of the enclosure that their president has attempted to keep them penned into.

Moses did not have the tools of social media and El Jazeera at his disposal in inviting the Jews who lived in Egypt to mobilize in the same way that todays’ protesters do. Those who wrote about Moses presented him as the courageous leader on a pedestal. That is very different than the mass groundswell for freedom that has emerged in Egypt today.  Or is it? 

Moses’ success in confronting the Pharaoh depended on the Jewish people living in that country keeping alive the image of a Promised Land of freedom. Like the modern day Egyptians their identity as human beings was connected to their willingness to say no to being constrained.

The biblical stories about Moses celebrate his “meekness.”  At first glance that seems like a contradiction to us. Weak, abused and doormat all mingle together when we think of “the meek.”  Those images of meekness were the consensus of a recent discussion I participated in on Darkwood Brew about being the concept of “the meek.”  They are life-draining negative images about suppressing the spirit and humanity of people. The evidence points to a different story of claiming your voice and embracing life fully.

Many of us have experienced the religiously infused cultural use of meekness as code language for being pliable, subservient and obedient. It smacks of being a Jell-O person. Those invested in keeping people enclosed from their fully humanity rely on these expectations of meekness. It is no doubt what the Egyptian president would like to return to in suppressing the humanity of his fellow citizens. But there is another way to thing about the meek creating the new human.   

Moses’ courage to speak from his heart against the might of an all-powerful leader and regime shone through in spite of his attempts to deny his own voice. He tried to find an excuse to avoid speaking for freedom by hiding behind a speech impediment. Not too different than our attempts to say “my voice won’t make a difference.”

The meekness that Moses is celebrated for is the way in which he and his unlikely small band of people defeated the military might of the pharaoh. It is a meekness that said “no more” to denying freedom.   

Meekness be darned means banishing our popular associations of the word with wimpiness. There is nothing timid about the historic figure of Moses or the millions of modern say Egyptians pursuing a similar yearning. The Pharaoh of Moses’ time used every resource at his disposal to crush the imagination and aspiration of the Jewish people taking freedom into their own hands. Plagues, pestilence and a mighty military were all deployed to try to crush them. Egypt’s current pharaoh may well employ a modern day version of the same playbook.

If the meek do “inherit the earth” it is because individuals have the courage to celebrate, claim and believe in the power of their own voice. It is because those individual voices reflect an imagination inviting us to imagine how things might be and then to work for its realization.

Is this why the courage of ordinary Egyptians is inspiring so many around the world? Is it because they remind us that change, hope and freedom invite our participation? 

Egyptian voices for freedom invite our support. They remind us of our deepest shared yearnings. They set an image before us of a sacred field of life on which we meet one another. How will we reflect that oneness with them? What shall we do in our lives with our voice and imagination?

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  1. where are the u.s. gatherings, robert, in support of the the freedom movement in egypt? i can’t find any.

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