It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.
Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.
The journey is part of the experience — an expression of the seriousness of one’s intent. One doesn’t take the A train to Mecca.
I am visiting Egypt, a country whose transition to full democracy is precariously poised. The military is currently ruling the country after the Tahrir Square “revolution” and it is unclear how this transition will end. Everywhere we go, we hear Egyptians expressing anxiety about the transition and asking whether the lessons of South Africa might be of relevance for the situation in Egypt.
“We do not have a Nelson Mandela here,” some academics tell us rather wistfully.
But it is far too early to understand what is happening in Egypt and to know whether our own experience of transition from an authoritarian to a democratic state would be of any relevance here.
What strikes me forcefully though, is that the South African transition was quite unique. Why did the apartheid military not revolt when FW de Klerk started the negotiating process? How close did we get to a military coup? How did we end up with a strong social democratic constitution when large sections of our society are deeply conservative and seemingly opposed to the liberal aspects enshrined in the Constitution? Why did the ANC show such an agile ability to strike the necessary compromises required to ensure the relatively smooth transition? Would President Jacob Zuma and the current leadership of the ANC have been as wise and canny as the leaders around Nelson Mandela? What are all those apartheid generals now think about the transition?
I have no time to try and answer these questions now. I am back on Saturday when I will Blog again on my return.BACK TO TOP