The promise of the square: A conversation with Motaz Attalla
  • Our first Taking the Revolution Forward conversation is with Motaz Attalla, who we met last year at an unconference in India on alternative education. He had a large group of us riveted as he talked about his experiences in Tahrir Square during the early days of the Egyptian revolution, and his description of “the life of the square” was so compelling and hopeful that it inspired us to create this series of reflections. Click on the photo below to read an edited version of our conversation. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed having it.

    Photo by Kodak Agfa at

    January 8th, 2012 | Motaz Attalla | 1 Comment

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  • Aydin Yassemi 01.08.2012

    This piece has helped me revisit the link between many important concepts, which I summarized for myself, using the beautiful words and phrases that stand out in mind:

    Intimacy leads to courage and a “generative agency”, which needs to be supported by flexible “permeable organizations” to “engage the system in a way that creates more and more space for stakeholder voice”. Acknowledging the “the bio-diversity of existence” allows people to choose their roles in the broader ecology of both policy level and grassroots level, which are both necessary and need to be imbedded in each other.

    In the meantime “acknowledging the fact that we don’t know where things are going is in itself a generative thing”. Because “when we approach the whole more as mystery, without a desire to control it mentally”, there would be no anxiety. This will allow us to “host imagination”, with a “feeling that the world is there for you to engage in fully. Nothing is for the experts, nothing is for the politicians alone. They have their functions, but they are with us and we are with them in everything”.

    Whatever we come up with “has to be interrogated back against the experience itself because there is no causal thing that will ever keep it alive in perpetuity– whether it is freedom or engagement or community or creativity or safety or love. It is the continual inquiry into these states that keeps them alive. Because it is the thing itself that guarantees itself, not any kind of superstructure.” At the end “whatever political form you end up having is only as good as the people can enforce it”.

    Thank you Motaz for your lively, deep and generative account of the Tahrir Square events and thank you Tana and Warren for catalyzing questions and reflections that inspire a smooth flow of thoughts and connection of ideas.

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