So, unless you are in China, you are undoubtedly aware of the massive protests that have been going on in Egypt for the past few days. If you're like me, you are filled with a mixture of hope and anxiety. I sincerely hope that the Egyptian people will be able to establish a new government that is actually responsive to their needs, and that it can be done with a minimum of bloodshed. But I also know that it is possible that this ends with a brutal crackdown and the Egyptian government resuming business as usual.
Also, if you're like me, you feel a sense of solidarity with the protesters, but feel completely powerless to do or contribute anything. I am thousands of miles away, and do not have any inside information or clever insights on Egyptian politics and culture. I am a poet and a theoretical evolutionary biologist – two things that find little practical application even in the best of circumstances.
Still, I feel that I want to do something, so I will do what I know. I am going to dedicate this week's blog entries to the protesters in Egypt and to people everywhere who long for more freedom and better government. Topic-wise, I will discuss a number of recent scientific papers from the evolutionary literature on cooperation, punishment, and corruption.
I have no illusion that this can have any impact on the course of events in Egypt, or on the protests in Jordan, Yemen, and elsewhere. I simply hope that I can contribute something to the knowledge that we are all in this together.
The desire for freedom and safety and a better life for ourselves and our children is not defined or limited by nationality or religion or race or language. As an American, I am fully aware that my government's rhetoric about freedom and democracy is often at odds with its support of corrupt and anti-democratic regimes, including Mubarak's. But a government is rarely the same thing as a people. All of the people I have spoken with, American and not, are hoping and praying that this will be a turning point in history, and that the people of Egypt (and Iran and Myanmar and Uganda and on and on) can move forward together into a better future.
Peace be upon you.