Monday, February 7, 2011

Tahrir Square: A Return to Maat

A Return to Maat

For Johns Hopkins professor Fouad Ajami, one image from Tahrir Square says it all: a little girl, about seven years old, standing on a skateboard and waving an Egyptian flag (see CNN, AC360, 3 February 2011).

We've seen that little girl before, long, long ago--jolie, simple, engaging--sun god's daughter, a mere child among the stately pantheon. She is Maat, "favorite child of the creator," who ever "remains near to him and constantly entertains him" (Erik Hornung, Idea into Image, 134). Her exuberance--skate-rocketing through our hearts--cloaks her divine import. Maat is governance, justice, truth, the grace that seasons the inchoate dawn--seasoning, harmony, balance--the one eternal ideal that can never be converted, recast, hijacked, cajoled, intimidated, shouted down, stampeded, crushed. Her victory is always sure.

And there is no more lack, no chaos when Maat bursts onto the square. Her prim feather-in-cap look both belies and defies the pressing weight of poverty and oppression. Her order is justice, her justice, truth: not an imposed security, not an indoctrinated truth, not an emergency law, or a secret plot in the hidden chambers. A pained Egypt, an Egypt broken and afraid, an Egypt writ large in lamentation, all succumb to the sunrise sourrire charms of Maat, to all that comes with the morning.

Here is a return to Maat, a return to hope, a return to truth--a return to Liberation Square. And there she stands--in a perky balancing act--irresistible, incontrovertible, unabashed, unshameable: pure exuberance on a skateboard, ostrich feather rocking in the air, flag firmly in hand.

Egypt, "Maat has come so that she may be with you." She is the very breath of freedom. "Kiss your daughter Maat, hold her to your nose" (Coffin Texts II, 35).

Quotations from Egyptologist, Erik Hornung, Idea into Image: Essays on Ancient Egyptian Thought, 1992, pages 132 and 134.

Since posting this piece, I've been finding other references to Maat and Tahrir Square. For example, Mona Seif, a brave, and protected, young Egyptian woman, edits a marvelous blog entitled, "Ma3t." Mona is our Maat on Tahrir Square.