The revolts over the past two months have been largely constructive, patriotic, and open in spirit. Political extremism of any sort, leftist or Islamist, has been largely absent from the streets. Conspiracy theories have been the refuge of decayed rulers, not exuberant crowds. The United States, Great Britain, and Israel have been conspicuously absent from the sloganeering. (Libyan strongman Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi blamed unrest in his country on Al-Qaeda spreading hallucinogenic drugs.)
Citizen clean ups in Tahrir Square symbolize a new civic spirit.
Pessimism serves as a career enhancer in Middle East studies and I am known for doom-and-gloom. But, with due hesitation, I see changes that could augur a new era, one in which infantilized Arabic-speakers mature into adults. One rubs one's eyes at this transformation, awaiting its reversal. So far, however, it has held.
Perhaps the most genial symbol of this maturation is the pattern of street demonstrators cleaning up after themselves. No longer are they wards of the state dependent on it for services; of a sudden, they are citizens with a sense of civic responsibility.