The standout factor, for me, isn’t the violent conflict between young Egyptian militants and police in Cairo, or the economic factors driving the fury. It’s that none of this would be happening if it hadn’t been for the recent government overthrow in Tunisia. Political rage can ignite very suddenly. Why did many Eastern European socialist governments all topple within months of each other in 1989? All it takes is a flash of a match.

It’s too bad in a sense because Hosni Mubarak, autocratic dictator that he is, has been essentially pro-Israel and a force for political moderation and stablization for the last three decades. If he goes Egypt could become a Muslim brotherhood state, and that, of course, would threaten Israel. I wonder how many other dictatorial governments in the Middle East and northern Africa are going to come under siege?

There’s an almost romantic exhilaration that comes from joining mass street protests and yelling “throw the bums out.” Primal, primitive, decisive. “Violence and revolution are the only pure acts.” — Malcolm McDowell‘s Mick Travis in Lindsay Anderson‘s If…. But once this or that government has toppled and the thrill has subsided, that’s when the heartache begins.