Rejoice. Mubarak has gone.

But what comes next?

Rejoice, rejoice. The man who tortured and terrorised his people for 30 years; the man who used dogs to rape inmates of his prisons; the man who was propped up with $1.3bn of US military aid each year . . . He's gone. Resigned. Stood down. Toppled. By people power. God bless the brave people of Egypt, of Cairo's Tahrir Square, who have inspired us all.

Once they took to the streets on 25 January, it was only a matter of time. As the New Yorker's David Remnick pointed out in a blog post last night:

The delusions of dictators are never more poignant – or more dangerous – than when they are in their death throes. To watch Hosni Mubarak today in his late-night speech in Cairo, as he used every means of rhetorical deflection to delay his inevitable end, was to watch a man so deluded, so deaf to the demands of history, that he was incapable of hearing an entire people screaming in his ear.

But Mubarak has quit, leaving his vice-president, the former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, in charge. So what happens now? The danger is that Mubarak may have gone but the Mubarak regime stays in office. Others, including the neoconservative commentator Douglas Murray, with whom I appeared on Question Time last night, worry that the Muslim Brotherhood will seize control of the country.

But as Olivier Roy, one of the world's experts on Islamism, points out in the New Statesman's cover story this week, these uprisings in the Arab world have not been led by Islamists; on the contrary, Islamists have come late to the party. And as Bruce Riedel, former CIA official and adviser to Presidents Bush and Obama, pointed out last month:

They [the Obama administration] should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won't be easy but it should not be seen inevitably as our enemy. We need not demonise it nor endorse it. In any case, Egyptians now will decide their fate and the role they want the Ikhwan to play in their future.

I'm no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood, nor do I share its political or theological views, but I do think it is important that we try to understand the MB rather than just dismiss or denounce it. Try some of these links for a more informed and intelligent alternative to Murray's scaremongering:

– "Don't fear Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood", Brookings Institution

– "The Muslim Brotherhood after Mubarak", Foreign Affairs

– "The moderate Muslim Brotherhood", Foreign Affairs

– "The Muslim Brotherhood: should we engage?", New Statesman

– "Wolves or sheep?", Economist

– "Egypt can bring in the Brotherhood", Financial Times

– "What the Muslim Brothers want", New York Times

But the events in Egypt are about much more than the Muslim Brotherhood or the politics of Islamism in the Middle East. We are witnessing the glorious triumph of a peaceful and popular revolution in the most populous Arab country in the world. Let me end by once again quoting from Remnick's excellent blog post:

The drama is far from over and its course is far from predictable. But there is no doubt of its revolutionary importance to the Middle East. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who was among the most prominent activists to spend time in Mubarak's prisons, told me the other day that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt were proof that Arabs – particularly young Arabs – want no less than what other people want. They refuse powerlessness, they refuse kleptocracy, they demand the rule of law. "This is a revolution of the 21st century," he told me. "It is a young person's revolution, and we can only hope that it will not be stolen, somehow, by an older generation or a newer Mubarak. We have to hope this empowerment will transform the Arab world.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Empty highs: why throwaway plastic goes hand in hand with bankrupt consumerism

We are in the throes of a terrible addiction to stuff.

A University of California study revealed this week that mankind has produced more than nine billion tonnes of plastic since the 1950s, with almost all of it ending up in landfill or the ocean. With the terrible effects of our decades-long addiction to throwaway packaging becoming increasingly apparent, it’s clear that a fresh approach is needed.

In April 2010, David Cameron set out his vision for Britain in the Conservative Party’s manifesto. Keen to show that the Tories had turned away from the "I’m Alright Jack" individualism of the 1980s, Cameron sought to fashion a softer, more inclusive brand.

The good society, Cameron argued, embraced much higher levels of personal, professional, civic and corporate responsibility. There was such a thing as society, and we’d all do well to talk to our neighbours a bit more. The Big Society, however, was roundly derided as a smokescreen for an aggressive tightening of the Government purse strings. And on the advice of his 2015 election fixer Lynton Crosby, Cameron later dropped it in favour of well-worn lines about economic security and jobs.   

While most would argue that the Big Society failed to amount to much, Cameron was at least right about one thing. We are happiest when we are part of something bigger than ourselves. No matter how much the credit card companies try to convince us otherwise, mindless individualism won’t make us nearly as contented as we’re led to believe by big conglomerates.

By any measure, we are in the throes of a terrible addiction to stuff. As a nation, we have run up unsecured debts of more than £350bn, which works out at £13,000 per household. Fuelled by a toxic mix of readily available credit and interest rates at historic lows, we cripple ourselves financially to feel the empty high derived from acquiring yet more stuff.

Purchasing has become a leisure pursuit, ensuring the rate at which we acquire new stuff exceeds the rate at which we can find somewhere to put it. Burdened with ever increasing amounts of stuff, consumers are forced to outsource their storage. The UK didn’t have a self-storage industry 30 years ago, but now it is the largest in Europe.

With the personal debt mountain soaring, we’d all do well to realise that we will never have enough of something we don’t need.

The growth of rampant consumerism has coincided with an explosion in demand for single-use plastic. Like the superfluous possessions we acquire, throwaway plastic packaging helps satisfy our desire to get exactly what we want without having any thought for the long-term consequences. Plastic packaging is easy and convenient, but ultimately, will do us immense harm.

In 1950, close to 1.5 million tonnes of plastic was produced globally. Today, the figure stands at more than 320 million tonnes. The vast majority of our plastic waste either ends up in landfill or the ocean, and our failure to kick the plastic habit has put is in the ludicrous position where there is set to be more plastic than fish in global seas by 2050.

There is also growing evidence that our penchant for endless throwaway plastic might be storing up serious health problems for our children later down the line. According to a University of Ghent study published earlier this year, British seafood eaters risk ingesting up to 11,000 pieces of plastic each year. The report followed UN warnings last year that cancer-causing chemicals from plastic are becoming increasingly present in the food chain.

Something must give. Unsustainable as our reliance on fast credit to finance ever more stuff, our addiction to plastic packaging is storing up serious problems for future generations. The instant gratification society, high on the dopamine rush that fades so quickly after acquiring yet another material asset, is doomed unless decisive action is forthcoming.

So what is to be done? The 2016 US documentary Minimalism points to a smarter way forward. Minimalism follows the lives of ordinary people who have shunned the rat race in favour of a simpler life with less stuff and less stress. The most poignant bit of the film features ex-broker AJ Leon recounting how he chose to forgo the glamour and riches of Wall Street for a simpler life. After a meteoric rise to the top of his profession, Leon decided to jack it all in for a more fulfilling existence.

While challenging the view that to be a citizen is to be a consumer is easier said than done, there are small changes that we can enact today that will make a huge difference. We simply have no choice but to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic that we can consume. If we don’t, we may soon have to contend with the ocean being home to more plastic than fish.

Like plastic, our bloated consumer culture is a disaster waiting to happen. There must be a better way.

Sian Sutherland is co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet which is campaigning for a plastic free-aisle in supermarkets.