There is an egyptian word, called "3abbath", and its most immediate translation for it is the english word folly. I have checked the thesaurus, looking for a cooler or a better sounding word, but this is what I got: absurdity, craziness, foolishness, idiocy, imbecility, inanity, preposterous, silliness.The story I am about to tell you embodies all of these words and more, but unfortunately folly remains the one true translation, so we are going to go with it.
The reason behind my infatuation with finding the appropriate word to translate here is due to the arrival of the first anniversary of the 6th of April strike, which so far has proven to embody the very essence of 3abbath. I have honestly spent the past 3 days following the media, reading blogs, facebook group walls, talking to bloggers, journalists, and activists trying to make heads or tails of this, and failing miserably. And I am not alone: The people I am talking- some of them are even participating- to are also confused. So, since it's unfair for us to be confused and for you to be all at peace with the universe, I shall tell you what I know, and you can tell me, in ur humble opinion, what the fuck is going on.
It all began one year ago, when a group on facebook called upon a general strike in Egypt on the 6th of April, 2008. The big deal was that over 60,000 assholes have done what we all do when we get facebook group invitations and joined the group. The media paid attention, and working its usual bullshit, suddenly created the most powerful political entity to grace the sands of Egypt : THE FACEBOOK YOUTH MOVEMENT ! Now, mind you, as the time I told you that it's a media fabrication, actually, let me quote myself while I am at it:
You see, it's kind of hard to predict the outcome of a strike that has
no clear organizers or participants, with everything operating in a
very anarchist manner. In order to combat such uncertainty and
confusion, the media invented a new political entity that is behind all
of that is happening. What did they call it? "The Facebook Youth
movement", I kid you not. So now the Facebook Youth movement is the new
political player in town, with newspapers running stories on how they
are calling for this or demanding that, which is basically them making
a story from any asshole creating a group calling for something on the
Egypt network. This reminded me of when they started running stories on
the new gods of politics, media and activism: "The Egyptian Blogger
Movement". Remember that shit? When they used to run stories on how
"The Egyptian bloggers called for this or organized that", like we are
some sort of monolithic entity that actually agrees on everything and
is organized and has goals and leadership. I kept asking every blogger
I know to introduce me to the coordinator, the supreme leader or even
the spokesman of "The Egyptian Bloggers", but they would be as stumped
as I was.
So, last year, the day of april 6th came and went and we didn't see a single member of the so-called "facebook youth movement" doing anything, because, let's face it, they were probably poking each other on facebook. And the day was going on its way to being a complete bullshit and waste of a day, until the Mahalla Workers actually believed the hype and joined the strike, and rioted when they were cracked down upon by the police. We were then greeted by multiple heart-warming images of people stepping over pictures of Mubarak and stuff, but they were soon replaced by pictures of people getting beaten up, shot at and arrested. The work in leading the workers that day was organized and lead by leftist labor activists such as Karim ElBehery, who wasn't a member of the " Facebook Youth movement", nor were any of the workers. That did not stop the FYM leaders- especially Ahmed Maher- of congratulating themselves and taking credit for the whole thing, as if they were Saad Zaghloul incarnate, and the movers and shakers of the egyptian people. The Media lapped it up, suddenly they were getting interviewed and invited to meetings and conferences, because, and I quote, "they managed to harvest the power of facebook to utilize it as a tool for grass-root activism". And again, I repeat, they accomplished all of this by clicking on the join button. As for the real heroes of April 6th, the poor underpaid and courageous workers who took a stand that day? Well, they were never interviewed by the media, or the satellite news networks, never were invited to a conference, or were the focus of a news piece. What they were the focus on, was the government's vengeance: many lost their jobs, many ended up with jail sentences of 5 years, and they still get paid 20 dollars a month. And since some dick in the comments section will try to make the asinine point that FYM leaders should get some credit because they called for the strike, I shall remind them that they called for another strike less than a month later and NOTHING HAPPENED. You know why? Because the workers figured out the game: The assholes on facebook call on them to strike, they actually do strike, they get arrested and the assholes on facebook get more interviews. So, it became apparent for anyone with half a functioning brain (which doesn't include Freedom House, the US state department, the canadian embassy in egypt's political officers amongst many others) that the FYM people were wankers: Unreliable attention whores who have no problem lying and believing their own lies. And to cement their status as wankers, they changed their name: They are now called the "6th of April Youth", commemorating their day of victory and courage when they stayed home and did nothing, and then took the credit of the work of those who believed their bullshit.
And now one year has passed, and they are calling for another strike on this 6th of April. And to combat the notion that they are a group trying to extend its 15 minutes of face by capitalizing on a victory that was never theirs, they proposed to change the name of the strike, and demanding that the 6th of April would be known in the egyptian lexicon as "the national day of anger". Anger over what, exactly, we are not told, but since Egypt is so fucked up, they figure everyone has something to be angry about, so why the fuck not. They do have a list of demands (they prefer to call them abrogated rights), which include the government providing more jobs, a better future, better schooling, better hospitals, lower prices, higher wages, linking all salaries to inflation, abolish the state security apparatus, the removal of Hosny Mubarak and stopping his son from becoming the next President, a new constitution, stop the selling Gas to Israel, stop receiving US aid and for our country to withdraw from the GATT. Nice list, huh? I wonder why they stopped there? Why not demand that the government provides all 80 million egyptians free housing, free utilities, the promise to find them their soul mates and peace on earth while we are at it? That's al that this list is missing. I guess they were afraid the government won't take them seriously if they added the peace on earth demand. Everything else is totally realistic and achievable though. Anyway….
What brought them to my attention, however, was the news stories on them. There was one news item where they were complaining of receiving threatening SMS messages from State Security, because, as we all know, when the egyptian state security wants to intimidate someone, they send them an SMS. This was followed by news of a competition started by the 6thof april youth, for "best poster calling for a strike", "best video calling for a 6th of april strike by an individual". "best video calling for a 6th of april strike as a group"," best 6th of April strike inspired work of literature" (including poetry, novels, plays and moviescripts-kid you not) , and "best 6th of april srike inspired cartoon". The winners will get "valuable prizes" and "certificates of appreciation". Who is issuing such certificates? No one knows. You know what no one also knows? WHO THE FUCK IS JOINING THE STRIKE!
You see, at first it was the 6th of April youth, and that's it, which was fine, because it meant it will be a bunch of kids sitting on their asses at home watching facebook again. They were then joined by the Karama party (which is basically the 20 nasserites who go to demonstrations), the Ghad party (which is also basically the 30 liberals that go to demonstration), the democratic front party (which has no street presence what so ever), and the Kefaya movement (which is Geroge Ishac and Abdel Halim qandil at this point). The Muslim Brotherhood at first declined to join, and then changed its mind and decided to join but not really. They are "in solidarity", which is the same as saying "our hearts are with you, but our asses is staying home". When I asked my leftists friends if the worker movemnets are joining the strike as the 6th of april website says they are, they responded by saying and I quote :" Don't say strike…say demonstration…and while they are not participating in it, but they are in solidarity with it."
So, if the workers are not going to do anything, and the muslim brotherhood are not going to do anything, and the other parties have proven to have very limited to none street presence, who is doing the strike? How will we unleash the anger? Why is anyone taking this seriously?
Well, because our paranoid government kind of is taking it seriously: they are calling for a state of emergency, and they are arresting "6th of april activists". The arresting started two days ago, when two girls: Omneyah Taha Ahmad, and Sarah Ibrahim, were arrested for distributing flyers calling for the strike at their university. When the state prosecutor decided to jail them for 15 days "pending investigation", their friends did a sit-in in front of the police station, which the police took as an excuse to arrest them as well, all 30 of them, and they were all labeled , you guessed it, "6th of april youth". And god knows who is next on their list. Last time they arrested anyone who had a political history and happended to be walking on the street that day, you know, as a precaution. I wonder what kind of "precautions" they will engage in this time.
Also taking this seriously is Ayman Nour, who is apparently jealous of a bunch of facebookers overshadowing his status as Egypt's #1 dissident, so he is preparing to capitalize on their "work", which is all kinds of ironic when you think about it. You see, Ayman is planning a major declaration after the passing of theglorious "national day of anger" to publicize something he is calling "The Cairo Declaration for Democrcay", where he will probably declare that we need democracy. It should be very exciting. It's the cutting edge of politics in the most boring and childish of ways.
But don't think I am predicting the failure of the 6th of april protest. Au contraire, mon cheres. You see, what they wnat people to do, is to stay at home (That's how they are asking the people to participate in the strike). So if no one does anything, and stayed home, that's their definition of success (Now do you get my 3abbath refrence? Does it get my 3abbath than this?). So I will do my part, and stay home. But don't doubt for a second that they won't get my support: I will be in solidarity with them, every step of the way, from my couch!