In political science, there is a philosophical conundrum regarding the concept of “being for democracy”, and it has started 6 million thousand debates. Underlying that conundrum is the following question: Does being for Democracy mean supporting whatever decision the majority takes, even if it means the destruction of said democracy? Or does it mean supporting and ensuring the survival of the democratic process, even if it’s against the will of the majority? If the difference eludes you, let me give you an example, from right here in the middle-east. Algeria in 1991.
Now, in 1991, there was the first real attempt for democratic elections in Algeria, and the Islamic Salvation Front- an Islamist party- ran on the platform that there is no democracy in Islam, and that the moment they will seize power, they will cancel future democratic elections. And they won, the majority actually voted in a party that would end all voting, which led the army to immediately cancel the election, which in turn started a civil war that plunged the country into chaos for a number of years. Now, who is right here? Would you support the ISF’s win, even if it means that there will be no more democratic elections ever, and thus no checks and balances on their power? Or do you believe that democracy’s survival is more important for the well-being and the future generations that will come to this country, even if it subverts the will of the majority? A fun little conundrum, eh? People go on and on about it.
Now, let me tell you why I joined the revolution in the first place: Besides getting rid of our past lovely authoritarian regime, all I wanted out of all this was an Egyptian bill of rights, unalienable and irrevocable no matter who is in Power. I wanted the right to free speech, the right to free expression (artistic and otherwise), the right to peaceful assembly, the right to religious freedom, the right of equality between all citizens in terms of rights & freedoms (irrespective of Gender, religion, race, lineage, language, social origin or political opinion), the right to information and transparency to keep our government always in check, the right not to be subjugated to torture, or cruel or inhumane treatment, the right for equal protection of the law and security, the right not to be arbitrarily arrested, detained, exiled or have your citizenship stripped from you, The right to be considered Innocent until proven guilty and to be tried by a fair and impartial civil tribunal, where everyone has legal representation, and finally the right to education. Those are the rights I risked life and limb for, and they are not new or novel ideas, and you can find them all, and many more, in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, right here.
Now, when you start a revolution, you don’t have a revolution to plead for those rights: you have one to forcefully take them from those who denied them to you. Those rights are the foundation for any advanced democratic society or country, and they are not up for debate or discussion, and I will be damned if I will have someone elected in parliament denying me those rights or trying to negotiate or barter over them. I am sorry. I want in my constitution those rights, irrespective of who gets voted into power. And those who get into power should not be allowed to tamper with them or change them in any way, but are allowed to do whatever they want to the constitution after that. I don’t care if those elected state that we will be a Fascist country with Scientology as the source of all legislation, for whatever they will do, or whatever authoritarian/ sectarian/racist/sexist legislation that they will try to enforce on us in the name of security/ public morality/whatever will not be able to ever interfere with our blood-earned rights. As long as we have those rights in our constitution, we should be ok on the long run, and never be abused by a leader or a regime again.
But that’s my reason, and you can agree or disagree with it as much as you want. What I would like to discuss now, is why you, the general public, should go to the May 27 protests. Now, I won’t ask you to do so for my demands (although it would be nice if you did), nor for those of the protesters ( and god knows there are 7 different demands circulating right now, and many people who are going without a clear set of demands of their own) who are disorganized and divided and have given up on talking to anyone but themselves at this point, nor even to go there to defend the revolution. No, I want to talk to the silent Majority today regarding their set of interests: The Economy, Security and Stability, and why more than anyone, they should be going to May 27 to protest, because , seriously, if those are the three things you care about the most, well, you are getting screwed, and – just like the days of Mubarak-not by us! Sorry!
I know you will beg to differ, so let me present my argument, and then make up your mind. Deal?
On the Economy:
Now, the narrative regarding the economy has been as follows: The country is going downhill fast, all the statistics point to impending doom, we will go through our food reserves by the end of this month and the Tahrir Protesters have continued to hijack the wheel of production and are hiding it in Tahrir and covering it with protests. Does that sound about right? Ok, how about we tell the truth: The Transitional government and the SCAF for four months now have failed to present to you anything that resembled an emergency economic plan other than, well, the protests must stop. And they have repeatedly informed you with fantastic statistics about how screwed we are without once giving you a clear action plan as to how they plan to save it (And by the way, I see no difference in Tantawi asserting to us that we are a poor nation where 70% live under the poverty line without a clear plan or a notion of a plan as to how they will remedy that, and Mubarak’s famous response of “we are a country with limited resources; where am I supposed to feed you all from?” in an interview). Never mind for a minute that the whole “we will run out of our strategic wheat reserves at the end of this month” statement has been said by the SCAF every month for the past 4 months and it never happened, and let’s focus on the real issue: Where is the emergency aid package – consisting of money and food stamps- to egypt’s lowest economic classes designed to get them through the next few months until elections are held? Where is the stimulus package designed to aid small and mid-size businesses to also get through the transitional period? What? We have no money? Have you seen our Budget? None of you have. You don’t know what our revenues or expenses are, because we are not allowed to review the country’s finances until this day. Where are the new initiatives that they can spearhead and harness the positive energy that Tahrir created into creating many start-up and innovative companies? What about Tourism? How come there hasn’t been a single government initiative to encourage Tourism based on the fantastic goodwill that got generated in Tahrir? Why aren’t there freedom concerts being planned, touristic events- or even, Gee, I don’t know, a Jan25 Museum- to have people celebrate the new and free Egypt? Has Our Esteemed Minister of Tourism- whose previous job was owning a strawberry jam factory- proposed a single such initiative?
And what about the real hindrance to all businesses and economic developmental projects that wish to start in Egypt: institutional corruption? Why haven’t you tackled it or demanded it being addressed yet? And why do you perpetuate the Myth that Businessmen are being targeted? Having 7 or 8 corrupt very corrupt regime-connected Oligarchs in prison isn’t the country turning anti- Business or Businessmen, but rather anti- incredibly public corruption. Hey, Businessmen, you want to clear your names and not join the Mansours and Maghrabis in their self-imposed exile in London or join the other idiots that transferred billions to Dubai? Here is an idea: Join up and start the Businessmen Truth and Reconciliation initiative. We know that the supreme majority of you aren’t corrupt, but that you were surrounded by a corrupt culture that wouldn’t allow you to do anything without having you pay 18 different bribes. We get that, cause we all paid bribes to get any kind of public service done efficiently. Fine, so you paid bribes, but thankfully the Egyptian law is clear: if you paid a bribe to someone and reported it, they go to jail, and not you. So how about you all join up and file official charges against all of those you had to pay bribes to in order to get your business going and clear the slate once and for all? You wouldn’t be legally liable, and you would be doing the country a huge favor by exposing all the corrupt officials in all the ministries, municipalities and government institutions and cleaning them out once and for all. Imagine that. A Purge of all bribe-takers in all government institutions, and you would be the ones doing it. You would become Instant Heroes, and you would never have to pay a bribe again for your business to continue to function! Double Win! And if you are worried about legal liability, simply demand Amnesty. That’s the reconciliation part! And the government, if it’s really into cleaning the country of corruption, and calming the business community, they should’ve suggested that. They didn’t! You should demand it.
On the Security:
Let’s start with the simplest of questions: Where is the Police exactly? Do you know that besides showing some face as traffic police in some parts of Cairo, that’s the only time they have showed their face or done their jobs? Do you know that outside of the posh neighborhoods of Central Cairo (where the foreign journalists and local media move and congregate) the police still did not show up, and if they do, they refuse to act? Do you know that there are entire governorates that the Police never showed up at after the revolution, and the people are still fending for themselves there? And I am not going to talk about how when it comes to the 800+ people that got killed in the revolution, only one policeman was ever convicted for murder, and it was done in absentia because they can’t find him, because police abuse and murder doesn’t seem to bother you, even though they don’t care or differentiate who they kill. No, let’s talk numbers: The Police is the only group in the government that received raises for their salaries twice, and still didn’t show up for work. So, if we decide that we use the very unrealistically low average salary of 1000LE per policeman (factoring in low salary for Omanah and the high salaries of lewa2at) and multiply that to 1.5 Million official Policemen in Egypt, we are talking 1.5 Billion LE a month. That’s 6 Billion LE in the last 4 months, for not doing their jobs. Given that we are broke and our Budget is bleeding as they are saying, that’s money being wasted on people who were not doing their jobs before the revolution and are refusing to do so after, which I am sure you find to be unacceptable. The Police are getting paid to do a job, and if they are refusing to do it, then they shouldn’t be getting paid at all until they do it and they should be penalized for them. In essence, they swore an oath of death to uphold the law and protect you, and they are breaking that oath, which amounts to treason. How long do you intend to accept that and beg them to do their jobs? How long will you take that?
Stability comes from transparency. From understanding what is going on and where the country is going, which we don’t. We don’t know the date the elections will be held on, which technically could be less than 100 days away, until now. We have no clue what policies the government is taking, and what the different ministers have been doing for the past 4 months. Why isn’t it clear whether or not our government is taking action on the issues facing us? Why isn’t there a weekly report in all newspapers outlining the issues that the Transitional Government and the SCAF tackled this week, and the issues they have on their agenda for the next week? Why do we have to wait in front of Facebook until they release to us another Info-statement that is vague and sometimes in total contradiction to a previously released one? And while we are at it, why is this, this or this allowed to happen? How can there be stability in the light of all of this?
And my last question: Upon viewing all of this, how could you continue to sit still and not do something? How are you not the ones planning this Friday’s protest in Tahrir? You have been loyal. You have been on the side of reason. You have been accused time and time again that you are far too negative, far too complacent, far too willing to compromise for no reason and that you vehemently refuse to leave your couches to stand for something. That you are not willing to fight for the future of your country which you love. And you took all that, and You have made excuse after excuse for months and still got nothing. HOW ARE YOU NOT ANGRY?
This Friday I am going to Tahrir for one last time, and I am going because I believe my demands are just and legitimate. Yours are not any less valid, and you deserve to have them realized. So, if you went to Tahrir during the 18 days of the revolution, but stopped afterwards, it’s time to go again and make your demands known. If you have never been to Tahrir, and have been part of the “Silent Majority” who want nothing more than Security, Stability and Economic prosperity, then you, more than anyone, should go to Tahrir this Friday and for once make your voice heard and not be so silent after all. Just go once, and get all of your like-minded friends to go, and see if that won’t get your demands met ASAP. Your patience is taken for granted, and your pleadings fall on deaf ears on both sides. It’s time for you too to take a stand.
See you there!