August 2011 archive

Bits and Pieces

There is a question that SCAF had at the beginning of the revolution: Is this a dignity revolution or a hunger revolution? After a while, they decided that it’s a dignity revolution, which is a lot easier to remedy than a hunger revolution. You see, a hunger revolution will tear everything apart, but a dignity revolution? Simple. Just give people some dignity.

” So, you want dignity? Fine, we will give you some dignity. First thing we will do is  create a referendum where YOU get to choose how the country works, even though WE will condition you to vote the way WE want you to. And WE won’t allow anyone to subvert your will or choice no matter how much they protest. Then WE will give you a parliamentary elections that will be totally honest at some point during the year, where YOU get to choose the representative according to a system that WE choose. You would like that, wouldn’t you? Oh, but you have an issue with Mubarak. He robbed you of your dignity. No problem. We will put him on trial in front of cameras, just FOR YOU, even though he will never see a day of prison. How about that to restore your dignity? Happy, huh? Now who is your favorite SCAF?”

Now that would work, if only that hunger revolution wasn’t coming as well….

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Unlike many of my compatriots, I was incredibly happy to see the Sharia Friday go down the way it went. Here is why:

  1. It ended the myth of Leftists-Islamist cooperation: For years I have been telling my leftist friends that any Leftist-Islamist alliance is a stupidly conceived idea on every level and is detrimental to the leftists more than anything, as history has shown every time such an alliance took place (Let’s not use Iran as our example, how about the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections? Oh, there was an alliance, and the MB ended up honoring the alliance by voting out every so called “leftist opposition politicians” from the Parliament). But no, please, let’s ignore that the Egyptian left has nothing in common with the Islamic right, neither socially nor economically (The economic programs of every Islamic party are the epitome of capitalism), and that the Left got screwed by the Islamic right repeatedly through-out the revolution, and make such an alliance and then act shocked when they dishonored the agreement. I understand that many people on the left believe in such an alliance because the Islamists used to get tortured in the same cell they used to get tortured in, but sometimes the enemy of my enemy can kiss my ass too. Just saying.
  2. It gave us a great hint to their size and financing: It was estimated to be 1-2 million and to have cost about 20 million LE, and this is all the salafi groups and the MB combined. If we apply a family multiple, let’s say 6, for each one there, then you have maximum 12 million islamists in Egypt, out of 85 million. Sweet. The money thing, however, not so sweet. They have incredible funding, which means this election will get very interesting very quickly.
  3. It scared the living shit out of the moderates: The best part about the whole experience was how alienating the islamist message was to the majority of Egyptians. Egyptians , for the last time, are moderates and this Afghanistan crap doesn’t appeal to them at all. So, the Islamists may have proven they can get numbers, but they have lost the center with this move. Good Job.

So in a nutshell, the Sharia Friday was great. More of this please. How about one every week? I really want them to bleed money.

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Did you watch the Mubarak trial? Didn’t you like how they added the Mubarak Case and the MOI case together for the first day, so you can see all the people you despise in one Holding Cell? Yeah, that wasn’t done to psychologically manipulate you at all.

Also, please watch it every day. It will only take 3 years, and if Mubarak isn’t dead by then, he will face house-arrest until he dies and will never see the inside of a jail cell. His sons, on the other hand, will get 3-5 years sentences topsand then leave the country to retire in Switzerland or something. Habib Aladly will be executed, of course.

Personally, after the first day, I am done with it. What will happen next will be a legal fiasco and a political circus. Not interested in either.

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For some reason, there are some famous revolutionaries who keep repeating the narrative that the Jan25 revolution wasn’t the peaceful revolution that the whole world saw. They cite incidents of violence reported and recorded on videos to support that theory. Incidentally this is the same group that always talks about violent escalation and the such.

Well, I am sorry, but this was a peaceful revolution because we didn’t go to the streets carrying weapons or pushing for violence. When we got attacked, we naturally defended ourselves, which naturally involved violence, because, well, our Police was shooting at us. And I have personally seen countless times when demonstrators around me would prevent people from carrying rocks or sticks in preparation for clashes with the Police on JAN 28th. So, this narrative is simply not true.

And while we are on the topic, I am officially going on record and stating that I am not pro violent escalation of any kind. Totally against it.

Self-defense, however, is another matter.

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One of the Silver-linings of the July 8 Sit-in was that it ended the phenomenon of people being lead by loud voices with no plan out of fear of not appearing revolutionary enough. Yep, that won’t work again.

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The Trick that the SCAF is using is simple and genius: Have people focus on the past (Mubarak Trial) and the present (Military Trials/SCAF actions) so that they don’t pay attention to the future, i.e. the parliamentary elections, which is in two months. And to those who say that the elections doesn’t matter and that it’s all about the revolution, well, the SCAF managed to completely screw the revolution for 5 months by a single referendum on 8 articles. Can you imagine what they can do with a democratically elected parliament?

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It’s not good to have demonstrations in Ramadan. It’s better to stay away during Ramadan, rest, strategize and come back ready. Ramadan, on its own, is a counter-revolution. No one is paying attention to anything, people distracted with fasting, eating, prayer than TV, and they have zero tolerance for anything beyond their own objectives in this month, which do not include the revolution. Hell, we have Tamer Hosny on TV, playing a revolutionary on a TV show.

You are playing the game of Public opinion, and your enemies have all the weapons. It wouldn’t hurt to be more strategic.

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A lot of people were shocked by SCAF statement #69 , where they singled out and attacked the 6th of April movement, even though it made perfect sense to me, because it’s all about monitoring the elections. First you get your minister of international co-operation (Mubarak loyalist Faiza Abulnaga) to make a big stink over international funding for local NGO’s , which they would need because election monitoring logistics are very expensive. Then you have SCAF issue an election law that forbids international monitoring of the elections, leaving it in the hand of the Judiciary, the same Judiciary that oversaw the fraud in every single election ever held in Egypt. And finally, they issue a statement against local groups that got trained on election monitoring abroad.

So, if the local NGO’s won’t get funding, international monitors won’t be allowed and internationally trained local groups that can actually monitor the elections are labeld agents and traitors, who will monitor what is only and arguably the most important election in the history of Egypt?

We need to start mobilizing people and training them on election monitoring. We can’t allow this one to get rigged.

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Not everything is a protest, a sit-in or a marsh. There are other tools that allow you to 1) Get all the people who support you to do so without leaving their houses, 2) prove that you have the numbers to back it up, and 3) stay away from fights with thugs.  Here is one: How about collecting signatures? A nice 8 million signature campaign demanding the firing of all Police Officers accused of torturing people, for example?

Do it, and then let’s see them try to downplay that.

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Dear SCAF, mentioning the part about how April 6 got trained in Serbia was a nice touch. People think Serbia, they think Milosevic killing muslims; they don’t think Otpur, the non-violent youth movement that took down Milosevic, and the one 6th of April models itself after.

Well done.

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It’s safe to say that the brand of the “revolution” has been damaged after being relentlessly attacked for months in state-media and by the reckless actions by some revolutionaries. It’s not beyond repair mind you, but what needs to be done to ensure that the revolution is a success has become too big to grasp for the average individual. For example, in the July 8 sit-in there was 7 demands listed, one of which is “cleaning the Media, the MOI and the Ministry of Justice”. Oh yeah, that’s one demand, and it mentions no specifics. And if you give people such a huge demand without mentioning the specifics of how it should be done, you are bound to lose them because, well, start with which one?

And here is the interesting thing : No one is against the demands. They are simply not big fans of the revolutionaries at the moment. Fair enough. Let’s change tactics.

Instead, let’s all pick one or two causes we are very interested in (MOI, Education, Media, whatever) and focus only on that. Do what “No military trials for civilians did”. Stick to the issue, keep pushing and it will become a national issue and part of the debate. Others will start supporting it, including Parliamentary candidates, who will want to be seen as advocating the people’s causes. And voila, you have yourself a lobby. And if you are not interested in lobbying, just monitor their activity and act as a Watchdog. Make sure that they are doing their job the way they should and expose them the moment they don’t. Off the top of my head, a Media Watchdog is incredibly necessary at the moment.

So yeah, let’s create Lobbies and Watchdog institutions on every issue, and work on it. Present solutions and policies and push for them.  Before you know it, they will become a permanent fixtures of our civil society, which will only make it stronger.

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The question of Elections first or Constitution first is irrelevant, because neither provides a solution to the real problem: Who, exactly, should be in the committee to write the constitution of your country?

Should it be constitutional law experts? Or Human Rights Lawyers? Or Sociologists? Or Psychologists? Or religious leaders? Or all of them? And if so, who?

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The 1952 revolution was a head without a body. The 2011 revolution is a body without a head. The head is trying to transplant itself on the body, and the body is violently rejecting the transplant.

Never mind that there is a Renaissance of culture taking place in Egypt ever since the revolution: art, poetry, music and humor – forces no army in history has ever defeated.

Never mind that there is an entire society being shaped as we speak, from political parties to underground media to empowered human rights activists, putting seeds that will change the future of this country forever.

Never mind that Independent unions have now jumped from 3 at the beginning of the revolution to 90 now. If each one has 20,000 members, welcome to a whole new player and force in the Egyptian political arena.

But never mind all that, remember when I said that peaceful protesting, that what we were trying to do, was nothing but being a safety pin for this country? That the moment we fail, other forces will look at peaceful protesting as futile, and will start using more radical means?

And did you pay attention to what went down in Suez, Sinai, and Gerga lately?

These are not isolated incidents, and they are not planned either. It’s an allergic reaction to a transplant operation that could never work.

Now imagine what will happen the moment the Delta rises, and it will, thanks to SCAF’s insistence on still appointing generals as governors instead of letting people appoint their own, or because of lack of serious land reform, or due to lack of services, or any of the other reasons that fueled those people to revolt. It will happen, because, as always, it’s only a matter of time.

And when that happens, well, God save us all.

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Food for thought: People cheered when the few remaining members of the sit-in were attacked by the Police and the Army. The reason? The people were mad that the Protesters were blocking things in Tahrir for 3 weeks, and intended to stay there for the duration of Ramadan, which they believe that no one should have protests during at all at the Square to facilitate and not block the insanely blocked Ramadan traffic. So they cheered.

Now, after the Police and the Army broke-up the sit-in, they stayed in Tahrir, arresting and terrorizing anyone who looked like a protester in order to ensure that no more protests or sit-ins take place. And they are doing so with gleefully violent abandon, because, well, they finally took back the square after 6 months. So they are out in force, being agressive and rude to people, and causing daily traffic jams and blockage. During Ramadan. And will probably continue to do this until its last day, at least.

Can you see where this is going? :)