June 2012 archive

The Game

In a few hours, and after a week of wait, we will finally get the presidential results. There are two presidential candidates that are so close in terms of votes that it makes half of the country hostile to whomever is coming. The two dueling camps both now have their own spots for massive protests, after having the Shafiq supporters move their protest spot to Nasr City. The imagery on TV, presenting the dueling protests, were something that occupied the entire night capturing in live video imagery how divided this country is at the moment. The situation in Egypt has turned hilariously complex, to the point that if you detach yourself completely from the fight, You will be able to see the fascinating design that’s taking shape, and what the very near future holds for us.

First of all, we should admit that this is a very strange elections in terms of the reasoning behind the opposing camps, especially that they seem to be fueled by hate more than any other emotion: The Shafiq supporters hate the MB whom they believe are co-opting and using the “naively idealistic revolutionaries” for their own gains, and the Revolutionaries hate the Shafiq-Supporters or the fellol amongst them, to the point that they are willing to sacrifise anything to ensure they don’t reach power again, with the MB to gain from this. Their motivations are different: The Shafiqistas truly believe that they are actively trying to save Egypt, or their civil vision of it, from the almost totally ruining change in the country and society that will befall it if Mb wins, while the Revolutionaries truly believe that they are actively trying to save their revolution, whom they believe is what’s going to be in Egypt’s best interest on the long term. Their motivations are based on the concept of “Save what can be saved”, since the revolutionaries are trying to save the revolution’s and the country’s fig leaf with ensuring that the old regime candidate doesn’t win, while the Shafiqista are trying to save what’s remaining of their Egypt after the “security failure” and “economic ruin” have completely messed up their way of life, and they are not willing to have their society changing against them permanently as well, hence the Shafiq Slogan “Egypt is for all Egyptians”. They want to ensure and secure their place legitimately in the country, and they should also have a say in what’s going on, or else it’s not really a democracy. The Shafiqista’s are playing democracy, ladies and gentlemen. They are even protesting now in massive numbers. How things have changed. :)

But the interesting thing in all of this, with Tahrir being mainly MB, and Nasr City being mainly Shafiq supporters (Fellol, kanaba and general anti-MB individuals), the supreme majority of the revolutionaries sat home, for the first time, on their couches, and watched protesters protesting in the streets, and the country being divided in a fight that they are not uniformly invested in. It’s our turn to watch and freak out and analyze, and have the time to actually see what insanity gets spewed over our fantastic Media. The Media’s coverage of the elections is such a circus, that they are, in my opinion, hands down the only real winner in this election. And the worst part, they never actually tell you anything. You are simply watching verbal duels, and may the best-spoken win. Political entertainment and Theatre, in a surprisingly advanced way. It’s excellent. But all for nothing: It’s clearly obvious that Morsy will win the presidency. It’s the easiest route to resolve the situation, as long as they negotiate their deal’s arrangement with the MB, which they have been doing this whole past week. Feels awesome that our presidential election results are being negotiated. YAY democracy. YAY Voting.

But the crowning of Morsy for President will lead to the appearance that the MB have won the Game, and SCAF made the rules of the game, so how could they lose it by Morsy winning? Why would they do that?

Well, because whomever the next President is, his first term will only last 6 -9 months, by law. You see, SCAF will write the constitution, and will do one that will be appealing to most people, and then call a referendum on it, and the moment that happens, they will hold the parliamentary elections and then redo the presidential elections as well, which Morsy is not going to win it. Why? Well, because we have a very impatient population that wants quick improvements and Morsy will be screwed because of the horrifyingly bad economic situation that will take place in Egypt in those few coming months, and not only because of the world economic situation or Egypt’s economy, but mainly thanks to the Ganzoury budget. This is the Budget that Kamal Ganzoury made for the coming government and will be approved by SCAF, as the legislative e branch of the government before Morsy takes power and swears the oath on the 30th. Before that ceremony, he is not the president, and SCAF still is. What will that Budget entail? Well, after spending his year as PM spending like a drunken sailor up to 130% of the budget (and depleted many reserves), Ganzoury has probably assembled what appears to be an excellent budget, with all the figures balancing and a lesser deficit, but mainly due to cutting off a good chunk of fuel subsidies. Rumors are that it’s estimated to jump at least 50% in price the moment Morsy steps into office in July. Can you imagine what will happen? The protests? The precious and stingy way people will treat their gas? The less traffic due to the notion that no one wants to go anywhere unless they will really have to, and thus less social life? The increased price of transportation for people without cars? The increased price of goods due to the increased price of transportation? Fun Times ahead, folks. A fun year certainly.

Morsy knows that all of the unrest and unhappiness that such a budget would have a serious influence on his chances of re-elections or the Muslim Brotherhood in parliamentary elections, which is why he is trying to appoint a Prime Minister that is not Muslim Brotherhood, but rather a non-MB civilian accepted by most to take the blame for the government’s future economic failure. And, quite naturally, they offered it to Baradei , because he is our #1 choice for replacement leaders in times of crisis. Amazingly, he is the almost always available option when someone in the revolution’s camp gets stuck with the question of “who should we bring for this most unpleasant situation? Baradei, of course. Call him”. Well, if you love Baradei, you should hope he doesn’t accept that post, or else he would be set-up to take the blame for the bad economy set-up taking place. The problem for us as revolutionaries would be that given that Morsy is the revolution’s candidate, then he would be the second time that the choice presented by the revolutionaries to lead was “a failure for the economy”, the first being Essam Sharaf. We will never get taken seriously after that,, and we will be blamed for all of Morsy’s messes. He is the revolution’s candidate, according to some people. Also, please anticipate the emergence of the new Elite, made up for very rich MB families, and how they will start flaunting it now. Their business aristocracy will start showing immediately, with magazines wanting us to get to know the Morsy offspring and the Shater Kids. The Shater Family on Enigma’s cover. Imagine.

If Shafiq ends up winning, then the SCAF truly is playing with fire, since the MB will start causing unrest, and with them many revolutionaries and the bad economic situation will raise the heat on both SCAF and Shafiq, and makes it impossible for him to get re-elections, and it would revitalize the MB in popularity. Why would they do that? Already they have proven that the Islamists aren’t the majority of the country, and that Morsy can’t do it without the revolutionaries voting for him. If you noticed, Morsy rhetoric stopped being religious or islamist, and more revolutionary. Sharia is no longer selling politically, with the population. If it did, they would’ve used it, but they are also aware that the way they used to get votes or support will not work for a while. Political Islam is changing, and its practitioners no longer have their Halo’s in the eyes of the public. The next parliamentary elections will not have Islamists winning the majority, at all, either way. The Game has changed.

This next phase is going to be a doozy. Save your money, people. You are going to need it.

Chapter’s end!

  • In my humble opinion, today concludes the end of the first chapter of the Egyptian revolution. I know that other people have it divided into sections in regards to original 18 days, elections, parliament and presidential elections, but I don’t subscribe to that. We went into the revolution with the same thinking that people like me had back in 2005: we must remove Mubarak, stop his son from inheriting us, and get democratic elections. All of us had those goals and not a single vision on what to do afterwards, because the removal of Mubarak was such a pipedream. So, you successfully dethrone a tyrant, and you have neither plan nor vision on what to do afterwards, and no real understanding of the regime itself, then, quite naturally, you fall flat on your face, and we have been doing that for the past 18 months. This has been our story: the removal of a dictator and the repercussions that follow. That’s what’s been happening. This ends today, and the new chapter starts, for better or worse.
  • I never bought for a second the notion that Shafiq is SCAF’s candidate, mainly because everyone would think that he is, so his success or failures would be counted as their successes and failures. And it would be mostly failures, because there is something called the international economy and its tanking, so he would’ve never been able to deliver on his promises, and the Egyptian people are an impatient lot, so attacks on him, and subsequently SCAF would weaken their popularity amongst the population, with no one else left to blame anymore. So why would they do that? It’s best not to have a candidate, and to turn a blind eye to Morsy’s violations, have him win as the “revolutionary candidate”- because some morons have hyped him as such- and have us deal with the consequences. In reality, SCAF don’t need to make a deal with anyone, because they have all the guns and institutions, so they know that whoever will get in will have to make a deal with them. In the end, there was no SCAF candidate, but rather the former NDP battling the MB, and the revolutionaries, instead of recognizing that they are both enemies and choose to stay out of this fight, many of them joined Morsy, something which they will regret for years.
  • I invalidated my vote, mainly because I refuse to succumb to fear-politics and thinking that they both suck as candidates. That being said, I have been under continuous attack from many of the revolutionaries for not supporting Morsy. Well, my dear friends, I am sorry that you are a bunch of cowards that let your fear control your political choices. I am not that kind of man. If I attacked Morsy, it’s because I don’t want him being dubbed the revolution’s candidate, because he simply isn’t, and will never be in my eyes. Our revolution called for a civil state: nonreligious, non-military, and this guy will try to form a religious military state. The people who supported Morsy, believing that the MB will change or be democratic, are really 3 groups: 1) People pissing in their pants out of fear, 2) People who made deals with the Brotherhood (and yes, Maher, I am looking at you), and 3) people who are stupid enough to believe that the MB will change or not betray them the first chance they got. For me, the choice was simple: have the MB and NDP fight, while we organize ourselves so we can face off with the winner afterwards, but groupthink has always been the cancer of this revolution, so here we are. Good Job. Enjoy being accomplices in what’s to come.
  • Today also marks the end of the concept of revolutionary legitimacy, with all the symbolic actions that came with it and defined it. Everyone who had it, failed. People will need to actually do something except alienate people who are their allies and continue to take the dumbest route possible at all times. If you are a revolutionary, show us your capabilities. Start something. Join a party. Build an institution. Solve a real problem. Do something except running around from demonstration to marsh to sit-in. This is not street work: real street work means moving the street, not moving in the street. Real street work means that the street you live in knows you and trusts you, and will move with you , because you help them and care for them, not because you want to achieve some lofty notions you read about in a book without any real understanding on how to apply it on Egyptian soil. You have done nothing of the kind so far, and it’s the only way you will get ahead.
  • The next phase requires 4 things: 1) For all the leaders and the symbols to, once, just once, put aside their petty differences and ideological purity for the greater good of the country (which they never have been able to do), and sit down and figure out what their mistakes were and what kind of plan amending them will require, 2) Once they put that plan, they need to recues themselves from the frontlines of the revolution once and for all, and let the second and third generation take over. We failed them, they should stop following us and taking our cue, including tossing that plan in the trash if they don’t think it would work. We should be there to support and help in any way they can, but it’s time for new generation of symbols and leaders, or we are doomed; 3) They cannot be reactionary, emotional or ignore a single front: We will need people on the development front, cultural front and political front. Without being on all of those fronts at once, we will fail; and 4) We should ignore the notion of Unity, and instead of focus on co-operation: We are too different in our ideologies, principles and methods, which would make it impossible for us to unite in one entity. Fine, don’t, create your separate entities, choose your area and work together when needs be. JUST DON’T FIGHT EACHOTHER OR ACCUSE EACTHOTHER OF TREASON. It got you nowhere so far, and it has re-enforced the notion that you are a bunch of children that can not be trusted to run an ice cream shop, let alone a country.
  • While we are too busy to mourn our losses, we should also not forget our gains; This is what we won:

     

    • Hosny Mubarak, his son and his VP are not ruling us.
    • The NDP is broken into many different pieces
    • The next President is chosen through fair, competitive and democratic elections, not matter what the outcome.
    • Freedom of Expression, press and speech.
    • The weakening of the MB, the salafis, the end of using religious speech for political gains (Notice how Morsy didn’t say a single Sharia thing in the past 2 weeks)
    • Serious understanding to the nature of the state we live in and the roots of its problems, which we never really knew before.
    • Interlinking between individuals all over the governorates that would’ve never taken place otherwise.
    • Serious weakening of classism in a classist society
    • Incredible amount of art, music and culture that was unleashed all over the country
    • Entire generations in schools and universities that have become politicized, aware and active.
    • A serious evaluation of our intelligentsia and why they suck.
    • Discovering the difference between symbols and leaders, and our need for the latter than the former.

       

  • No matter what the outcome is, I am neither depressed nor demotivated. I have resolved, many months ago, that this revolution is continuing with or without me, and that the clash with the state and the MB is inevitable and coming, and that it won’t stop anytime soon, mainly because the problems that sparked it are real, and no one has attempted to fix them, and they are getting worse by the minute. Whether we like it or not, whether we live to see it or not, this fight will continue. Many people keep saying that there is no turning back, without actually understanding what that means. Well, it means that there is no exit strategy for this mess, no quick fix solution, and no way out without serious compromises by all parties, which will not happen without political or real clashes, and won’t stop until equilibrium is reached. For better or worse, what we had before won’t happen again. This ship has sailed. Understand what that means, and make your choices accordingly, but know this: Fight or Flight, there is no going back. The next Chapter begins now.

Does that sound familiar?

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. It is the mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints.

Causes of Groupthink:

  • High group cohesiveness
  • Structural faults:
    • insulation of the group
    • lack of impartial leadership
    • lack of norms requiring methodological procedures
    • homogeneity of members’ social backgrounds and ideology
  • Situational context:
    • highly stressful external threats
    • recent failures
    • excessive difficulties on the decision-making task
    • moral dilemmas

Symptoms:

Type I: Overestimations of the group—its power and morality

  1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
  2. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.

Type II: Closed-mindedness

  1. Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
  2. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, impotent, or stupid.

Type III: Pressures toward uniformity

  1. Self-censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
  2. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
  3. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”
  4. Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

Groupthink, resulting from the symptoms listed above, results in defective decision-making. That is, consensus-driven decisions are the result of the following practices of groupthinking[11]

  1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
  2. Incomplete survey of objectives
  3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
  4. Failure to reevaluate previously rejected alternatives
  5. Poor information search
  6. Selection bias in collecting information
  7. Failure to work out contingency plans.

Now, here is a fun exercise: Go over the revolution and revolutionaries, and please cite examples for every one of those points. Should make things interesting…

Fairy Tale

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there used to be a planet called Earth, and on this planet there was a country called Egypt, which was known for its magnificent beauty, bountiful soil and unpredictable people. Unfortunately for its inhabitants, this land was cursed by its location, for it lay smack in the middle of three continents occupied by unfriendly psychotic barbarians, warmongers and French people, which made anyone who wanted to add the words “the great” to his name desire to invade it and rule it. One day the Egyptians, after having a civilization that spanned millenniums and resisted occupiers, was invaded by such external forces, and the wizards of the land, before they fled, unleashed a curse of their own on the land and its people: “For whomever attempts to rule this land after us, will never really get to enjoy it for long and will suffer great misfortune, death and destruction, and watch his dreams and ambitions crumble in front of their very eyes*”. No one believed in this curse to their determent, even though it proved time after time to be true, and to haunt those invaders and rulers till the day they died. Cesar, Cleopatra, Alexander, all faced horrible deaths, so did the Islamic dynasties that followed. Every Mongol invader who would bring the world to his knees would come to this country and have his tidal wave of destruction broken. Even Napoleon, who tried to break the curse by claiming to have converted to Islam, one day fled it with his tail between his legs, to later lose all of his glory and get exiled away from his country; and Hitler, who watched his own star general Rommel get his ass handed to him on its soil, thus truly signaling the end of his great world war. Whomever occupied it, or even attempted to, was immediately challenged by internal forces or external ones. However nothing, nothing compared to having to deal with its enchanted people.

At first glance they seem docile and harmless, and it seems like with the proper use of force and oppression, you can sustain your rule there for a long time, but even that proved to be futile, for the people might allow you to rule them, but they will always destroy your dreams and ambitions afterwards, and you will always suffer restless days and horrible endings, while they will simply continue to live and prosper after the worms devour you and your bones turn to dust. The Fatimids called its capital “Alqahira”, meaning the” Vanquisher” or the “Conqueror”, some even went as far as calling it the “City victorious”, but other people insist that its name came from “Alqaher”, which is an ancient Arabic name for the planet Mars (named after the Roman god of war, and red like the blood he supposedly spilled), which would make its inhabitants Martians, something that most people, when they think about it for a minute, agree with without much hesitation.

As the second millennium after Christ drew to a close, the country had finally expelled its last external occupation, and for the first time in centuries, its people seemed to be in control of their own fate. Unfortunately, no real wizards were found at the time to lift the curse, and it continued to destroy the lives and ambitions of those who ruled it. King Farouk was exiled with his family, President Naguib was overthrown and house-arrested for almost two decades, President Nasser – whose ambitions and glories encompassed the entire region- was defeated in almost every battle, kicked out of every land he tried to occupy and died with his land occupied and watching his dream in shambles, President Sadat – after working for years to solidify his rule, expel the Judean invaders and bring peace to his country- was assassinated, and President Mubarak, who was a simple man with no dreams or ambitions of his own, ended up losing everything and thrown in jail- because of his wife’s and son’s ambitions to rule after him irked the curse- in a popular uprising that inspired the entire world and made them wish for a second to be Egyptian, and thus found themselves under the power of that ancient curse as well. Uprisings in all of their countries erupted, and the whole world was engulfed in the glorious flame of discontent and broken dreams and ambitions of those who wishes to rule it.

The Uprising- later known as the Tahrir uprising- was that of the people, by the people, which was great, until its ambitious leaders, very quickly, started falling prey to the curse as well, growing delusional in their vision, and disconnected from the population in their beliefs. They saw their rule immediately challenged by the warrior class, who regarded themselves the true guardians of the realm, not knowing that they were under the power of the curse as well. Clashes erupted, dreams died, and blood was spilled, with the leaders of the uprising still talking a good game, but had nothing to show for it, really, except a sense of foreboding that the curse is not done with them yet. Many thought of leaving, of escaping this land once and for all, but they were of its people, and the curse only allows so few every year to get away. For better or worse, they were staying, watching fantastic events and complicated designs unfold in front of their own eyes, and wondering how they fucked up so greatly.

In the aftermath of that uprising, a relatively old, powerful and secret order, called “The Brotherhood” emerged, and tried to rule the land as well. At first it seemed like their magic was strong and that they might finally break the curse and rule the Country, with almost nothing stopping them, and with the people seemingly agreeing with them and supporting them. But they too fell victims to the curse and the enchanted people, who got them so very close to achieving their ambitions, and are now enjoying very much watching them squirm trying to secure it.

The final battle for the throne was upon us, with two contenders left standing while everyone else withered and vanished: One from the warrior class and the other from the brotherhood. The first a Fighter Pilot, the latter a rocket scientist and they both went head to head over the battle to get the Martians to choose one of them to rule the land. As if fitting with the Star Wars theme of the first democratic elections in the 21st century, the battle this time was different, with no blood spilled, but with warriors battling each other with words over satellite channels and the interwebs, trying to lay a charm on the population that one of those two idiots was worthy to lead them. In a few days, one will reign supreme and the other will be destroyed, signaling the end of his order, although very quickly the winner will wonder what he won exactly, and when the curse takes him on, will wish to have lost instead of watching his own hopes and dreams crumble all around him, just like his predecessors. This was the way of the curse: It took no prisoners, gave no parlay, made no exceptions..well…except one.

You see, the wizards of the ancient order were not complete assholes. They loved this country and its martian inhabitants, for they were their people after all. So, in the fine print, on the scroll where this curse was written, there was a footnote after the word “eyes*”. The footnote stated the following: “unless he works for the people, helps them, solves their problems and wins their trust without any ulterior motives or ambitions. Only he, who does that, will break the curse for the time being over the people and the land”. In the recorded history of the country, this had only happened in one location, for a brief period of time, and that place was called Tahrir, and it lasted 18 days, where Egyptians finally exhibited how they were really like when they were free from the curse. But on the 19th day, the leaders of the Tahrir uprising, like all others, grew ambitions and dreams of grandeur themselves and the desire for revenge ruled their hearts, and the curse was back in full force, and the rest is history.

In order for the curse to be broken and lifted permanently, we advice the next generations to give up on all of their dreams and ambitions of grandeur, and instead to focus on assisting their people to lead better lives. We advice them to help them, and to serve them, without ambitions or ulterior motives of their own, or greed and vengeance in their hearts, for the curse punishes the greedy and the corrupt, no matter how good they may appear to the population or to themselves. He, who does that, will be unstoppable, and no secret order or warrior class will be able to tarnish his image or kill his people. The curse has survived for thousands of years, and was almost never broken, because all of those who challenged it forgot the one simple truth that was always their own undoing: To rule is to love and to serve. The end.