Morsy, the Human Being

Originally Published
in the Daily News Egypt

During the first and second round of the presidential elections I always had a problem with regarding President Mohamed Morsy as a real human being with real dreams, real fears and ambitions. I always viewed him as something unreal and virtual, a construct representing the Muslim Brotherhood. It naturally didn’t help that he was an alternate candidate, always in the shadows, or that when he got presented to us he had no real personality to begin with. I had resigned myself to view him, like many others like me, as a puppet, a front to whatever unholy alliance the SCAF and the MB were creating. However, very recently, I started to ignore my prejudices and take a closer look, especially with the fiasco surrounding the reassembling of parliament.

Please don’t misunderstand; my rethinking had nothing to do with Morsy’s decision and its aftermath. Far from it. Something else entirely caught my attention, and I am sure many other as well, as to the timing of the decision and the reversal of it, also where Morsy was at this time, especially when recanting the decision. The presidency issued the decree cancelling the former decree bringing back the parliament and apologized around 6 pm last Wednesday. Did Morsy announce this very important and politically dangerous decision, after the political firestorm his first decision caused himself? Nope, it was the presidential spokesperson who did. Mr Morsy was in fact not in the country at the time, but rather in Saudi Arabia on an official visit. The question that everyone should ask is how did that happen?

The bringing back of parliament by presidential decree, and the constitutional court decision to strike that decree down, was a momentous stand-off, and one that cornered Morsy and galvanized many sides, for and against, meaning that the decision to take back that decree had to be politically calculated by advisors (political, legal, media) with the President himself being involved in drafting it. That didn’t happen. Instead, Morsy flew to Saudi (alone mind you – with no entourage of any kind) in the morning, and the decision came out of the presidency while he was in a meeting. Who took that decision? Who drafted it? We know that the original decree was announced the next day to a Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Council meeting, which means that they were the ones that drafted it, so if the one recanting it happened while he was away, then they drafted it as well. This means that the argument that Morsy has no powers due to the supplementary constitutional declaration by SCAF is false; Morsy has no power because the Guidance Council are the ones making all the decisions for him. This is why no government has yet been announced, with Essam ElArian, who has no official capacity in Morsy’s government, announcing its developments, instead of Morsy’s office itself. Morsy, literally, is the Guidance Council’s puppet and is being used by them during their continuous negotiations with the SCAF. Do you ever wonder what that must be like?

Imagine that one day a group of people you trust and are related to come to you with the proposal: they will start a huge company that will do great things, and they need you to be its CEO. They promise you a huge salary and all the prestige in the world, while assuring you that you won’t actually have to do any of the work, but rather that everything will be taken care of by very capable people, ones that they will choose. It sounds awesome at first: all the glory, none of the work, so you accept. And then those very capable people start managing things very badly, which brings the heat on to you. People start calling you, asking you how you could take this or that stupid decision, and urging you to use your power to fix things. But you have no power, so you call those who are under you, basically begging them to stop messing things up, and that’s the extent of your power. Everyone is mad at you, for reasons that are not under your control but are happening in your name, and there is nothing you can do about it. Doesn’t sound so great now, does it? If it was you, you would quit. But Morsy can’t quit. And he is not a CEO, he is the revolution’s president, and it has only been a month. Four more years of this – imagine.

Morsy is not a construct, no matter if that is how he appears to me. Morsy is a human being. He has a family. He has children. The children have friends, are on facebook and twitter, and watching the world asking daily why their father took this decision and didn’t take that decision, and they call him to tell him what’s going on, asking that he takes a decision, and he can’t. All the prestige, none of the power, in the middle of a war aimed at you. Slowly everything seems hollow to him, and he struggles with notions of self-respect and dignity. Morsy had a cause, he went to jail for that cause, and now he is being asked to be the martyr for this cause, but without any honourable death involved. Instead, it’s a death by a thousand paper cuts. And it has only been a month.

Did you know that Morsy was not officially invited to Saudi Arabia? That the Ambassador gave him a cordial diplomatic invite simply positing that Saudi is looking forward to his probable future visit, and that Morsy jumped on the opportunity and told him that he is coming tomorrow, alone, and without an entourage of any kind? Morsy was literally escaping to Saudi and while he was there he did an Umra, during which he was pictured crying. Again, it has only been a month. How long until Morsy, the human, cracks?

I wonder…

The Message

Originally Published in the Daily News Egypt

Three days before the election results came out, upon an invitation from a musician friend, I found myself traveling to Gouna to spend those last few days away from the circus that was Cairo at the time.

So, here I was, chilling with his friends and acquaintances, many of who were a collection of Kanaba party members who decided to become Shafiqistas, and who naturally derided me- and accused me of wanting Morsy to win- for choosing to invalidate my vote (the same happened with the “revolutionary” friends who supported Morsy; Invalidation is fun!)

Besides being completely horrified at the prospect of an MB president, they truly believed, through “insider information”, that Shafiq had won, and that the SCAF are about to launch a full-throttle attack on all the Muslim Brotherhood all over Cairo and end this nightmare of Islamists in power that they have been living under for a while.

Despite my assurances that there is no way in hell the army would a) let Shafiq ever be president, b) start a mini-war with 5 million people, and that it was glaringly obvious that they are in intense negotiations with the MB, they have all ignored me due to their blind assurances that Shafiq already won.

Not only did those people become political & media analysts all of a sudden, and many of them were never moved to go any single demonstration in their lives and avoided Tahrir during the initial 18 days, upon seeing the pro- Shafiq demonstration, expressed genuine desire to go there and protest for the first time in their lives.

They went to sleep, filled with optimism and hope, and then woke up the next day to the results. That night I walked in the Marina, & it was a ghost town. Every Shafiq supporter I know stayed at home, depressed, lost and confused. I envisioned that many have heavily contemplated slitting their wrists by breaking full & chilled champagne bottles.

The following week many of them tried to explain their confusion by circulating some of the most absurd conspiracy theories to explain why the results were “changed”, anywhere from the army succumbed to the threat of terrorism by the Muslim Brotherhood, to having them succumb to judges who wouldn’t have allowed the invalidation of the “fake” Morsy votes to protect their fellow corrupt judges.

But all of this was to avoid admitting the true message of the SCAF that day: That it doesn’t matter who won or who got the most votes, in the end they are the ones who appoint the President, and they are the ones who hold all the cards. That election and campaigning and fundraising are all fun and all, but the SCAF are the ones who decide who to give the legitimacy of the ballot box to, not the voters, and that it was all up to negotiations and deals, and not the people.

That was the first part of the message, the one that many received, but the second part, for some reason, has escaped the majority of the Shafiqistas, mainly because it was simply too insulting for them to comprehend: the utter contempt that SCAF feels towards them, and how they view them as gullible and as easily manipulated as the revolutionaries, including even giving them false information and mobilising them just to use them as a negotiation tactic with the Muslim Brotherhood.

You would think it would seem obvious to the old NDP segment of the Shafiqistas, but for some reason none of them ever asked themselves, why would SCAF support them? Why would they bring them back to power, given that they are the same people that have caused this headache of a revolution for SCAF to begin with? Because the old NDP continued to support SCAF for the past year and a half and would never cross them or cause them any problems?

Please… So what? It’s not like the old NDP would stand up against the security state, given that they always wanted to stay in its favour. It wasn’t done out of love, it was loyalty based on fear and need, and one that wanted the army to engage in an internal mini-civil war and weather the ensuing global outcry so that they can keep living their lifestyle and go back to power.

Why wouldn’t SCAF despise them, use them and discard them the way they did? They know they are not going anywhere; that they know their place. And SCAF is not wrong to believe that: look at how many of them still believe that the SCAF was cornered or that they gave in, in order to save the country. It would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.

There is, however, a minority in that group that received the message in full, and for the first time in the past year and a half let go of their assured cockiness and faith in the security apparatus, and who said, for the first time in their existence, -whether muttered in secret, or out loud in private or in public- Down with Military Rule. To those I say: Welcome to the party, people. Better late than never, I suppose. I have been waiting for you, and I have a message of my own to give you.

I know that there many of you who truly love this country and who are some of its best talents and minds, and who were not happy with the direction it was taking, but you ended up being close to or entrenched in the old regime because you wanted to achieve certain things or protect your interests and there was no other way to do so.

I know that you too hated the bribes and the corruption and the torture but you didn’t believe we could do any better or change anything.

I know that you knew that what was happening was unsustainable and that the collapse was coming, but you simply wanted to extend that period of stability as much as possible and so desperately wanted to regain it afterwards. I get it, but those days are over, and it’s time for you to make your peace with that.

It’s also time for you to join up and fight for the country that you love and want to see improved, knowing that it won’t be easy and that it will take a lot of work. It’s time for you to leave your couches and defend your interests, and fight with us to turn this country into a true civil state, not one controlled by the military or the theocrats.

The old regime’s days are gone, and along with it all of the excuses. There is now a new regime that is being formed, and it’s up to you to ensure that it doesn’t mimic the old one. And if you don’t want to do this out of patriotism, do it out of self-interest: You are no longer under the protection of the old regime; you are the people now, and it’s in your best interest to ensure that the new regime doesn’t do to the people what the old one did.

The new regime is being formed as you read this, there are no guarantees and all the issues are on the table: from women’s rights, to freedom of expression and the arts, to transparency, to security. You need to ask yourself the one question: What kind of country do I want to live in?

Choose your front, whether joining a political party, fighting social battles, doing social work, creating and sponsoring cultural events, or fighting for more transparency in the government. No matter what it is, start working.

Understand that we cannot continue to function as a country with our institutions being so corrupt that they cannot be trusted to run an honest free and fair election where the results are announced instead of negotiated.

Rage against them because it’s not acceptable for any self-respecting human being to live this way, under the mercy of the institutions created to serve him, to be manipulated, terrorised or cast aside by them when they choose to.

This is not a life, this is no way to build a future, and it has to stop. We need you to help us stop it. We are either the masters of our fate and country, or we are nothing.

Choose…

Move

Originally published in the Daily News Egypt.

Why do we still live in Cairo?

I ask myself this question every day, as I , like millions of others, curse every god in heavens as I try to navigate my way through the streets of Cairo to get from one neighborhood to the other. Every morning I am filled with dread before heading out into the ever-shrinking streets of this gloriously overpopulated city, and the tweets of the #cairotraffic hashtag on my phone, filled with curses, pleas for help and the rare glimmer of hope of an not overly populated route, compound the stress and the misery. Every morning I feel as if I am about to willingly enter a psychotic mega game of bumper-cars, while only hoping that I make it to my destination not overly late and with my car intact. And every morning, as hours of my life keep passing by, I ask myself that same question: Why do we live in Cairo?

People live in cities for three reasons: Quality of Life, Financial opportunity, and socialization, and this city makes a mockery out of all of them. The quality of life, without the huge army of (car cleaning, house-cleaning, delivery of everything) slaves- and given their wages, they are no better than slaves- to supplement it, would be pitiful. Imagine if there was no delivery of anything for a second, and you had to go out, to the streets of Cairo, to get everything yourself. Horrifying, isn’t it? Socialization is also suspect, since the hostility of the city towards everyone and everything makes social outings an obligation more than a pleasure most of the time, with people staying later than any sane person would on work-days, just so that they don’t face traffic on their way home, and yet sometimes, somehow they still manage to. There really isn’t a single reason to live in this city outside financial opportunity, and with its rising costs, even that reason is becoming suspect. Everything is so expensive that we live on credit, which, if you take a look at Spain, Greece, Italy or even the US, is not a good idea long-term wise. Yet everyone stays, unless it’s to get out of the country completely, and more keep coming to this glorified mouse-trap, because all the companies are here; and the companies are here because the other companies are here. And nobody ever questions the logic of this, even though it’s very easy to.

Sure, Cairo is the business center of Egypt, but that doesn’t mean we need to be based here to do business here. In reality, other cities offer cheaper rent, cost of living, and all of the amenities that we need, and since most of us do our work via email anyway, there is literally no reason why people of capital choose to start new businesses here. The question of why not move the businesses elsewhere, while maintaining satellite/virtual offices or shared work spaces here-which would minimize the costs dramatically- is one that somehow never gets answered convincingly. We are here, because everyone else is here, and we envy and hate on anyone who manages to set-up their business elsewhere.

So, where would we move, you would ask? Well, it really depends on how far you want to remove yourself from the city victorious, but the short answer is the coasts. If you want close proximity to Cairo, Ein Sokhna, Ismaelia and Port Said are all excellent options: You are living on the beach, rent is cheap, the infrastructure is there, there is virtually no traffic, and you are one hour away by car or bus, which if you worked in advertising, marketing, training or consulting companies, is quite perfect. If you are looking for something slightly further, the North Coast is the answer: all of the aforementioned reasons, with even less people, and millions of residential units that are empty for the supreme majority of the year, and if you need a city, there is always Alexandria. Why people working in IT have not moved there yet to create their own silicon valley is beyond me. There are also the Borg elarab and Alamein airports available, for both consumer and cargo travel, awaiting people to move there to be fully operational. With a little bit of imagination and investment, the Nrothcoast could become a huge business hub. Yet no one is moving there.

As for those who are looking for a clean getaway, Sharm and Hurghada await you. They have all the things mentioned before, plus a ton of hotels, restaurants and outings. Why the Egyptian cinema industry isn’t based in the former, with production companies like Good News building studios in 6 of October instead of Sharm ElSheikh, or why the Telecom industry don’t base their main offices in Hurghada, is beyond me, even though it’s quite obvious to everyone that those cities might require a more sustainable income next to tourism, and that the cost of living and doing business there is significantly less than in Cairo.

Yes, some people have family ties and responsibilities that make it impossible to leave Cairo, but for the rest of us, there is no excuse not to get out. Down with New Cairo and 6 October compounds, for they might give us a reprieve from traffic when we get home, but any trip into the city- whether through the always crowded Mehwar or the Death trap called the ring road- becomes a crucible, and if we are going to live desert land anyway, we might as well have a beach nearby. I know that Big Corporations will probably require things like government planning and tax incentives to move elsewhere, but Small and medium enterprises don’t. So dear SME owners and people intent on opening new businesses: Do us all a favor and move. We are all waiting for our way out, and, right now, you are our only hope.

The New Elite

Originally published in the Daily News Egypt.

Two days ago, Mohamed Morsi, the FJP presidential candidate was announced the winner in Egypt’s first post- revolution presidential elections. For some this is the first real triumph of the revolution, for others it’s a depressing reality signifying how the Muslim Brotherhood- with all of their betrayals- continues to manage to be the only real winner in the Egyptian revolution so far, but for those who supported Shafiq from Egypt’s elite, it meant one thing: the party, for the time being, was over, and maybe, just maybe, it’s time for them to leave to greener pastures elsewhere.

The Elite dynamics in Egypt has very little to do in terms of personal achievement or fame (Being an international football star doesn’t make you part of the Elite for example, same as being a famous Actor, unlike what happens in other countries where Elite is connected to Celebrity), but more to do with how connected you are with the people in power and the families to which they belong, which are some thirty-odd families that have intermingled and inter-married for the past one hundred years. Those families have survived with their status intact a revolution and three presidencies, but they have always suspected that this new revolution might be what finally kicks them in. The moment Shafiq lost, their last vestige of hope to maintain their status was lost as well, and many of them seem to be very uncertain what their next move should be. But why, you may ask? What makes them capable of surviving a military socialist revolution, and not this one? What’s so different this time?

Well, given that being Elite is connected with being in power, when a new Elite comes into Power through a revolution, the old Elite have one of three options: 1) Leave the Country,2) intermarry with the new Elite and assimilate them,or 3) Stay in the country, bid your time with the risk of withering out. Those were the exact three option that faced Egypt’s Elite (back when they were part of an aristocracy) on the onset of the 1952 revolution, when the Army Officers became the new Elite. Some fled the country, some sat on the sidelines in bitterness awaiting a comeback that came for some and not for others, while others went ahead and intermarried with them to keep their social status, and assimilated them into their existing social dynamics and thus survived till this day. Unfortunately for them, that last option won’t exactly work this time, due to the very special nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and how their social circle operates.

Unlike the army officers, the MB have two things: 1) Money and 2) An already semi-closed existing social structure (with its own culture, schools, social values, dress-code, mannerisms, even wedding style), where the leading families are all intermarried. For example, our new President’s daughter is married to the son of Ahmed Fahmy, the speaker of the Shura Council, who in turn is related by Marriage to Saad El-Katatny, the speaker of the People’s Assembly, who in turn is related by Marriage to Khairat El-Shater, the MB’s de-facto leader, who is also related by marriage to a number of very powerful figures inside the Brotherhood Supreme Council. This semi-tribal structure, which exists all over the MB’s inner social classes, signifies two things: 1) We have a rising and complete new Aristocracy in town, 2) Our checks and balances system will not be carried on in public, but rather over familial dinner-table discussions, which is another dazzling Irony of the Egyptian revolution: The revolution that sought to remove Mubarak for desiring to keep power within his family through only his son, has handed over power over the country to a budding aristocracy. Brilliant, isn’t it? The more things change, the more they stay the same. Kind of.

Hence the level of panic that has pervaded through the old Elite families, and why so many of them are considering leaving the country. They don’t fear that this country will turn islamist, but rather that in the new social order, they don’t have a place anymore. Very few of them would be able to marry into this new elite, and even fewer would want to given the huge chasm in their social values, which unlike the last revolution has little to do with social class and more to do with piety and priorities, which are vastly different than their own. Revolutionaries who come from Elite backgrounds joke that the old elite are afraid of losing Tamarai or no longer being able to wear bikinis or partying in Hacienda, but the implications of this new social order are far more reaching than that and it will also affect the revolutionaries.

Take art and culture for example: How many amongst the MB Elite do you know to be Patrons of the arts? How many don’t have a problem with the current taste in music or in movies? How many painters, sculptors, singers or actors do you know that come from a Muslim Brotherhood background while adhering to their social code? How many would be willing to allow the current cultural scene to exist without trying to interfere with it or limit it in one way or another? The Muslim Brotherhood may have many virtues, but being fans of cultural diversity was never really one of them, and unlike the Army officers, their issues with it will not change with time or assimilation, as opposed to the old Elite, who may have had many short-comings and negatives, but they were very proud and supportive of the Egyptian arts and culture scene. Ask any art gallery owner how financially safe they are feeling right now, and you may get a sense of what I am talking about.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. While many of the old elite, whether pro or anti the revolution, may take flight very soon, many of them realise and intend to capitalize on the one major difference that differentiates this revolution from the one before. Power could be seized through democratic process and so they intend to stay and continue to fight this fight. There are still new parliamentary elections coming by year’s end, and thus a chance for survival, co-existence and offering competing visions over the course this country can take. Unlike the past year and a half, one should expect a surge of many of the old elite joining existing or new political parties as members, financiers or even political candidates, because they finally realise that relying on decades-old connections will no longer cut it, and that the only way for them to survive is through participation in the political process. For many of them who don’t want to leave, the Era of being a member of the Kanaba party is over.

In the meantime, it will be very interesting watching the direction that our new elite will take, and how they will confirm their new status amongst the Egyptian society elite dynamics, and whether they will try to integrate in it and its institutions or separate themselves from it. To cite the most superficial of examples, whether they will choose to buy properties in the gated communities or summer-escapes of the old elites or create their own? And on the other end of the spectrum, how will the old elite and their institutions deal with them in return? Will they acquiesce and take them in or fight and try to block them out, like they have for years? Personally, I will be observing the covers of Society magazines for the next few months, and if I see Khairat El-Shater being on the cover of Enigma magazine and his kids in their yearly “In-crowd” listings, I think we will all know which direction this fight is going.

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.

Don’t Blame the Copts!

Ever since the run-off elections started, with the candidates being Morsy and Shafiq, and a dangerous new rhetoric started rising within the ranks of the revolutionaries with one clear theme: The Christian Coptic Population have betrayed the revolution. Why? Well, because the supreme majority (One would estimate about 85%) of the Christian voter base went to Ahmed Shafiq, with the remaining 15% dispersed over various “revolutionary” candidates like Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahy (There are rumors that some Copts have voted for AbulFotouh, but none could be found to verify this), thus providing Shafiq with the necessary votes to reach the run-off elections. The Blame Game started immediately, and despite revolutionary infighting between the supporters of various revolutionary candidates that never quite made it, they all seem to agree on one point: The Copts ( also insert: The Church) have screwed the revolution over with their voting choice. It goes without saying that this rhetoric is very immature and dangerous for the Coptic population, and will lead to further polarization amidst the revolutionary ranks, and that they are better suited to finding out why that happened and try to court that vote, instead of entrenching that belief further. In reality, their choice of vote, while unfortunate, is very logical and should not be blamed for it, and to paint them as traitors after being the population that suffered the most after this revolution is nothing short of latent sectarianism and ignoring the facts.

Of all the different social segments of society, the Coptic Christians are the ones who have suffered the most due to the success of this revolution. Instead of having one of the primary and explicit goals of this revolution to be the end of sectarianism and social prejudice against the Copts, the revolutionaries seemed more intent on freeing all of the political prisoners during the Mubarak era, which included many people who were jailed for belonging to various islamist groups. While the supreme majority of those prisoners are not “terrorists”, many of them have committed, planned or engaged in terrorist acts , and almost all of them do not share feelings of goodwill towards the Egyptian Coptic population, since many of those terrorist acts were aimed at them during the 80′s and 90′s. The revolutionaries at the time supported the freeing of those prisoners due to: 1) Our seemingly unbending utopian belief that this population was radicalized due to the absence of peaceful political means for them to present their ideas, 2) Our desire to keep the islamists within our ranks, and this was extremely important to them, 3) Our Goal of having a new Egypt where equality for all Egyptians, and not just Christians, was the top priority. Completely sure of ourselves and our ways, we were completely oblivious to the simple fact that not even three months after the All Saints Church bombing in Alexandria, which was one of the principle drivers of this revolution, we actively lobbied for the release of thousands of people that have previously encouraged such acts or at the very least wouldn’t necessarily sympathize with its victims, all the while the Egyptian police is nowhere to be found. Imagine their horror as they sat back watching this unfold, all the while being completely unable to publically protest out of fear of being accused of being anti- revolution or Human Rights. And then immediately after sectarian rhetoric and conflicts started: The Camilia Shehata case, the Atfeeh and mansheyet Nasser attack, the Imbaba Churches attacks, Abu Qurqas, etc.. All in all, the Christians had 6 of their churches attacked in 2011, which was unprecedently terrifying, naturally.

Instead of cursing the situation, and believing in the spirit of togetherness that Jan25 created, the Coptic Christians started to have a political activist wing, and started having their own protests to demand their rights of equality, safety and laws that allow them to practice their faith in full, and had their sit-in at Maspiro, expecting the revolution to rally around them. The revolutionaries, unfortunately, had other priorities, like dismantling the security apparatus, attempting to ban NDP officials from Political participation, and politically clashing with the SCAF over having their demands fulfilled and having the military trials stopped. So, we would go to the Maspiro sit-in for solidarity every now and then, but we wouldn’t stay or give it our full attention, support and participation, telling ourselves that the revolution is working with the Christians demanding their rights and that we are better suited to fight the big political fight over the shape of the next government and state. Our hearts were with them, but we offered little else in terms of tangible support. All the while, attacks on them in the media and society intensified, and sectarian tension started rising again in Egypt, openly promoted by islamists and salafi leaders, without real condemnation of any kind. And then the Maspiro attacks happened.

There is no point in re-hashing what happened in Maspiro and its aftermath, but needless to say no accountability was ever achieved and the non-christian Egyptian population kept its mouth shut. The revolutionaries naturally protested and demonstrated, but the general population all exhibited a case of eerie silence. The Army had killed Egyptian Christian civilians, and had its media incite violence against the Christians, and the country went into paralysis, unable to comprehend or face what just happened. This is the moment where Egypt’s Copts felt most alone and abandoned: They abandoned their passivity, despite all the attacks and incitement continued protesting for their rights and against the injustices placed on them, and they got run over by tanks, and we did nothing. And then the parliamentary elections took place, where the islamists used every sectarian card they had in their pockets, and ended up winning more than 70% of the seats of the parliament, and calling for legislations based on Islamic Sharia immediately. In the hearts and minds of the average Christian in Egypt, the belief that this revolution was turning into an islamist revolution, and that the secularist revolutionaries could do nothing to stop it, was finally cemented.

As time went by, and as the hope for an inclusive and not Islamist dominated constitution started to vaporize, many of the Copts started viewing the notion of stopping the islmaist camp from reaching the presidency became the top priority. Searching for viable candidates, they were presented with the following pool: the Ex-MB NourParty backed AbulFotouh, The head of the party that went into a parliamentary alliance with the MB during the parliamentary elections Hamdeen Sabahy, the wishy-washy politician that is Amr Moussa, and the ex-regime revolutionary enemy #1 Ahmed Shafiq, who was firmly opposed to the MB and the Islamist, and represented the promise of the return of the Mubarak days, where Islamists were not one election away from taking over the country, possibly forever, but rather were kept “under control” by state security. Fully aware that the previous regime discriminated against them and allowed the random attack against them every now and then, many in the Coptic ranks did the math, compared having maximum one attack per year and retaining almost equal rights to having 6 of their churches attacked in one year and the possibility of losing their rights forever, and came up with supporting Shafiq as the natural conclusion. Many of them didn’t, and voted for Sabahy and Moussa for the revolution’s sake, but the supreme majority, literally terrified about prospects of their survival, made that compromise and supported Shafiq.

Now, instead of figuring out what lead to this, or even attempting to understand it, the revolutionaries, once again, forgot what Copts feel and fear, openly blamed them for Shafiq’s ascension, and some of them started urging people to vote for the MB candidate Morsy so that Shafiq doesn’t win. Never mind that more Muslims voted for Shafiq than Christians, never mind that having Morsy in power would ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood would have full control of the legislative and executive, and will be able to write whatever they wish for in the rights and liberties section in the constitution or legislation in parliament, never mind that not a single revolutionary candidate showed a clear stance for secularism or anti-Islamism that would’ve courted their votes. Nope, Shafiq being in the run-off is the Copts’ fault. They have betrayed the revolution. Full stop. No discussion.

Well, I disagree. Blaming the Coptic Christians for Shafiq is like blaming SCAF for “Hijacking the revolution”, both are attempts to deflect personal responsibility and deny the simple truth that had the revolutionaries united behind one leader or presidential candidate, they would’ve easily won this election and been in the run-off already, with the Coptic vote firmly behind them. But no, it’s not our fault that we chose shitty candidates and ignored their plight for over a year, it’s their fault for picking the least of all evils to them. They are not under any illusions over their choice, but when you have been facing rising and mounting hostility and danger from day one of this revolution, when you seem to be the one always paying the heaviest price, when you are a Coptic Christian, and hear about the verdict to release all Muslims suspects in the Abu Qurqas clashes and giving all Christian suspects life sentences not even a week ago, it’s easy for you to understand why they voted the way they did. Many revolutionaries may feel that the Coptic Christians have abandoned the revolution with their choice, but the uncomfortable truth may be that the revolutionaries abandoned the Coptic Christians a long time ago, and are paying the price for it now.

No Room for Grey

This Article was published on the Dailybeast website here, under the title “Egyptian elections: There is no clear front runner in the crowded field”. It’s better and modified there, although i do like my my title better. :P

When I was in DC last week, the talk amidst the pundits in the Think Tanks and newspapers was regarding whether the next President of Egypt will be either Amr Moussa or AbulFotouh. In the absence of any real data or a clear front –runner, everyone assumed that the two with the highest media profiles would be the ones entering the run-off. One week later, this no longer rings to be true, with the bets now being placed on neither one of them making it. Why? Because they are both grey, and Egyptians, the great centrists that they are, when it comes to their President, are no longer interested in grey. Only Black or White. This is why AbuElFotouh and Moussa are now stagnating, and Mohamed Morsy, Ahmed Shafiq and Hamdeen Sabahy are all rising amidst the polls and the population. Why? Cause they are not grey.

AbdelMoneim AbulFotouh and Amr Moussa tried to position themselves as the two major centrist candidates from the Get go, one as the centrist Islamist candidate, and the other as the centrist “civil” (secular is such a naughty word, we are told) candidate, both hoping to rally different factions get the biggest amount of votes possible this way. Smart strategy, but not after a revolution, and especially not after the tumultuous year and a half that Egyptians have spent trying to figure out what exactly is going on in this country and where it is headed. The Egyptian voter would like some clarity, and neither one of those two candidates offered them that, which was incredibly evident in the debate that took place between them last week. Both of them –between attacking each other in the most undignified of ways-gave the most centrist answers they could come up with, and both come out as wishy-washy to the undecided voters. That was one presidential debate that no one won, and it left the average Egyptian voter thinking that whomever the President will be, it shouldn’t be those two. A hint: maybe someone should’ve explained to them that you are not supposed to debate your opponent in presidential debates, but rather use the time and media attention to talk to the undecided and give them the messages you were prepped to deliver by your handlers, instead of coming off looking like bickering old hags.

There are arguably 6 Egyptian voting blocs: Muslim Brotherhood, Non-MB Islamists (mostly salafis), liberals, revolutionaries (many leaning leftwards and majority are Baradei supporters), old regime backers and Independents. Moussa was counting on liberals, old regime backers, independents and some revolutionary voters who will see him as the only alternative to the Islamists. AbulFotouh was counting on getting the Baradei supporters, the independents, some liberals and some of the MB votes. Both were hoping to get those votes to get into the run-off elections, and both are now facing the realities that their calculations might all be wrong, with Morsy securing the MB votes, Sabahy almost securing all of the Baradei and revolutionary votes and Shafiq becoming the great hope of old regime backers. Why? Well, because Morsy is unquestionably MB and is very clear about it, Sabahy is a non-islamist revolutionary true and through, and Shafiq has been very vocal about his opposition of the revolution and the revolutionaries and a reminder of “the good old days” of Mubarak, where everything worked, the streets were secure, and no Islamist would dare to do “shananigans” they want to engage in now. Those respective groups had finally found the candidate that they feel comfortable supporting, which leads us to the ultimate question: Who, exactly, will vote for AbuFotouh and Moussa?

Well, with those 3 main groups out of the way, this leaves both candidates with a more limited pool of potential supporters, which may not offer them the best options or positioning. AbulFotouh has won the backing of the Salafi Noor Party, which immediately raised the question about what kind of deal he made with them, how centrist he truly is, and if his wish-washy answers to questions were not an attempt to win the center but rather fool it to vote for an islamist candidate. He still has few revolutionary supporters , which include revolutionary figures such as famous leftist activist Wael Khalil and the one-time revolution’s symbol Wael Ghonim, supporting him, but even they are finding it harder and harder to defend him as he journeys around the country with the Salafis or issues statements about his intentions to shut down alcohol factories.

Moussa is not having it any easier either, because the liberals are divided over supporting him or not. Their reasons vary from 1) Not desiring to vote for such a symbol of the Mubarak Era after revolting against Mubarak, to 2) concerns that he is more interested in the Presidency for his own Glory and ego, and not because he genuinely wants to save the country, and 3) their belief that Moussa is too much of a politician to take a principled stand on civil rights or liberties against the MB, and that he may very well compromise on those issues for the sake of his own political gain. This presents another problem for the liberals: if not Moussa, then who? This left the liberal votes divided between those who choose to back Moussa because he is an acceptable compromise, those who will back Shafiq because their friends are doing so and are doubting Moussa’s chances, and those who will hold their nose and vote for the Nasserite Sabahy instead because they believe he won’t compromise on civil rights and liberties, even if it means hurting their economic interests.

Make no mistakes: Many Independent votes will go to Moussa, especially from Upper Egypt, but he doesn’t have the support of the majority, or even half, of the independent votes, which seems like it will splinter itself over all candidates. Unless he engages in a final hail Mary before the elections, it could be very possible that we may not reach the run-off. His only hope lies in the ignorant faction of the independent voters, who will go and vote for the name that they know on the ballots. But even then, the names of the other candidates have become quite known for the majority of those voters, so it really is anyone’s game.

Either way, he and AbulFotouh will not get the large centrist majority that they hoped to gain to win from the first round or at least secure their place in the run-off. They might still get in, but it will be all dependent on their get out the vote campaign on the election day, and while Sabahy has the Baradeites, Morsy the MB, Shafiq the old NDP and AbulFotouh has the Noor Salafi machine, Moussa doesn’t really have anyone but his campaign and the few liberal parties that have supported him, because there are no excited hardcore Moussa supporters out there. He is far too grey.

This is not a new concept for Egypt, and something that only the people who bothered to analyze the parliamentary elections managed to get: Egyptians do not vote for centrist parties. Take the case of ElAdl Party for instance, which is in my opinion a great party filled with honest revolutionaries and genuine leaders, when it entered the parliamentary elections focusing on winning the centrist votes. They showed themselves as the alternative to the Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood controlled Freedom and Jusitice Party and the Nour Salafi Party or the thinly veiled secularism of the Egyptian bloc, and ended up being the biggest losers in the elections, winning only one seat. Why? They were too centrist, which the average Egyptian voter viewed as attempting to not take a side, and instead voted for someone who will. The same logic applies to the Presidential elections, and it’s something that most pundits have elected or chosen to ignore. It underlines a fundamental political truth that everyone in the Egyptian political scene seems to ignore: You can’t synthetically create a center. A center is formed when two opposing forces of equal power and clearly different ideologies are fighting for control, thus creating the political balance that allows a center to emerge. This doesn’t exist in Egypt, which is why AbulFotouh is turning more and more islamist to appease his new salafi supporters, and Moussa is finding himself up in shit-creek without a paddle.

On a final note, the Egyptian presidential election has one final achievement to add to the list of the Egyptian revolution’s achievements so far: It has killed all ideologies. We have leftists supporting an Islamist candidate, liberals supporting a Nasserite leftists, A revolutionary workers-rights crusader candidate who didn’t get the support of the workers and ended up only getting nominated by MP signatures from parties that he considered anti-revolutionary, and revolutionaries who were strongly opposed to strong executive powers now begging for a constitution that doesn’t turn Egypt into a parliamentary system now that the Islamists have taken over the Parliament. It’s a fine mess that will surely leave analysts and pundits scratching their head for years to come to make any sense of its one million and one questions, where ironically all the answers so far are as clear as grey.

Washington Dispatch

Dear all,

I have been out of the country for the past 2 weeks due to an involvement in the wedding of a best friend, and used the time I’ve had to attend a conference, host a couple of policy forums and write articles on what’s been happening in Egypt( here is a video of my talk is here, and an article I wrote on how for the west to best support democracy in the coming years). During that week that I spent there, I have had a few meetings with Think Tank fellows, journalists, and people from the foreign affairs committee in congress. Here is what I’ve come to know..

  • Obama was never for the Egyptian revolution: The current US President had formed a special relationship with out former tyrant of a President to fulfill his legacy of being the President who finally resolved the Middle East Conflict. This relationship started with the former regime ended the Ghaza war crisis on January 19th, 1 day before Obama took over, and Obama reciprocated by making Mubarak the first head of state he called, and by choosing Egypt to be the setting of his famous speech to the Islamic world. Last thing he wanted was for Mubarak to be removed and to have a situation where the internal and foreign political of Egypt to be unpredictable or focused on his goal, so he basically tried not to support the revolution from the beginning, and then proceeded with a policy of no-response no matter what the SCAF did, even to US citizens. He never kept his word on any economic assistance he promised, and failed to implement any positive step to support the new democracy in Egypt, even through economic cooperation means (He could’ve, for example, give a tax incentive for US companies to invest in Egypt). The man couldn’t care less about our struggle, and would like things to return to normal as fast as possible.
  • The Current administration truly cares about two things only, and they do not include the protection of Egyptian minorities, supporting a democratic transition in Egypt or even an Egyptian civil state. All they care about is the continuation and solidification of the Camp David Peace agreement, since it’s the founding ground of US presence in the region, and ensuring that the Suez Canal remains operational for American ships, military included due to their rising crescendo of bombing Iran rhetoric, which requires having a strong relationship with the Egyptian military. The Egyptian people themselves are a low priority and a burden, and will receive no assistantship from the US in any form in the coming years, mainly because we are not important to them survival as Greece, and their own economic conditions. The US is broke, y’all.
  • The Israelis are pushing the idea that North Sinai is becoming too unstable and a threat to Israel due their various criminal and smuggling activities and support for AlQaeda presence in their area. We might not agree on many things, but they are not wrong: The North Sinai Bedouins have been enjoying a lawless state for quite a while, including their support for terrorist cells and engaging in human trafficking and organ harvesting. Both activities must be stopped by our government. They can strike a compromise that we can turn a blind eye to their smuggling, but not to support terrorist organizations, or engage in organ harvesting and human trafficking again. But what’s happening there needs to stop, and the army needs to stop pussyfooting about it and deploy there, since they already have the Camp David military waiver from Israel. A good question would be: why isn’t our military taking control over Sinai, now that they have the chance?
  • The MB is all over DC, and have been here visiting US officials for at least 8 times the last year, including meetings with congressional delegations and organizations like the World Bank. The basis for their support in the US is that they have positioned themselves as the clear alternative to the salafis, and are not afraid to milk that cow. No one from our side represents us in DC: I was the only liberal voice that doesn’t align itself with the MB- or brag about how close he works with them- coming to DC in over a year, and I was shocked at the cognitive dissonance that existed there. Did you know that AbuElfottouh is the liberal candidate? Color me surprised as well.
  • The US media is only concerned with Obama supporting gay marriage and how Romney is against it. Does anyone care? No? Thought so. The Americans are bored with this as well..
  • American weddings are a pain in the ass. It’s not like Egyptian weddings where you go to eat, drink, celebrate and leave. Nooo. You are involved in everything and you have responsibilities. Boo on that. I love my friends, and I was honored to be a part of their union, but I will never do this again. Down with Imperialist American weddings, especially ones with married bridesmaids.

The Lizard parable

A lot of people ask me for advice on whom to vote for in the Presidential elections, since they can’t seem to make up their mind regarding the choices that are presented to us (Morsy, Abulfotouh, Moussa, etc..). Unfortunately, I can’t articulate my opinion on the whole matter better than the way Douglas Adam did in his saga the Hitchhiker’s guide To the Galaxy trilogy of five, regarding the Lizard parable. Here it is:

[An extraterrestrial robot and spaceship has just landed on earth. The robot steps out of the spaceship...]

“I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the nonstop frenetic news reports on television, none of which had anything to say other than to record that the thing had done this amount of damage which was valued at that amount of billions of pounds and had killed this totally other number of people, and then say it again, because the robot was doing nothing more than standing there, swaying very slightly, and emitting short incomprehensible error messages.

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

“I did,” said ford. “It is.”

“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

“What?”

“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

Ford shrugged again.

“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

Well, I am saying it. They are all Lizards, and they don’t deserve your vote or mine. You are , of course, free to do what you want with your vote. Just try your best to decide whether the person you choose is actually genuine, or just another Lizard.

Abbasiya in a nutshell!

 

This is why the entire Abbasiya Fiasco is retarded:

 

  1. As a general rule, as a secular revolutionary, you should never go to any protest or a sit-in that got started by Islamist protesters, especially if the goals are unclear or vague to you, because, as always, they will start it, and then once its filled with your people, they will withdraw and leave you to deal with the subsequent heat and arrests (Israeli Embassy, anyone?). This goes double for protests or sit-ins at the Ministry of Interior and/or Defense. Stick to your causes, because the islamists stick to theirs, and they are usually against you.
  2. All the Twitter talking heads need to put a stop to the shaming and guilting of people that follow them or trust them to go join protests that their neither started nor control out of “principles” or “solidarity”, because some other protesters that may have completely different goals than your own were clashing with the Military/Police/ People from the neighborhood/All the aforementioned forces at once and are urging you to go stand by them in their fight. When those people, who trust you and follow you, end up going there and get arrested, injured, maimed or killed, you may not be solely responsible for what happened to them, but you do share a big share of that responsibility, and that goes double if the that person is under 21.
  3. Also, when critics point out to you that you have sent those people to meet a dangerous & possibly fatal fate for no actual reason or achievable goal, you do not get to just yell at them “That this is no time for blame-placing and such talk because people are getting arrested/injured/killed” and expect them to just shut up and go away. This used to work, it no longer does, and people will call you on your bullshit. Please understand that the revolutionaries are not cowards, and they will go and face up with the military, the police, and thugs from the neighborhoods with no weapons if needs be, but there better be a real and achievable goal, and not another symbolic hollow stand-off. Their blood is not cheap, so don’t help spill it for no reason, and if you do, don’t you dare use it to garner sympathy with it later for your cause.
  4. When you are starting a sit-in, it’s always advised to keep and maintain good relations with your surrounding neighborhoods, even if they don’t wish to maintain good relations with you, and especially if your sit-in is at either the MOI or the MOD. You should also understand that no non-revolutionary ordinary Egyptian wants to see his MOI or MOD attacked, nor do they wish to have you blocking traffic and taking over parts of their neighborhood in a protest that a) they don’t understand, and b) you did not bother to explain it to them, or even consult with them on the best ways to make it as painless to them as possible. If you are fighting in the name of the people, and the people don’t support you, and actually send people to forcefully disband you, well, now what? How successful is your messaging, really?
  5. If there is an extremely violent group of people in the sit-in- whom you don’t know and never seen in any sit-in before- and they proceed to torture “criminals” or “thugs” that they have captured, well, you are either in the presence of psychos or undercover security agents. Either way, if you can’t stop them, or control their actions, or in this case prevent a group of armed middle-aged salafis from using actual guns with live ammo on the residents of Abbasiya or capturing Abbasiya residents and beating them up or torturing them in their tents, well, then you should disband the sit-in and urge people to leave immediately and lead by example by leaving.
  6. Also , when describing that aforementioned group, please refer to them as “a group” or “infiltrators”, not as “revolutionaries”, and most definitely never ever under any circumstances do you tweet “The revolutionaries are armed with guns and are shooting back at their attackers”, you freakin idiot, because for the general public that means that the “Revolutionaries” are 1) no longer peaceful and 2) arming themselves, thus giving any security apparatus in the world the justification to come to the sit-in and crack skulls. Also, don’t try to justify your mistake by stating that just your tweet won’t be enough to indict the people arrested by the security forces, because it’s not about the legal indictment to them, but rather the social indictment to all of us. We have kept arms out of the revolution because we understand that 1) this is not our game, 2) this is not what we signed up for, 3) the moment guns are in the equation we can be easily branded as terrorists and treated as such, while the worst thing they were capable of describing us as has been “saboteurs”, and our trials would always end in acquittals. But armed conflict? Terrorism? That’s exactly what they have been waiting for to round us all up and start the witch-hunt for real.
  7. The Presidential election is in less than 3 weeks, which would mean the “end of military rule”, and that such clashes are usually instigated right before the elections to get the revolutionary forces either preoccupied with fending for their lives, saving their fellow friends’ lives, or boycotting the entire thing (Mohamed Mahmoud Anyone?), and then spending the next few weeks trying to get those arrested out of Prison (Every sit-in ever). Are you not noticing the pattern yet? That maybe, just maybe, you might need a new strategy? Maybe stop the sit-ins all together, since they no longer work and have stopped being anything other than death-traps? Why do you insist on competing with the Romanians for the title of most retarded revolutionaries ever? I just don’t get it!

 

PS: If by writing this post I have betrayed the revolution or stopped being a revolutionary in your eyes, and no longer worthy of your respect, well, I find no better answer to give you then the following passage from Living in the End Times by Slavoj Zizek:

“So maybe, just maybe, I am on the right path, the path of fidelity to freedom. Fidelity should be strictly opposed to Zealotry: a Zealot fanatical attachment to his cause is nothing but a desperate expression of his uncertainty and doubt, of his lack of trust in the Cause. A subject truly dedicated to his Cause regulates his eternal fidelity by means of incessant betrayals”

In other words, you are a retarded zealot, fuck off and die.

Anecdote, platitude, inspirational quote, etc…

WAN-IFRA had asked me to write them an article for World Press Day. The Theme was “Silence Kills Democracy, but a free Press still talks”. This is what I’ve sent them.

 

When writing this article, one is quite tempted to take the easy way out: Write about the importance of free speech, how a free press emboldens democracy, and provide some sort of semi-horrifying/semi-inspirational anecdote about a journalist who was very brave and faced the odds and now everything is better and democracy stands triumphant, all because of a free press. And quite naturally, since I am one of the new-media pioneers (remember when it used to be called just blogging? I miss that), not to mention a “voice of the Egyptian revolution”, I am supposed to take this stand and advocate that position with all the might and power of the jan25 revolution. I really want to, but… I can’t, because there is a problem in the premise, and one that won’t go away anytime soon.

It used to be easy to advocate this point of view, that of a simplistic world where the evil government oppressed the good journalists and bloggers, and where the Internet offered us the only space of freedom of speech that we were allowed to exist in. The basis of this view was quite evident: The regime used to ban newspapers, arrest journalists, and the journalists would fight back in courts and we would stand in solidarity defending the right to free speech and freedom of the press. This view was something that I subscribed to until we had the revolution and the regime was gone and for a good while we had no censorship, during which time, slowly but surely, that point of view went through a serious case of deterioration. Let me explain.

Before the revolution there were two kinds of press in Egypt: Newspapers that were against the regime, and newspapers that were trying to be mediators between the regime and the people (whether by being state-owned media, or “centrist” journalistic institutions). Then the revolution happened, and there was suddenly no regime, and that’s when the fatal flaw showed its face. The anti-regime newspapers suddenly had no regime to oppose or ministers to expose, and the mediating newspapers suddenly had no regime to mediate for, and it all went downhill very quickly. The anti-regime newspapers milked the old regime for all its worth, spending month upon month writing about the scandals of the regime and its ex-officials, most of which are articles that were poorly sourced and mostly based on “hearsay” and “truisms” or ”common-knowledge”. The mediating newspapers didn’t have a single editorial line that they could or were able to follow, which used to lead to opposing headlines on the same topic in two consecutive days, without a hint of an explanation or apology for the 180-degree switch in 24 hours. At a time in which the whole nation was looking for guidance and truth, the Egyptian press lacked both, despite the fact that they had all the freedom in the world. Or maybe because of it… because now we had all the freedom, accompanied by zero accountability, and serious resistance to any form of it as well. Hubris or power-drunk are not the right words, but they are the first to come to mind. And then things got worse.

You see, this model presented the journalists of the old-regime a golden opportunity to do the same thing to revolutionary forces through their old or new media outlets, which led to a series of incredibly false and scandalous reports about the revolution’s symbols, none of which they were ever held accountable for. The press became a battlefield of conflicting false accounts and exaggerations, truth was the first casualty, and all credibility went out of the window. We suddenly lived in a Huxley-ian world where there was no truth, only narrative, and the people got flooded with such conflicting information that they either believed what they wanted to believe (whether it was “The revolutionaries are foreign agents” or “Mubarak still rules us”), or tuned out completely from the entire process and stopped paying attention to any of the current events or caring about their outcome.

Until this day, this still holds true: No one has identified the problem or tried to solve it in any real way, given that all the players have seemingly decided that credibility no longer matters, as long as the content is controversial and sells issues. So, yeah, after an entire year of this, I am not entirely sure that the free press truly supports democracy in our case. However, it does get people talking, so if silence truly kills democracy, I guess our press is doing its job protecting it.


7 reasons why I am against the Disfranchisement Law

There is a huge debate over the newly voted-in disfranchisement law right now, one which I believe to be critical to the future of this country. Given that I have demanded from day one that such a law to be formed, I find it very strange to find myself opposing it now. I am writing the reasons for this opposition right here, because I sincerely wish for someone to be able to refute the argument that I’ve reached. I understand that writing this article could cost me dearly amongst many circles, and that conveying such an opinion would come with a heavy price, so please give me the courtesy to save any judgments until you have read it all. Here are the 7 reasons why I am against the disfranchisement law:

  1. It is a self-serving law for the MB that uses the revolution as its cover: This law, while being in the revolution’s wish list for a year now, was something that the MB had no intentions of implementing at all, despite repeated calls for it, due to the understanding that they have had with SCAF. This understanding, coupled with their majority, got them to turn their backs on the revolution at some very crucial moments, focusing their energies at consolidating their powers and not take any real stand with the revolution that would hinder their attempts to recreate the old regime in their image. They took a a neutral position regarding the Maspiro attacks, despite its horrifying and sectarian indications, and then ran for parliament on a completely sectarian platform; they didn’t stop their campaigning or join the national call to delay the elections for one week when the Mohamed Mahmoud Incidents took place and Egyptians were dying and injured by the hundreds; they completely turned their backs on aftermath of that event, alongside with the events of the Egyptian Cabinet sit-in, and the PortSaid massacre and the renewed clashes that took place after it as well, and refused to allow the questioning of SCAF’s members in Parliament; when they were faced with mounting anger due to their continued betrayal in their quest for power, they had the audacity to propose a law that would make protesting illegal and protesters thugs; Last but not least, the constitutional committee fiasco, where they sidelined everyone and attempted to fully control the constitution writing process, to create a constitution to their liking and not one that represented all of us. For them the revolution had served the purpose of getting them to power, and they were so completely disinterested in any of the revolution’s demands that didn’t serve them. Then Omar Suleiman decided to run a few days after Khairat ElShater announced his candidacy, and they realized that they are in grave danger of losing all the gains that they amounted, because they didn’t want this competition to their candidate. Knowing that they can’t overtly just ban him from running, they decided to use the revolution as a cover for their self-serving purposes. And I don’t know about you, but given what they have done, I am done helping the MB in any capacity to increase their powers, and I am disgusted that they have the audacity to use protecting the same revolution that they betrayed time and time again as the excuse and cover for their self-serving goals. They made their bed and they can lie in it.

     

  2. It is a tailored law for one person: When the revolution called for this law, they wanted it to set the foundation of a new era by sidelining all the symbols of the old regime from the political landscape until the revolution stands on its feet. This included NDP parliamentarians, officials and members, Mubarak’s Cabinet members and people associated with the Presidency. All of those, including Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s Prime Minister, were deemed not to be a problem for the MB controlled Parliament, until Omar Suleiman threw his hat in the ring. So they tailored the law specifically to ban him from running, and in order to avoid that problem, they added two words that would include Ahmed Shafiq as well, but vetoed adding to that list Mubarak’s ministers or symbols or NDP parliamentarians, because 1) Adding the ministers or symbols would mean that Amr Moussa wouldn’t be able to run, and Field-Marshal Tantawy would have to be removed immediately from his position, since he was Mubarak’s defense minister and Vice-Prime-Minister; 2) Adding the NDP parliamentarians would mean disqualifying many MP’s inside the current Parliament to the point that the parliament could be dissolved and a new parliamentary elections would have to be held, and they wouldn’t be likely to maintain their prized majority; and 3) Who wants all of this headache when the real sole purpose of that law is to ban Suleiman from running anyway? Needless to say that in this context the law proposed is not only an abomination of the law we wanted, but also unconstitutional, and can- and will- be easily struck down in court. Why support it then?

     

  3. It is a very dangerous Precedent to set: The greatest indicator of the NDP’s corruption has always been their tendency to tailor laws that favor them over their competitors. Given that this law was only proposed the moment Suleiman announced his candidacy and is aimed at removing the MB’s main competition for the Presidency and no one else, they are literally walking in the footsteps of the NDP. If this precedent is allowed to be made and succeeds, thus paving a smoother path for their candidate to their presidency, there will be nothing stopping them in the future of making laws that exclude other competitors, such as non-islamist parties or their candidates from running against them, since they do have the parliamentary majority- and possibly the Presidential powers- necessary to enforce their will and choose their competition Iran-Style. This time they are protecting the revolution from the Mubarak figures running against them, next time they will be protecting the Islamic revolution from the secular infidels running against them. There is, after all, a very valid reason why any elections in which an Islamist party has the majority has the tagline “One man, One Vote, One Time”: They usually do anything, legal or illegal, moral or immoral, to stay in power. Why give them the precedent that they would need for that?

     

  4. It shows a magnificent weakness on the Revolution’s part: This law, and the level of hysteria and panic that followed Suleiman’s candidacy amongst the revolutionary forces, juxtaposed with the fierce & solid determination that they showed that forced him out of Power a year ago, is painting a very unflattering picture of the current state of the revolutionaries. Why is there so much fear from the idea of Suleiman running? Why isn’t he treated the same way Ahmed Shafiq is being treated, an out of touch remnant of an old regime that was brought down by the people? Are you telling me that all the political forces in the country, many of which got millions of votes in an election that ended 3 months ago, alongside all the revolutionaries that are against him, are incapable of making the argument that he is the wrong man for the job to the people of Egypt? That all the presidential candidates combined cannot convince their voters or base not to vote for him? What kind of base do they have then? They had an entire year of wooing the public and they are unable to make the case against someone who was in power for 18 days and got ousted by public rage a year ago and hasn’t shown his face since? Why are they not gearing up for the battle, glad to be facing a face of a regime that has brought Egypt down to the sorry state it’s in today? The revolutionary forces destroyed Mubarak in 18 days, why can’t they do the same to Suleiman? Or are they aware that they are so weak, even the MB, that they cannot sway the people combined? Why are they running then? All that they have to do is to destroy the air of invincibility that he has around him and question him on the issues: How, for example, will he be able to bring security back, given that our Ministry of Interior is in shambles, our crime rate is rising due to our worsening economic conditions, and the lower classes are all armed to the hilt now? How will he enforce security using fear and oppression against a population that is a) no longer afraid and b) fully armed? Go out there and stop crime with his own hands? Last I checked he had no superpowers. Why are we treating him like he does?

     

  5. The argument for it doesn’t hold: When the proponent of the law are faced with all the previous points, they usually resort to the argument that if Suleiman was SCAF’s candidate, then they can forge the elections for him, and use article 28 in the presidential elections decree, that state that the decisions and results of the presidential election committee cannot be questioned, to force his presidency on the population that didn’t choose him. Fine, then the problem doesn’t lie in his candidacy per say, but in the article and the process of the elections. Why not change that? And since when is the process in doubt? I thought all the Islamist Parties that hold the majority in Parliament have repeatedly brushed off any talk about election fraud in the parliamentary elections as the bad sportsmanship of their losing election competitors and have declared full faith in the process and the Judges that are monitoring it, and again, this was an election that ended 3 months ago. What changed? Or was the process always corrupt, and it is how they got their majority, and they are now furious that it won’t be used to their advantage? I don’t forsee anyone would ever disagree on ensuring that the process would be less corrupt, more open for scrutiny, and double-checked (system, judges, voter registry, etc..) to ensure that it’s a fair election. Why not do that, instead of just ban the man from running?

     

  6. It doesn’t solve the problem: Even if the law is passed and deemed constitutional and barred Suleiman from running, it still will not solve the systemic problem of his candidacy. The Problem here is two-fold: A) If the presidential election process is viewed as corrupt and a way for SCAF to push through their candidate, then banning Suleiman won’t solve that since they can simply have a back-up candidate ready to push him through the same way; and 2) The Utter failure of all the political forces in the country to provide an appealing alternative to the public to vote for, and thus banning him would increase public anger and dissatisfaction at all the forces that supported his ban, which would cost them dearly in any upcoming elections. If you deny the regular citizen the right to choose his candidate for no legal reason other than the fact that you have issues with him, then next time that same citizen won’t vote for you, and will blame you for any and all mistakes that the other candidate that ends up winning instead of Suleiman will commit. If we are building a new democratic system, then the first step would have to be not to lose the trust of the regular voter, which was the NDP’s most fatal mistake.

     

  7. His Candidacy might be a good thing for the revolution: First of all, his candidacy and popularity should send a signal to the revolutionary forces: you need to up your game quick. It would mean that if the revolutionary forces want to change things, they will need to start offering solutions, instead of always objecting; they would need to present real electable candidates to the public, instead of the pack of lizards that we have running their name; They would have to stop being this disconnected with the public and its concerns, and start presenting a real alternative to the old regime, which until now they haven’t. Secondly, if this is a battle between SCAF and the MB, then it’s a battle that the revolutionary forces should stay out of, since it’s bound to leave the winner, whomever it is, weakened, and thus allow them to renegotiate the order of power in this country. Thirdly, if Suleiman’s candidacy is anything, then it’s a wakeup call for the revolutionaries to get their house in order and unite once again, and there is no unifying power greater than the man that represents to them the epitome of everything they opposed. But instead of taking that wake-up call, they want to hit the snooze button, and continue the foolishness that has mired them since last year. If Egypt deserves better than Omar Suleiman, then this is the time to stand up and prove it, or forever hold their peace.

Oh boy!

I was going through my old posts, and I found this paragraph in the post Tahrir: an Exercise in Nation Building :

But as an ending note, here is some food for thought: If Tahrir is a microcosm of modern day Egypt with all of its issues, and it managed to get there in a week, then being there for the next few days is crucial to understand what might happen in the next few years and how to prevent it.

That post was published on July 16th, a full two weeks before the July 8th sit-in was disbanded.

Do you recall what happened in those 2 weeks and how it all ended?

I do.

Hmm….

The Egyptian Presidency and rediscovering the couch

The Presidency

As Expected, the presidential race in Egypt has taken over the debate in all Egyptian social circles,virtual and real. The Political scene shifts to new front-runners by the second , and rumors around the nominees, and who of them is qualified to run and who has what nationality are both abundant and premature, especially that with every passing moment, the populace realizes more and more that they didn’t know much about the Nominees to begin with, and what they are finding out is not making them happy. And this entire process really got fired up the moment the Muslims Brotherhood announced the candidacy of Khairat ElShater for President.

I am not one to criticize that decision, since I do not share the view that the Muslim Brotherhood is the power-hungry opportunists everyone makes them out to be, and I believe that every decision they made they had to make. They need to remove the Ganzoury Government, cause Ganz-the old NDP weasel that he is- is burning money, spending like a drunken sailor, as if vowing to hand over to the MB a completely broke government, which in reality he will. Their attempt to highlight this was not met with favor from the SCAF, hence the beginning of their fight with them & their desire to remove the government. The ElShater nomination had to be made because of the AbulFotouh candidacy, with the Mid Cadres of the MB are grumbling over why they should vote for someone they don’t know or trust (SCAF’s candidate, whomever he is, as per the deal between them and the MB) when they can vote for AbulFotouh, whom they know and respect.

This forced the MB’s hand, either support AbulFotouh, at which case he would’ve defied the Supreme council of the MB and won, which is a very dangerous precedent to be set in an organization that operates on strict obedience to the Supreme Council’s decisions, or have one of their own run for President, in violation of the deal, to unify the votes of the Brotherhood, and since it has to be a strong figure, and Saad ElKatatny can only hold so many titles, it had to be Khairat ElShater, because no one else would be taken seriously by either their voters or the general public.

The Problem lies in the argument that the ElShater is a card that’s being used too soon, and will create more problems for the MB and ElShater himself, that anyone inside and outside the political scene considers it a miscalculation at best and a spectacularly dumb move at worst. This is an argument that should be respected, since it does have a lot more merit than its detractors believe. It’s a can of worms, and it got forced open, with far reaching consequences than anyone originally anticipated.

The Problematic Nomination

To put in laymen’s terms, the Khairat ElShater’s nomination will cause problems in five major areas: Inside the MB, the political scene, the public, ElShater’s personal life, and the Media.

  1. Inside the MB: The grumbling inside the MB over ElShater control of everything is really irking the members, who are not happy with the Brotherhood’s decisions, positions, and the hierarchical structure that ElShater is attempting to impose on their flat structure in order to fully control them. This is further heightened by the AbulFotouh campaign itself, and how many ex-MB members are coming out of the woodwork with open criticism and dirty laundry to air to the public, which is turning off the Youth of the Brotherhood from its organization and message as well. The speak of a real split inside the MB is not false nor exaggerated, with many members believing that a case of disintegration has afflicted their beloved organization, and its decay will be accelerated by the presidential competition between ElShater and Abulfotouh, eventually splintering a sizeable part of it forever. Even their political messaging, painting ElShater as this age’s Prophet Joseph, has been met with derision even amongst the MB’s rank and file. Win or lose, the MB, as a whole, will be in a weaker state by the time the Presidential elections is over.
  2. The Political scene: The Nomination stoked the rhetoric that the MB is trying to replicate the NDP and completely control all branches of the government. This has lead to: panic-turned-into-aggression amidst the different non-islamist political parties; landing the final straw for all the revolutionary movements; and the calls, by ex-regime sympathizers and nonaffiliated voters, for a military strongman candidate who they want to use fascist tactics to end the reign of the Brotherhood. This further emboldened by the way the nomination announcement was made, given that the Supreme Guide was the one to announce it on behalf of the FJP, which lead to all sorts of questions ranging from how separate the FJP really is from the MB, what exactly are the functions and powers of the Supreme guide and whether ElShater winning will mean that the Supreme Guide will be the one truly ruling the country, since ElShater, like all MB members, have sworn an oath of loyalty and obedience to that man and the MB’s decisions. In all cases, the MB finds itself more isolated than ever, will garner neither support nor sympathy by any other political force in the country by any of the groups, even if it’s against SCAF and even by the people who oppose SCAF the most. There is a word to how they all feel, and its contempt; and it’s not going away!
  3. The Public: The MB’s votes already splintered, the centrists will no longer be swayed by them, especially that the MB announced the nomination as a revolutionary act against the interfering SCAF. People can argue whether this disagreement is real or make-belief, either way the average Mo, who supports the army and fears civil conflict, will be turned off and shy away from them. With every other group already having a candidate that’s not ElShater, one has to wonder on whose votes he is counting.
  4. ElShater’s life: The man who has always been working in the shadows is now supposed to woo the public, who are both getting to know him and his family, all ten children of them. They are a publicist’s nightmare, since most of his 10 children are active social media users and are getting now pursued and interviewed by the Media, where they always end up saying things they shouldn’t say. I don’t think ElShater considered how this nomination will affect his and his family’s life, or more importantly, his professional life. The Presidency requires qualifications, and ElShater’s high profile will lead to people examining his own, and his business dealings, which will never end positively for a population that, fairly or unfairly, has grown resentful of the rich businessman types.
  5. The Media: Nominating yourself to a political office in Egypt, from a personal experience, is one of the most terrifyingly vulnerable experiences that anyone could go through, for it brings you out into the open and allows everyone to poke at you. Given that the Egyptian Media is both unprofessional and sensationalist in its reporting in order to gain customers, their desire for sensationalist news or information that could be turned into a scandal is insatiable, which is usually fed by agents of the security apparatuses in the regime for their own purposes. The moment the nomination door closes I envision a meeting between a government spook and journalists from every newspaper, where he hands them each a different file with all the dirt over a specific business transaction that ElShater or the MB have made, as a gift to the newspapers who need to sell their issues to survive. Expect the following stories: Khairat ElShater and the Business of the MB, Khairat ElShater’s money laundering operations, the land deals of the MB, etc.. They will basically turn him into the Islamist Ahmed Ezz, which will tarnish his image, and subsequently the MB’s, considerably, and enforcing the rhetoric that they are the new NDP and should be treated as such.

 

The AbulFotouh Vendetta

In the midst of all of this, it’s hard not to believe that the AbulFotouh’s campaign is becoming less about AbulFotouh leading the country, and more about the very personal political cage-match between him and ElShater over the MB. The whole thing is looking more and more like a personal vendetta between those old frenemies, and upon close inspection it does open up a few questions about AbuElFotouh himself. For starters, who says that he is really fighting a reformist fight inside the MB and that’s why the Old Guard forced him out, and not that he is simply someone who found himself slowly but surely being excluded from the circle of Power inside the MB and all the monetary & personal benefits that comes with it, and is therefore waging this war against them for revenge purposes, and using the reformist rhetoric to hide his true agenda? Would that really be an unfair presumption, given that this is exactly the situation that most of his supporters who are ex-MB, like Mohamed Habib, are ex-MB for precisely that reason? Or that he, more than anyone, knows- and doesn’t care- that his candidacy is slowly but surely destroying an old organization that he proudly states to be honored for being a part of and loves dearly, for his own egoistic reasons and ambitions? What kind of reformist strategy that aims to not embolden the reformist wing inside an organization and lead to its enforcing its will, but rather to cause them to split with the organization all together and join his camp? How will this lead to anything other than the other camp solidifying their power with what’s left of the organization of loyal supporters and beneficiaries, and having their rule or antics no longer challenged or questioned by anyone internally?

I am not saying that AbulFotouh is evil or malicious, but a little skepticism and cynicism are both utterly necessary and healthy before supporting a man, who happens to be a politician, for the position of highest office of the country, especially that his CV, while respectful and all, doesn’t qualify him for a position of that magnitude to begin with. Also, in the midst of all the ruckus, no one has done a proper job of documenting and examining his positions to begin with, especially that the man is infamous amidst those who are paying attention of changing his position based on the venue at which he is speaking. Quick, can someone tell me what is AbulFotouh’s position regarding the Israeli Peace agreement, or Sharia implementation? In the former he has three different positions that correlate to the target audience of whichever TV Channel he went on, whether liberal, State-owned or Islamists, and they range from respecting the Peace Process and the agreement with some reservations, to stating that it’s against Egyptian sovereignty and must therefore be changed, to rejecting any ties, agreements or relations with Israel completely. Don’t take my word for it, research it, and while you are at it, please see what he says about Sharia in secular Channels like ONTV and contrast that with what he says on Islamist channels. Try it. It’s a rather fun exercise.

Hazem Salah Abu Ismael People

In the midst of the fight within the MB’s camp between the financiers and the rebels, it’s important not to forget the third Islamist heavyweight, Hazem Salah AbuIsmael, whose base is the much ignored segment of islamist voters, the crazy fanatics, just because it has come to light that his Mother was a US citizen and thus should be legally disqualified from running. Neither will AbuIsmael give up his candidacy that easily without a serious legal challenge, nor will his supporters accept such a decision without causing problems. AbuIsmael may not have the widest base of supporters, but he does have the most fanatic ones, and they have already vowed violence if he is not allowed to run. Given that they are so loopy that they believe that 1) He is the most honest man in the country, even though he did caught redhanded in public lying about his mother’s nationality; 2) his Mom’s passport was fabricated by the US as a conspiracy to disqualify him from running, and that the SCAF are in on it, so it’s not out of the range of the possible to imagine them clashing with everyone from the supporters of his political competitors to the army itself for his sake. Think am exaggerating? Think again. It’s already happening.

Omar Soliman’s candidacy

On Top of this mess, comes the nomination of Omar Soliman as the proverbial icing on top of our political shitcake. The Ex-VP of Mubarak, and the man who is regarded worldwide as one of the world’s most powerful spooks, is throwing his hat in the ring one day after announcing that he is not running, and turning the entire political scene on its head. He has huge name recognition and technically has the most presidential of all CV’s presented, but he is also a military man, an intelligence man, and Mubarak’s VP, which are all huge weak points against him. Also, the assumptions of his winning the support of the population, fair and square, is suspect. The man operates brilliantly in the shadows, but the moment he is thrust into the light, like last year, he can’t escape looking scary as hell in the Media. Ironically, this is the main reason his supporters love him, for he looks like the kind of strongman daddy-figure that they need and crave. His supporters believe that he is the only one capable of stopping (and hopefully locking up) the Islamists for good, and just like the ElShater’s supporters, they have given him an Islamic-based packaging: The Messiah-figure. He who will solve all, bring back security and order, and save this country, especially from ElShater and his ilk. While as equally naïve as ElShater’s Joseph thing, there is one main difference: Soliman’s supporters actually and truly believe that he is really the messianic savior that they need, and have shown that in the speed and ferocity they have shown in collecting his support credentials. As of now, our election has the modern day’s Joseph, the Messiah, and the Demigod known as AbuIsmael. Oh Yeah!

The Six Truths

This all leads to my conclusion, which is really comprised of the following 6 simple truths:

  1. Public Support is Bullshit: After Saad ElSoghayer’s ( a famous Sha3by singer in Egypt) stunt of collecting 55,000 letters of agency to run for President in a week and showing up with his supporters, the trick of giving the image of massive public support by showing up with thousands of supporters (a.k.a the AbuIsmael strategy) no longer works. It’s actually impossible to gauge who has real public support now, since almost everyone who is running can mobilize thousands in a country of 50 million voters.
  2. Our Intelligentsia and Elite are failures: The course of this revolution, and the nature of the candidates, makes it obvious the depth of failure that has befallen that our country’s Elite. The entire Egyptian Elite and Intelligentsia, and not a single acceptable, plausible, electable presidential candidate? Are you kidding me?
  3. The newly-elected President won’t be able to solve anything: Whomever wins, our next President will have to deal with a MB & Salafi controlled Parliament that might not last very long, a military that very much acts independently and follows its own agenda, a government that is unlikely to solve any of the compiling problems, and yet to be defined, by parliament’s constitutional committee, powers, responsibilities and job description. Either way you look at it, at least one of those forces is a problem for each candidate.
  4. We are heading into a crisis: While for most people the fight within those forces will determine the shape of the state, they forget that there is no state to speak of right now. We are heading into a crisis as a country, with the failing economy, rising prices, the failure of almost every sector of government services, and the outbreak of crime. Also, the idea of the strong President who will solve it all is breaking, since whomever will win will be someone that the majority either hates or voted for because they had no other option. We are entering the era of The Minority President, so what pull can he really have?
  5. We will finally know the true size of each Player: All of our impressions about the candidates are based on media interviews and social media presence, which are misleading at best. Who would lead a better campaign, Soliman or ElShater? Can Abulfotouh really get the centrist votes? Where is the Moussa campaign? Do the people actually know those candidates; especially that none of them has managed to score more than 18% recognition amidst the public in any poll?
  6. We will witness the show of a lifetime: Everything that already happened is nothing, since the official campaigning has not even started yet, and we are playing democracy with a population that so far doesn’t have democratic values, nor does it have any impartial media to inform them. This will be insanely entertaining!

     

Basically, we are about to encounter two months of political mayhem that no one can control or stop, so relax, get the popcorn, rediscover your couch, as I am rediscovering mine, and enjoy the show.

This will be SO AWESOME! :D

For the light to come back

There is something gloomy now about the nights of Cairo, which you notice it while driving at night. It’s as if the City has suddenly become less bright at night, and it doesn’t shine the way it used to. I used to think I am imagining it, and then tonight I’ve finally figured it out: Not only does it seem as if the light bulbs that they are using now to light the 6th October bridge at night are dimmer, there are dozens of light poles that are simply off, and have been for a while now, with no one fixing them. Their absence makes the night full of dread, as if with the rising crime and the continued lack of safety of our streets are not reasons enough. Those light poles and their conditions are perfect metaphor to what’s happening in the country right now: The situation is, slowly but surely, deteriorating, and nobody is doing anything to fix that. The Arab spring has turned into nuclear bloody winter, and the lights are slowly fading.

If we ignore the current political situation for a second, we might be able to focus on what’s really happening in the country, and maybe, just maybe, figure out the ways to which we can ensure that the current dark phase is a temporary one, and provide solutions to the real concerns of the people that are both well-thought out and researched. We don’t do that, and instead we offer platitudes and theoretical solutions that don’t adhere to practical reality or our goals. We started a revolution to prevent corruption, and now the government officials, at least on the municipalities’ level, are being more corrupt than ever and being blatant about it, and nobody is doing anything or offering any real solution to actually stop that from happening. The same is happening in regards to our cattle, and to our economy, and nobody has a clue on how to fix this, or has a real full understanding of the problem and why it exists in the first place. Without that, we are doomed to stay stuck with our problems and to watching them continue to exasperate and grow to something of ghoulish proportions, without the ability to fix the problem on the long term. And nowhere, and I mean nowhere, is that more evident in our problems with security and law enforcement, or the fact that it still doesn’t seem to exist on our streets in any meaningful capacity. There are reasons for that that we must understand, or we are stuck in this limbo of a broken country, with no hope of ever getting out.

There is no doubt that our Police force leaves much to be desired, or that it’s filled with people who may not have criminal minds or intentions, but definitely have criminal attitudes. However, this is not an article that aims to attack them and continue to call them all the names and adjectives that we have so grown to use regarding them, neither does it aims to apologize for their actions, or excuse them. This article aims to understand the root of the problem of police reform, and why they continue to act like criminals are worst, or criminally negligent at best. It’s easy to take the position of many revolutionaries and write off the force as 99% criminals and butchers, but it doesn’t help solve anything, nor will any of the plans that aim to “clean the police” that keep popping up. The Problem, in a nutshell, and away from any criminal or corrupt activity they engage in, is simply this: Our Police is comprised of severely limited (many of which are violent) human beings that are facing an extremely hostile environment without proper training or resources, at a shit salary and shitty hours, to protect a public that daily demands their presence on the street, but refuses to obey the law or respect their authority. But if we take a bird eye view, we will find that things are slightly more complex than that. Here is some food for thought to consider in this debate:

  • Like many government institutions (the army, the judiciary, the media), our police suffers from a severe case of nepotism, with families that all work in that sector. The Son gets into the MOI due to some strings done by his father who is also in the MOI, and pre revolution it was the parents and their friends protecting the sons if they got into trouble. After the revolution, it is the sons, the law-ranking street officers who are refusing any punishment against their parents (and parents’ friends) generation. For the lack of a better word, our police force is a clan.
  • Throughout their 4 year study in the Police academy, they are not trained in any way, shape or form to apply the law or deal with the public, or even to do proper police work. They don’t get trained on crime scene investigation, proper interrogation techniques, or respecting the same law & process they are supposed to protect. They have something called “The scene of the crime” theater, where they are supposed to learn how investigate a crime scene. That thing is never opened or used unless we have foreign visitors. Otherwise, it is closed and never used.
  • As much as there is talk about how much funding the MOI receives in the Budget, the reality is that they are severely under-funded and under-resourced. Take Maadi for example, where they have one police officer and three soldiers to protect all of the Maadi banks, and with an old blue pick-up truck (elbox) to chase out potential robbers who usually are driving stolen new 4×4 cars, or guys on motorcycles (They also have one police officer in charge of protecting all the gas stations in Maadi as well). Or in Heliopolis, where during my run for parliament my friend Ramy’s bag was stolen from his car, at 10 pm at night, on the very busy street of Marghany, on a Friday night, and the car was parked in front of the presidential palace. Our trip to the Police station was depressing, because they were helpless, and still reeling from the fact that the police checkpoint in Roxy was just robbed two days ago of its computers. We awaited the patrol sergeants in the area to arrive, which they did 20 minutes later in a taxi, because they don’t have cars or motorbikes, and are supposed to “secure” a three kilometers radius area at night on foot, which is safe to say is not the most efficient way to do this. They complained to us incessantly on how helpless they are, and how they have orders of “selective law enforcement”: i.e. if they found someone smoking up in the street for example, and they have a Heliopolis address (thus rich and upper-middle class) they were clearly instructed to let them go, all the while are encouraged to apply the law fully if the person had a “Ain Shams” address for example, which is the neighboring lower-middle class neighborhood. Why? Because their commanding officers don’t want headaches (upper-middle class people have connections & media access that could cause them trouble as opposed to their middle and lower-middle counterparts) or the people from the neighborhood to dislike them further, thus sending to their lower-ranks the same message they had before the revolution: the law is meaningless when it comes to the affluent, thus ensuring the perpetuation of the lack of respect to any law, because If the country’s most educated won’t respect the law, even on the level of putting seatbelts on, or talking on the phone while driving, or hell, having your license on you while driving, then who will?
  • The question then arises: well, if the resources are the same, and the attitude was the same, how was Cairo so secure before the revolution? Well, the answer was simple: FEAR. They harnessed and perpetuated the fear from the Police, and the fear from being taken into Police custody, who will abuse, mistreat, torture and sometimes even kill you, to ensure that the citizens complied with “the law” and that the streets were “secure”, which they did through the mistreatment of the citizens or the distribution of what is now known as “Police torture videos”, which were aimed at lower classes to put the fear of God into them. This method lead them on the very dangerous path of viewing themselves as also above the law and able to literally get away with murder, especially with the culture of zero-accountability that marked the Habib El-Adly reign. They also had a very good idea of who the “repeat offenders” in the area were, so if a crime happened, they would simply round them up and torture them until someone confessed, fully understanding that if he was truly guilty, then justice was done, and if not, the population would feel safe again since “the criminals were caught”, and that the true perpetrator would be unlikely to repeat the crime in that same area because they know someone else took the fall for them, and they wouldn’t want to attract that kind of attention in their direction again. This is no longer the case, with the torching of Police stations, and break-outs in the country’s jails, which makes them completely unable to gauge how many “repeat-offenders” exist in the area they operate in anymore, and the rise of human-rights organizations and advocates, who became focused on defending the “suspects” and “repeat-offenders” rights from Police abuse, and supplying them with the lawyers that would defend them, and god knows our Police was never even trained on the right legal procedures to arrest or interrogate anyone, thus ensuring their release and the placement of the Police officer under internal investigation. So, in return, the police realize that it’s far easier to not bother with the rounding up of those suspects in the first place, especially with how well-armed the lower-class neighborhoods’ are at the moment, and the general lack of sympathy when a police officer dies on duty or get injured if they do try to stop a crime, and decided to let it all go to hell.
  • This, of course, doesn’t go well with the few good apples that exist in our Police Force, and they do exist, who would like to ensure that the respect of the police and the security of the streets return once again, because, like the rest of us, they reside in them. So a few in Heliopolis suggested that the MOI supply them with small wireless lipstick cameras that they can wear as part of their uniforms, recording their interactions with the general public, and acting as evidence and an arbiter in deciding if they broke the law or rules of conduct with the citizens and vice versa, and have it all logged in hard-drives in their patrol cars. That idea was of course rejected by the older generation in management, no reason given. Another police officer came up with a plan to actually secure an entire neighborhood with the low cost of 15,000 pounds (2.5 thousand dollars), and that idea was also rejected by the older generation, no reasons were given. One can guess the reasons to be anything from 1) their reluctance to change their ways to 2) lack of resources, to 3)fear of “trouble” if those cameras recorded evidence that one of the more connected citizens broke the law, or one of their officers in the lower-class neighborhoods did the same thing, thus stopping their ability to interfere or “resolve the situation”. Thus again sending them the same message from their offices of Power: Don’t bother; which is easy for them to do since they are not the ones on the front-lines of anything and don’t want any accountability for anything.
  • This general culture of lack of accountability or desire for improvement by the older ranks naturally leaves the lower-ranks officers quite resentful of them and of their orders to “bring back security” to the streets, and also making them believe that they are expendable, since they are asked to go and stop criminals that have better guns and better cars equipment than they do, and without the leaders that don’t care for them or the public that neither fears or respect them, so they simply don’t obey any order given to them that would place their lives at risk. Take for example of the events of Mansour Mohamed, where the MOI insisted that they didn’t give any of the officers any live ammo or birdshot ammo, but rather blanks, and contrast that with the thousands of injured with birdshots all over their bodies. We naturally assume that the MOI is lying, but that’s actually not the case. The MOI really did not give the officers any live ammo of any kind; the low-ranking officers, Lieutenants and captains, are the ones buying it themselves, with half of their salaries, mostly from their officer friends in the army, and if they don’t have any, they go to Gun-shops and buy it there. Why? Because they believe, totally and utterly, that the revolutionaries want them dead, and that if any of them gets caught by the protesters, they might not make it our alive by firing blanks at them, so they take the blanks from the Ministry, toss them, use the live ammo and go out guns-blazing and shooting any of them that’s close enough to be in range, to get them to either flee or be “neutralized”, knowing full well that they will get away with it because legally there is no evidence, and that the rule of zero-accountability still exists in the MOI, and emboldened by the fact that any Minister that takes over can simply be removed by 1) mounting public anger to anything bad that any of them anywhere in the country can do or 2) Cabinet changes that keep taking place so often that I bet that half of the readers of this post wouldn’t be able to say who the current MOI Minister is without looking it up. After 15 years of having the same minister, the MOI has changed ministers 3 times in the span of a year, and is expected to have a 4th one the moment the MB forms the new government, so why bother with any of their directives orders or plans, if they can just be replaced at any given moment?

And mind you, this is nothing. Just the tip of the ice-berg of the cluster-fuck that is our current security situation, and it doesn’t even take into account all the Police officers who have, over the years, become so corrupt that they are the ones running crime (drug rings, prostitution rings, theft-rings) in their neighborhoods, nor does it take into account our fantastically criminal state security apparatus and all the shit that they did and still do throughout their reign, and that nobody, again, is doing anything real or substantive about it. So, for a lack of a better word, we are currently in a cluster-fuck, and one that is unlikely to change or improve in the coming couple of years because as any criminal-justice major will tell you that worsening economic situation and the lack of strong and present law-enforcement will lead to the rise of petty-crime. You add to that the instances of newly forming organized crime structure that are starting to show themselves, and the ever worsening situation of street-children and street-families, who are 1) increasing and 2) many of which are venturing into semi-organized crime as well, and you start seeing the increasingly darker picture of our very near future. The question then becomes: what should we do?

Well, many of the proposals and solutions presented, from “firing everyone who broke the law”, to “we can train lawyers to become police officers in a year” are naïve and impractical. If we fired every police-officer who broke the law, we will fire them all, and if we train lawyers to become police officers in a year there is no guarantee that 1) the lawyers who will join won’t be equally corrupt to the ones in office now, or 2) that they will be any more effective in enforcing the law, given the worsening crime situation and their lack of the tools and street knowledge that the police force cultivates over the years that allows them to do their jobs and 3) the problems highlighted above will continue to exist, because, well, who will train and equip them except the current crop of MOI honchos who are equally ill-trained and equipped? What can be done?

Well, I am no expert, nor am I nearly qualified to provide the solution, but I do understand some things, so I will present them here also as my suggestions to slightly improve the situation:

  • There is no such thing as fast police-reform. The Police in Belguim, an affluent first world rich country, took them 10 years to reform their police force from something that used to be considered a joke to something respectable. Their conditions were nowhere near as bas ours was, and it took them 10 years, so we shouldn’t expect anything faster.
  • Crime will happen in Egypt, like it happens anywhere else in the world. Muggings, breaking and entry, even murder, are commonplace everywhere in the world, even in the safest areas of the most affluent civilized countries. It sucks, but it’s normal. What we had before was abnormal and resulted in consequence to everything that took place in the past year. The return to that will not solve any of our crime problems, but rather exasperate them more.
  • Join the Police. The corrupt clan “Band of brothers” culture of the MOI needs to be broken and this could only happen if ethically-minded Egyptians applied to the Police academy and joined the force. We didn’t encourage young revolutionaries to do that last year, even though we should’ve, because that would’ve been the most logical way to produce a new crop of Police officers in the near future that wouldn’t be corrupt and who would take their job and the law seriously. Another suggestion should’ve been ensuring that the two years of law that the Police get as part of their education as police officers should actually be taken outside the academy and in the regular universities of Cairo and Ain Shams, thus breaking the fraternity feeling that the police recruits have and that makes them protect each other over applying the law, and making the newly graduated police officer a part of a greater society, instead of the bubble they get placed in for four years inside the Police academy.
  • There is absolutely no other choice but for the culture of proper Police investigation to make a come-back to our Police force, which should be our demand and concern. Training the officers and recruits on police investigations should be our first priority, and getting them experts from abroad on this should be a national demand until we cultivate our own.
  • Technology and IT will help: The use of cameras is not a bad idea at all, and ensures 1) the existence of evidence of the charges presented against the suspect, 2) the following of police procedures by the police, and 3) ensuring the equal treatment of all, citizens and police, according to the law. The creation of a strong national database is also a must that connects everyone’s ID number with the criminal record or lack there-of, and giving the officers hand-held computers that allows them access to such a network when they apprehend someone that they believe to be suspicious due to his “appearance” to verify the need to take them to the police station to investigate further. Currently, the only such computer is found inside the police station, and thus created the need-or the excuse- to take the suspected citizen back to the police station to “investigate”, which is where the majority of the abuse historically happens. Having those computers or hand-held devices will eliminate that problem or excuse immediately.
  • Put on your seat-belts. For real. Respect the law even if you don’t respect the law-enforcer. Don’t complain about corruption when you are willing to use it to get yourself or your loved-ones out of trouble. Don’t complain about traffic officers when you continuously break all of the laws every time you drive. The Law shouldn’t be respected because of fear of punishment, but for the desire of the citizens to live in a civilized ordered society. You know that corny saying of “Be the change you want to see”? Well, in our case it’s not that corny. If you won’t respect the law and encourage others to do the same, don’t complain about the crime or the police, because, guess what? You are part of the problem. Big time.
  • Offer your assistance to improve the situation, and it might get improved. I am working on getting the police sergeants in Heliopolis Chinese motorbikes, so that they can at least cover their 3km patrol areas on something other than foot, and thus making them slightly more efficient in crime prevention or criminal apprehension. Someone else I know is offering to 15 K necessary to implement the plan of that police officer, with the condition that the same officer present an equal plan for a poorer neighborhoods that he is also willing to fund. We are living in the same country, might as well start behaving like we are a community.

Those suggestions are not a silver bullet, nor will they solve the problems that we have immediately, but they are a start, and we must start somewhere, and do it together, if we want things to improve, instead of always wanting to throw the responsibility on someone else and complaining that they don’t do their jobs. The deterioration that is taking place in all the sectors might not be our fault, but it has to be our responsibility, if not for the love of our country, then for our own self-interest. The nights might be becoming gloomier by the minute, but if we don’t do something about it, well, the light might never come back.

On the Presidential elections

In a few months, Egypt will undergo its first Post-Mubarak presidential elections. Barring no new entrants in the race after registration starts on the 10th of March, and everything else remaining constant, here is an analysis of how this thing will go down.

The Candidates Categories:

Ex-Mubarak Regime: Includes Ahmed Shafiq, the ex-Mubarak Prime Minister; Amr Moussa, the ex-Mubarak Foreign minister; Hossam Khairallah, an ex- high ranking official in Mubarak’s Intelligence.

Islamists pretending to be liberals: Includes AbdelMoneim Aboulfotouh and Selim Elawwa , both ex-Muslim Brotherhood.

The Salafis: Hazem Salah Abu Ismael.

 

The Breakdown:

Ex-Mubarak Regime: In that category, and given the sorry state of his campaign, Mr. Khairallah is slated to get maybe half a million votes. Ahmed Shafiq, who, for some unfathomable reason beyond my comprehension has a relatively high level of popularity, will get maybe 2 million votes. Thus leaving Amr Moussa, who has the highest level of name recognition and money, estimated to get at least 10 million votes, thus emerging as the real winner in that category.

Islamists pretending to be liberals: Selim Elawwa has no real base of support, so he will maybe get a half a million votes, so he is also out from round one. Aboulfotouh is slated to get the votes of religious centrists, ex-Baradei supporters, a contingent of the revolutionaries that believe- for some reason- he is one of them, and the mid-cadres inside the Muslim brotherhood, who will not openly support him, but will vote for him, since he was their mentor, literally. This amount will round –up to about 8 million votes that Aboulfotouh should get, and thus cementing his status as the winner in that category as well.

The Salafis: The salafi vote is estimated to be around 9 million votes, but so far the salafi parties have not endorsed Abu Ismail, and we still don’t know if the Noor Party has a candidate of their own, thus splintering the salafi vote. But if everything remained constant, and no other salafi candidate emerges, Abu Islamail will get the 9 million votes.

This leaves us with two possible scenarios:

Scenario A is one where Abu Islamil gets no competitors for the salafi vote, so he and Amr Moussa end up going to the run-off round, at which point the Abulfotouh votes get splintered almost evenly between the two candidates, and Moussa gets all of the ex-Mubarak regime votes on top of this, so he ends up being the winner, and Egypt’s next President.

Scenario B is one where Abu Ismail gets a competitor, splintering the salafi vote, and leaving the run-off between Moussa and Aboulfotouh, at which point the salafi vote will go to Abulfotouh, so he ends up being the winner and Egypt’s next President.

And thus, if no super-candidate shows up in the last minute and no political fiasco ends up exploding in the middle of the race, we end up being with one of two Presidents: A salafi-backed Muslim Brotherhood President, or an Ex-Mubarak Hack President.

Doesn’t that just leave you super excited for this election?

A Democratic Union

Are you familiar with General Abbas Mekheimar?

No? Well, General Abbas is the MP who heads the Defense and National Security committee in the Egyptian Parliament. Before he got in, he was Candidate Abbas Mekheimar, on top of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party list in Sharqiya in the last elections. Before he was Abbas Mekheimar the candidate, he was General Abbas Mekheimar, the head of internal investigations in the Egyptian military intelligence agency. General Mekheimar’s job was to ensure that all military officials, whether in the army or the military intelligence, did not have political leanings, especially of the islamist type. More specifically, he was the person responsible before all others to ensure that none of the people he supervised were Gamma’a islameya or Muslim Brotherhood or had leanings in that direction, and if they did, he would investigate and then punish them if his suspicions were proven right. He was that guy.

Well, sometime around last may, General Mekhemar suddenly quit his post in military intelligence and disappeared for three months, after that emerging as Abbas Mekheimar, one of the top names on the FJP’s list in Sharqiya, which won, naturally. Once he got into parliament, he once again was referred to as General Abbas Mekheimar, and he ran, unopposed and unchallenged by all, for the head of the defense and national security committee in the post-revolution Egyptian parliament.

You figure it out!