Reconciliation

Right now, we have an Egyptian President who holds the executive powers, the legislative powers, power over the military, and the power to veto the drafted constitution or create another constitutional committee if he wishes. If this alone wasn’t disconcerting enough, let’s add to it the fact that there is no organized opposition to him, he seems intent on continuing the time-honored tradition of hiring loyalist unqualified hacks and lackeys for important government positions, he doesn’t seem to have any intentions of being democratic or even create a government out of the coalition that he created, with his supporters viscously attacking anyone who criticizes him, sometimes with religious overtones.

One would think that such a president must have a huge mandate to be able to pull this kind of crap on all of us, but surprisingly enough, he doesn’t. He won with 51% , with almost half of his votes coming from secular revolutionary voters who simply didn’t want Shafiq to win. In reality, if someone did the math, one would realize that at least 17 million of the 25 million voters who voted in the presidential elections did not vote to have the Muslim Brotherhood take over the shaping of the Egyptian post-revolution state, and actually belong on the secular side. The Problem is, this secular majority is so divided amongst revolutionaries and Shafiqistas, that a reconciliation, despite its utterly logical necessity at the moment, is completely out of the question. Why? Only two reasons: perspective and political symbols.

Let’s start with the perspectives problem, and outline the 3 major points of contention: 1) The Mubarak state, 2) presidential elections and 3) character, and tackle them one by one. Shafiqistas believe that a corrupt and possibly murderous state is better than having no state, since they believe correctly that millions would suffer at the absence of state institutions, and incorrectly that such a state can be reformed with time, while Revolutionaries believe that no state is better than having a corrupt and murderous state, and that such a state would need to be brought down and rebuilt correctly for the sake of our long-term benefit, even if in the meantime millions end up suffering the absence of what little state they had. Shafiqistas will not forgive that revolutionaries have chosen to invalidate their votes or vote for Morsy in the second round of the presidential elections instead of voting for Shafiq, while revolutionaries will not forgive Shafiqistas for voting for Shafiq in the first round of elections instead of Sabahy, or Amr Moussa or even Abulfotouh. Shafiqstas believe that it should be apparent for anyone by now that the revolution was a mistake, and that the revolutionaries are too cowardly to admit this, while revolutionaries believe that the revolution was right and had to happen regardless of the consequences, and that the Shafiqistas are too cowardly to face our problems, hence why they always supported security forces oppression as a solution to our countries ills, instead of fixing them, which brought on the revolution. In conclusion, Shafiqistas are pragmatist realists to a point that is unacceptable to revolutionaries, and revolutionaries are Utopian idealists to the point of naïveté to Shafiqistas, and both sides believe that the other side owes them an apology and should uncompromisingly adopt their point of view immediately. Did I also mention that both sides are silly? No? Well, they are. Ridiculously so.

Both sides are silly because their point of contention doesn’t matter anymore, and what unites them is so much more than what divides them. The argument over the state is moot, because we live in a Mirage state and in reality no longer have one, so, the focus should be how to build it right this time around and not over who dropped the ball. The argument over the presidential elections is stupid because they are over, and if we are truly democratic, we should be able to respect each other’s choices and not hold it against them now. As for the Character debate, well, besides the ridiculous notions that each side has about the other, if you are serious about loving this country and rebuilding it, you need both. You need utopian idealists and pragmatic realists if we hope to make something of this mess we call a country. We don’t live in Switzerland. We have so many problems one doesn’t even know where to begin, and we are stuck in this country together. And here is where we agree: We want a state that respects all of our rights, one where government services function, one where corruption doesn’t rule supreme and where the arts are not considered satanic distractions. We want a country that we can be proud of and that has a future. But If this is the case, why can’t we reconcile?

Well, we can’t reconcile primarily for the second reason: Our symbols. Both sides are not only silly mirrors of each other when it comes to organization or personal beliefs so strong they border on demagoguery, but also when it comes to our political symbols and leaders: They all suck. Reconciliation is a process that requires both sides to have mature respectable political leadership, which is lacking for the revolutionaries and the Shafiqistas. The revolutionaries symbols are big on platitudes, but have no real experience or solutions beyond theoretical ones and are too cowardly to take risky stands, and Shafiqistas symbols are so nonexistent, that they have to pretend that people like Okasha, Abu Hamed and Mostafa Bakry are respectable representations of them, which they are not, but it’s all they have. It should go without saying that those symbols and leaders, on both sides, should be retired by their respective audience due to their utter failure to do something productive, but for some odd reason this is not happening, and hence our current state of limbo.

But here is a thought: maybe we shouldn’t push for reconciliation just yet, but support things that are in our common benefit, like pushing for the next elections law to have a nation-wide closed-list voting system. Under this system all of Egypt would be considerd one district, with each party offering a list of 500 names, and based on the total votes nation-wide a party receives, they are allocated a proportional amount of seats in the parliament. This would ensure that every vote everywhere counts, and give people the freedom to vote for whomever they truly support, instead of having to compromise and vote for the least evil in their district, like the current system demands it. Think about the voting results for the presidential elections in the first round, and imagine if each candidate represented a party, and got allocated seats in parliament based on their total votes, and then ask yourself this: how appealing would such a parliament be, compared to the alternative? The first round showed that Islamists have 35% maximum of the vote, but due to superior organization and districting, they manage to beat everyone else. Let’s put an end to this, and have a voting system that leaves no vote behind, no matter if you are a revolutionary or a Shafiqista or anyone else for that matter. Let every faction get equal representation to its side first, and then we can worry all we want about reconciliation.

 

Entropy

Take flight, and bid your little kids farewell. Travel to mystical, magical , dry lands of Sinai, where good and evil greet you with the same face and the same smile. Stand where the rivers of life have gone dry and rivers of blood now flow. Twenty Egyptian officers and soldiers, gone, on the hands of idiots who strive to make a point with death. Pass by the tanks stolen by Jihady salafis, and the apache birds piloted by jews that shot them down, all the while the ruling heads of Cairo still live in denial, not able or willing to confront the reality of their situation, while an old dog sits, looking sad, pensive and alone, reflecting the mood of an entire nation.

Explore our magical skies, and try to avoid getting shot down by stray bullets that are being shot by neighbor to kill neighbor, all over this blessed land. Two families in Alex engage in street warfare, with the news of the apartments getting burned raises more eyebrows than those of human casualties. A smug and cursed cornice that hasn’t seen its share of blood in a while, sits back and enjoys the Dickensian scenes of the attack by the Ramlet Boulaq denizens on the Fairmont Hotel , with the police showing up with their uniforms off, wearing wife-beaters and double strapped guns, mimicking Hollywood action fantasies, with tear gas canisters and cars on fire give the whole thing an apocalyptic flair. A village in upper Egypt turns against itself over a burned shirt and conflicting prophets, enacting a scenario that repeats over and over, while what must be a case of collective amnesia causes people to act shocked and wonder what went wrong. Never stop your flight to look, because soon enough, you will see something similar, and if you have seen one you have seen them all.

Pass by the city of the sun, where the President who hails from a secretive and old Islamic order is fumbling on cameras, offering no sense of comfort, confidence or inspiration to a nation in worry, who have sat there and watched him pardon friends & holy warriors not much different than those who have caused the carnage in Sinai, while leaving other innocents in jails to rot. His day started with communiqués from brownnosing governors who were congratulating him over the anniversary of the Badr battle, and plans to grace us on TV for the last ten days of Ramadan, to talk to us about religion instead of actually doing his job. This piece of news wrinkles the jittery nerves of his opponents, who are convinced that the country is heading towards Iran due to such shenanigans, all the while totally ignoring that the country is heading in a completely different direction that is entirely Godless.

Land on the branches of a tree and watch the streets getting filled with drug dealers operating in impunity, and lost boys believing their weapons make them men. Observe while an entire street culture comes out of nowhere, with its own language, music, dance and rituals, like a rising tide that will flood the country and flush it from years of synthetic and borrowed overproduced trash. Say a prayer to those young street warriors who no vice Police can control, and for the souls of those well-meaning bearded ones who will try and find it their end. Recognize that you are living the greatest days of history, and that you are witnessing something greatly remarkable, if you can accept the horror that comes with it.

The Americans always said that an armed society is a polite society, but that idiom is getting challenged by the sons of pharaohs, who are now armed to the teeth and not intending to be polite any time soon. While intellectuals sit back and argue that they are smarter and know better than to bear arms themselves, you recognize that in any battle between ten astronauts and ten cavemen, the cavemen will always win. That’s the history of civilization, where the barbarians were always at the gate, on both sides. You sit back and think: Screw you Marquez, you could never write anything as insane as what we are going through as a country right now. We are making history, again, despite our deepest and most sincere wishes not to, or at least not like this.

Oh well…

I am getting a gun. I suggest you get one too.

January vs. July

On the 60th anniversary to the 23 of July revolution, I like to think about the man who actually made it happen: Officer Yusef Sediq. Yusef was a communist member of the Free Officers movement who actually went and took over the Egyptian army’s headquarters, shooting tow soldiers in the process and imprisoning the army’s leadership, a full hour before Nasser and the rest of the movement started. If you are not familiar with this man and his story, don’t blame yourself: Nasser and his compatriots made sure to erase his contribution from the official history books, partly because it would tell people how to actually stage a similar revolution, and partly because they threw Sediq in the Gulag in 1954 for demanding the return of democracy to Egypt, and then kept him in house arrest until he died in 1975, the same fate that has befallen the other believer in democracy in the 1952 revolution, General and ex-President Mohamed Naguib.

The fact that the average Egyptian doesn’t know about Sediq’s story is due to the fact that it’s completely absent from the history books they thought us in school on purpose. Actually, there isn’t much that they thought us about the 1952 revolution in our history classes, apart from that it took place, and that everyone was seemingly happy about it and its achievements, from free education to land reform to the High dam. However, the 1952 revolution and its leaders had a huge effect on all of our lives, in ways most people don’t even imagine, and all of them were negative. So today, I will name my main issues with that revolution, and hopefully it will shed some lights on way the participants of the January 25 revolution believe their revolution was brought to end the 23rd of July one, and the concept of military rule.

The 23rd of July revolution ended democracy: One of the revolution’s first and longest-lasting achievements was the destruction of the concept of democracy in Egypt. It cancelled Parliament, dissolved parties, threw anyone whom they viewed as a political threat into prison, established the notion of strong-man rule that shouldn’t be opposed, questioned or challenged, a tradition that was carried by Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. Even after Sadat brought back parties, they were not allowed to be anything other than the approved cartoonish opposition, a tradition that Mubarak carried through throughout his 30 years in power. This is why most parties , whether created before or after the January 25 revolution, are limping and unable to establish themselves in the Egyptian political scene today.

The 23rd of July revolution ended diversity: The 23rd of July revolution dealt with everyone in Egypt with the paranoid and xenophobic eyes of the military, viewing everyone who isn’t their definition of a pure-blood Egyptian as a spy/traitor at worst or an unwelcome intruder at best, a mindset we still suffer from to this day. Before the 1952 revolution Egypt was a hotbed of diversity, where people from various points of origin and religious backgrounds came here and co-existed peacefully. Once Nasser took power he first vilified the foreigners (Italians, Greeks, whatever) who lived here and forced them to leave, then vilified the Egyptian jewish population and also forced them to leave, a tradition that got carried through by his predecessors as well: Sadat was the first President to utilize a sectarian tone in Egypt, by stating that he is a Muslim President and that Egypt is officially a muslim country, and acting upon it, which started the process of Coptic migration out of Egypt, and Mubarak continued the sectarian tone with the Christian copts and added to it the vilifying of the Egyptian Shiites as agents of Iran. In a country where people of many faiths and origins were always welcome, the 23rd of July revolution and its aftermath had one message: Sunni Muslim Egyptians are the only true Egyptians, and everyone else is a second class citizen at best.

The 23rd of July revolution destroyed the arts: The 1952 revolution nationalized all film studios, music companies, recording studios, basically any means of production or distribution of music and cinema. It made all the actors into government employees (our Movie stars used to get monthly paychecks), and instructed them to make movies that were not political, offensive or dangerous to society (i.e. in opposition to their rule), which led to two decades of Egyptian cinema essentially creating the same love-story plot movie over and over again, sometimes adding a few bits of comedy, others heightening up the drama, but no one was allowed to create anything else until 1974, when the first private movie production company was allowed to be created, and even then the egyptian censorship board was there to prevent any movie whose idea was considered to be too daring or provocative to our military overlords. And despite of how bad this all is, it is nothing compared to what they did to the music industry.

Ever wonder why the pre-Jan 25 revolution music scene was populated only by pop musicians who only sang about patriotic songs or love songs? Or why you have very little information about the Egyptian music pre the 23rd of July revolution? Or why the stars of that era were AbdelHalim and Om Kalthoum? Or why very very few Egyptians know about Nadra, which was the queen of Arabic music before the revolution and the star of Ansohdet el Fouad, the first ever Arabic musical film, and whose talents so eclipsed Om Kalthoum’s that it was said that Om Kalthoum wouldn’t dare sit down in a room if Nadra was sitting? Well, mainly its due the fact that the officers decided that there is the right kind of art and the wrong kind of art, and the right kind was either patriotic or love-themed, and that they needed to create their own music stars – who were loyal to them- who would carry their messages in their songs, and completely sidelined or destroyed anyone who didn’t fit that bill. When Om Kalthoum went and reported to the officers that Nadra was against the revolution and pro the monarchy- for recording an old historic Othmani song that’s written for the Othman ruler-Nadra ‘s songs were immediately banned from playing on the radio and on TV and was not allowed to record another song after that. Also, her film reel was somehow lost and in the official music history books, it is now noted that ElWarda elBaydah was the first Arabic musical film, because it starred the regime-approved Mohammed Abdel Wehab. For at least twenty years no one other than regime-approved musicians could record anything other than regime-approved love or patriotic songs, which would then be broadcast in the regime-owned Radio (The only person who managed to escape this was Sheikh Imam, but mainly due to the fact that he was adopted by leftists activists, who made sure that his music survived those years). Even after the invention of the cassette tape and the private recording companies, the government still controlled the radio waves and wouldn’t allow the broadcasting of anything other the set criteria, and any other form of music was relegated to either Nighclubs or private recordings, but never the radio. The insanity that someone like Mohamed Adaweya would spend years unable to broadcast his songs on the radio, even though millions of Egyptians listened to him and bought his tapes, was never questioned, and still isn’t. Until this day, a year and a half after the revolution, we are still unable to listen to any kind of Arabic music on our radios except love songs or patriotic songs. The moment you hear DJ Amr Haha instead of Cairokee on the radio, that’s when you know that the radio waves got liberated.

The 23rd of July revolution ended government transparency: In the Egyptian state, there is an institution that got created in the days of Mohamed Aly that’s called the Hall of records, where every piece of government issued decision or paper was archived and accessible to the public, well, up to the 23rd of July revolution. Since that day, not a single piece of government paper was submitted or archived there, because the military regime believed that its affairs should be kept secret and away from public access. This not only ended government transparency, it also ended government accountability, and has kept the Egyptian people in the dark, till this day, as to how the affairs of their state are being run or how historic decisions- that are no longer secret- were even made. The importance of having those documents as part of the public record could not be overstated, not only for purposes of transperancy, accountability, or even academic history, but also to learn from historically bad decisions and to know our people. How insane is it that until this day we are not allowed to know the census information of Egypt, or how many Christians are there in the country? While the rest of the world was introducing freedom of information acts, some even going for open-meeting legislation that allow access to government meetings and not only records of them, our military-run government until this day resists the very notion of opening its books or archiving its documents.

The aim of the 23rd of July revolutionaries was to create a strong Egyptian state, and given that they were all military men who witnessed the armies of might super powers, they believed that military strength is the only way to make their country into a world power, and acted accordingly. They didn’t comprehend that the world powers were world powers not because they had advanced armies, but because their state had other foundations (social, political, cultural, economical) that made them strong and contributed to the strength of their military, and that without those foundations any state would be doomed to fail, the way theirs did over and over again.

This is why the 25th of January revolutionaries believe in their heart of hearts that their revolution came to end the 23rd of July revolution, because their values are in complete contradiction with each other. 23rd of July ended democracy and political life while the 25th of January demanded it; 23rd of July ended diversity and was xenophobic, while the 25th of January revolutionaries celebrates diversity and constantly battles the xenophobia; 23rd of July destroyed and controlled the arts, while the 25th of January has produced more inventive music and film in the past year and a half than the last 30 years combined; 23rd of July ended government transparency and accountability, the 25th of January happened as call for accountability and still demands transparency from the government in every decision it makes; And finally the 23rd of July revolution propped up and supported many regimes just like it (Assad’s Syria and Ghaddafi’s Libya for example), while the 25th of January revolution inspired the citizens of those countries to topple those regimes. To say that the 25th of January revolution is an extension to the 23rd of July revolution is an outright lie propagated by a military whose rule has ruined this country in every way and tries desperately to save its legacy. The only connection that the 25th of January revolution has with the 23rd of July one is that the latter drove the country so off-course, that the former had to happen to stop it.

Our Dickensian Revolution

Going back to read Charles Dickens’ masterpiece on the French revolution “A Tale of Two Cities” messes with my head, specifically due to how relevant it is to what we went through for the past 18 months, and continue to go through. All of this truly has happened before, and will happen again, and no one will learn from anything. I am leaving you with a few quotes, and as always, just let me know when it sounds familiar:

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

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“Monseigneur had one truly noble idea of general public business, which was, to let everything go on in its own way; of particular public business, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea that it must all go his way–tend to his own power and pocket. Of his pleasures, general and particular, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea, that the world was made for them. ”

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“A revolutionary tribunal in the capital, and forty or fifty thousand revolutionary committees all over the land; a law of the Suspected, which struck away all security for liberty or life, and delivered over any good and innocent person to any bad and guilty one; prisons gorged with people who had committed no offence, and could obtain no hearing; these things became the established order and nature of appointed things, and seemed to be ancient usage before they were many weeks old.”

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“The miserable bakers’ shops were beset by long files of them, patiently waiting to buy bad bread; and while they waited with stomachs faint and empty, they beguiled the time by embracing one another on the triumphs of the day, and achieving them again in gossip.”

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“What private solicitude could rear itself against the deluge of the Year One of Liberty–the deluge rising from below, not falling from above, and with the windows of Heaven shut, not opened!”

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“In seasons of pestilence, some of us will have a secret attraction to the disease– a terrible passing inclination to die of it. And all of us have like wonders hidden in our breasts, only needing circumstances to evoke them.”

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“In short,” said Sydney, “this is a desperate time, when desperate games are played for desperate stakes.”

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“Well, well,” reasoned Defarge, “but one must stop somewhere. After all, the question is still where?”

“At extermination,” said madame.

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“Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop,” returned madame; “but don’t tell me.”

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“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”

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“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out….


I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his…

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

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“I hope you care to be recalled to life?”

And the old answer:

“I can’t say.”

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….