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.

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