How Reform Won’t Happen
We has just finished off our ta`meyya and batates sandwiches and were waiting for our shishas (we were biding time not too far from the press syndicate where at that point some thirty people had assembled long before schedule). My american journalist friend (now in Lebanon) who was covering the 25th of May protest, proclaimed his belief that history has proven the effectiveness of protests in creating regime change. I dont know what the statistics are, but the statement strikes me as probably untrue. Someone else later pointed out, and i would tend to agree, that while it may be true that a lot of regime change was catalyzed by mass protests, that says nothing for the category of protests that we’ve seen recently. Yet, another conversation yielded the highly speculative guesstimate of requiring something in the order of 50,000 participants.
I dont think street activism will solve Egypt’s problems – not least of which is a defunct regime. At least not any time soon. And people that take this path often pay a hefty price.
Anyhow, later in the afternoon, at a favourite downtown haunt, a friend related the opinion of a foreign AUC professor. They had been discussing protests and activism. The professor, as i understood, stated that if he were a disenfranchised youth in Egypt today he would emigrate. The reasoning, was that there is no hope until Mubarak dies, so you may as well leave.
Cop out? To each his own, i suppose, and that’s fair enough. That aside, i will bitch about it. First, this is what is commonly known as brain drain.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume you are interested (whatever that may mean), disenfranchised (and probably young) Egyptian. I cant understand how a history professor can make a statement that seems to demonstrate a frighteningly naive perception. Can he possibly be so deluded as to think Mubarak’s death is going to change anything? Common belief seems to acknowledge Gamal’s heir-ness (not to be confused with MJ). Perhaps; perhaps not.
Regardless, barring a miracle, there will most likely be some form of orchestrated handover be it to Jimmy or other. As one recent column pointed out, there is a strong historical tendency in this country. Personally, i think that if you leave expecting to come back when things get better, you’ll be gone for life. Besides, Mubarak is well on his way to six feet under. My guess is, if you stick around for a while, he’ll kick the bucket before the current state of emergency elapses.
And even if he dies before he’s finished paving the road, and even if there is some form of regime change, Egypt isnt ready for it. I think it’s a little silly to assume that anything will really change beyond a little reshuffling at the top as patronage ties are realigned. But even assuming that somehow a large enough hole is blown through the structure; that the entire corrupt system collapsed entirely, there is no visible, viable alternative. None that doesnt suffer from mostly the same flaws of the regime. But aside from widespread corruption and a generally autocratic, patriarchal and uni-directional discourse, the opposition remains completely immature (or aged to the point of senility) on the political, organizational and intellectual levels.
Placing the Muslim Brotherhood aside for a moment, the Egyptian opposition has for all practical purposes no connection with the general population. Despite decades of bold proclamations and vows of championship, the vast majority of the population have absolutely no idea who these people are. They are little more than ideologue remnants of an age (or several) gone by. I’m sure many may be well-intended, but that only goes so far. There is undoubtedly a severe deficit in their thought. As far as i can tell, and i’m sure i could always be wrong, there are no elaborated programs for the economy, political and social life, foreign relations or otherwise. Nor is there any real organization, no public mobilization. In sum, they are far from mature. While they bear a large portion of the blame, the last fifty-some years havent been particularly fertile times for political organization or developing theory.
Though i’m probably far from qualified to comment on the Muslim Brothers (not that that’s ever stopped me before), i will say that despite their seemingly well-leveraged position in Egyptian public life, i am skeptical of their ability to consolidate power, let alone run a country. Hizbullah they are not. But even if they could pull it off, we all know how healthy one-party systems are.
Since i seem to have rambled, I’ll come to the point: Egypt requires much more than sporadic protests, half-baked propaganda by the opposition or timely deaths.
Filed under: Activism, Cairene, Egypt, Politics | 5 Comments