Thursday, 4 July 2013

Tutanchamon for President!

The Ancient Egyptians believed that time was somehow circular. It started and ended anew with every reign. Whenever the old king died, primeval chaos would break out throughout the land: war, famine, rebellion, epidemics and a very obnoxious plague of head lice. Then the new Pharaoh would rise to the throne, and – as a sign of his divine appointment – he would set the land mystically straight and return the realm to Order. Upper and Lower Egypt would be happy. Inundation and harvest would be optimal. Every man and woman knew their station. Until that king died and the land would be plunged into chaos once again…

As we have seen over the last few days, Modern Egypt has retained that notion… With this minor difference that, instead of solving the chaos, every new ruler seems to cause a fresh bout of mayhem.

Today, Egypt is back where it started two years ago, and once again we in the West are applauding the change. And that, to tell the truth, astonishes me a little. For what is the fact? The fact is that we are applauding those very same folks we found so appalling a mere two years ago! Back in 2011, the Twitter Youth of Tahrir Square rose against the Military Regime, and we scolded the Egyptian Army for being despotic. All of the Western press and – slavishly in its wake – public opinion in Europa and America burst out in euphoria, for here was a modern, secular movement of dynamic clean-cut kids in a Muslim land, that stood up to military oppression so as to get our kind of Western democracy, a state of law, unlimited internet access, damsels in undress and affordable fast food restaurants. It was, our correspondents never tired of telling us, a glorious Arab Spring, a sexy rebellion, run by the young, beautiful, digitally savvy YouTube generation.

Well, Mubarak fell, the military bowed its head to reality, and the Tahrir Twitterers got their democracy. But it did not turn out as we had all hoped so ardently. There was very little Peace on Earth for Everybody anywhere in sight. In big cities and rural villages, Copts got lynched and their churches were burned down. In provincial capitals soccer hooligans belonging to different shifts of society took one another on in immense battles which left dozens of death on the football field. And surely worst of all: when elections were held, not our beloved Youtube Youth or their liberal city bourgeoisie parents won the contest, but the Muslim Brotherhood and its even more radical Salafist cousins. The former reaped 40 % of the vote; the latter 25 %; so that a plain two thirds of the electorate voted the dreaded Islamic Conservatives. Those liberal secular urban intellectual parties we love and admire so much, had trouble to rake in 15 %...

Ooops… that was not what the West had counted on. 

You see: what our expert correspondents, commentators, pundits and would-be prophets had overlooked in their hurry to sing the praises of Arab Springtime, was that beyond Cairo and Alexandria there is this little thing called the Egyptian Countryside, which is inhabited by certain people called ‘peasantry’ (look up what that means onWikipedia) who do not have Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and 4th generation smartphones, who often do not even have electricity or running water, who speak no foreign languages and do not go to school in Paris and London, and who firmly believe that the Holy Koran ought to have more say in the daily running of things than the Constitution or the Declaration of Human Rights (both of whose existence they probably ignore). And – minor detail – these funny people make up roughly 80 % of the Egyptian population…

Fortunately for us honest democrats, Mr Morsi, when coming to power, made a mess of things. Fortunately as well, the military knew how to bide its time and await its chances to return to the fray. The high courts, still packed with soldiers’ friends, made sure to disband parliament in time and to declare the new Constitution invalid. Wrong legislation at the wrong time kept the mood in the land boiling and broiling. Corruption never stopped, tourists stayed away, prices rose as foreign currency melted away… The Twitter Generation – or whatever it had turned into by now – returned to Tahrir Square. Morsi sent the Police to get rid of them. And then the Army came out in defence of the new rebellion, tilting the scales, and put Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood leadership under house arrest. This is called the Second Revolution, but if we are honest we admit that it is of course a simple military coup and a return to the Status Quo Ante, with the Muslim Brotherhood now humiliated as the Military was humiliated back in 2011.

Once again the West applauds.

We have not learned from history or our previous mistakes…

Once again we deceive ourselves that this sexy young liberal urban rich cosmopolitan educated Western style shift of the big cities represents the broad masses of the Egyptians. They do not. At best they represent 10 % of the population.

Our other mistake is to think that this group is now coming out on top and will rule the land. They will not. They are too few for that. If ever they get to rule, it will merely be as stool pigeons for one or the other of the two main groups that do possess the muscle to run things: the soldiers who have the guns and the Islamists who have the numbers.

What is next? Why, your guess is as good as mine. But seeing the above, allow me a small prophecy: if there are indeed new elections, the soldiers will have to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists parties. For if they allow them to participate, we will have the same outcome all over again! Get it through your heads: the Egyptian countryside votes Islamic. And much as certain shifts of the countryside electorate may have grown disappointed with President Mursi and his government, I cannot believe that its entire 65 % share of the 2012 elections has somehow melted away completely.

Egypt has come full circle, and we are waiting for a new Pharaoh to restore peace and order.

But don’t hold your breath until he does… It may be a while before he rises from the dead…

Ancient Egyptians Twittering...


  1. Smartist analysis that I've read or seen anywhere. Excellent and depressing.

  2. I forsee just another Dictator, perhaps disguised as some liberator once again. People never learn from history.

  3. Thank you, sir. I agree it is depressing, since prospects are bleak and good alternatives few.

    Alfred B. M.