Drifting from an Utopian Dream toward Reality

My surprise is still fresh upon reading in today’s paper “Cabinet gives security forces right to enter university campuses” as a reaction to Wednesdays vandalism in the renown Al-Azhar University, leaving a material damage coming to around 10 MIO EGP.
What I am surprised at is: the University president, and academic body I suppose, fought for the right of defending themselves, the uninvolved students and the university premises.-
            What happened? Some dozens of students, masked and unmasked took decisive action, after a ‘futile’ two weeks of protests against ‘the coup that ousted ‘democratically elected president Morsi’. They have stormed the administrative building, marched right through, heading straight upstairs to the administration rooms; while dozens of protesters cheered outside the building, those inside threw out the contents of torn documents and chairs.
Security had been banned from Campus by popular demand in the course of the countries way toward democracy.
Things are still stormy in Egypt.
While the interim government is continuously working on the July 3rd announced road-map agenda and preparing for elections with simultaneously attuning the countries legal framework with the basic requirements that constitute a democratic state, some still question the legitimacy of the interim government’s existence.
Currently I see the political map of citizens, who inhabit Egypt, roughly divided into four parts.
             In the meantime a midget minority with huge media attention being locked up into their ideological insistence of seeing what happened on June 30th as a “planned, sly military coup” are on their way to regain media ground. Some go as far as seeing this merely as a continuation of the ‘big-plan’ from the military “to get what they came for on January 25th in the first place, which in those individuals views “had been a putsch against Mubarak since ‘he wanted to break the circle of military upper-hand into Egypt’s governance with installing his son Gamal as successor’”. They do have some sympathizers, especially as it is still being fiercely debated on various tv-channels that the call for inclusiveness must be respected since ‘the people had been robbed of the votes through the coup’, despite their obstinate defiance of the majority will. Altogether this choir is accumulating as much as an estimated 5% minority, since the military had shown little respect for human life during their interim-governance, formally addressed as ‘The Supreme Council of Armed Forces’ (SCAF) which lasted until the election on June 30th, 2012.
             The counter group consists mainly of the inviolable supporters of General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who don’t hold their breath to – at each and every suitable or unsuitable opportunity- show their typhlotic support for the army, taking the proverb “Praise the bridge that carried you over” very literally.
Well. Fact is, the military, represented through General Sisi, saved Egypt on June 30th from falling prey to what the country already experienced until then: a very authoritative reign with fascist aspects, as some point out, reminding of (how else can one see it) the surprising attempt of a ‘coup d’etat’, when ‘democratically elected’ president Morsi in November 2012 with a pen stroke intended to grant himself unprecedented powers over Egypt. This group as well enjoys media attention, however mostly from the local press and television/radio stations. This group represents another minority, maybe 7%, representing the other extreme side of the spectrum of the Egyptian society.
Just for the record: both these groups are the ones who currently enjoy most of the media attention. They are the ones referred to when the ‘utter divide of Egypt’ is being discussed.
            A third group is, in my view, much more deserving of media attention since they have been neglected all along yet they served to coin a term unheard of until then: the ‘couch party’. The name speaks for itself.
The law of media attention is simple: who never appears gives nothing worth mentioning. “The couch-party” is Egypt’s more or less politically apathetic majority. ‘Almost three years have gone by, and the only change visible is increased crime rate, raising prices, with traffic worse than ever – someone has to do something so Egypt will prosper.’ This sentence roughly describes the main sentiment toward the revolution from this societal conglomerate of ‘realists’, as they certainly see themselves. However they by all means do support the revolutions, both: the first on January 25th and the second on June 30th. Most of them certainly took to the streets on both these days! Make no mistake!! But their expectations are not met yet. They somehow expect ‘dinner to be served’. Having been used to that things ‘get done’ with little contribution and/or even lesser sense of that they themselves can ever make a difference when taking political matters into their own hands. For them it just never happened. For as long as the younger generation can think, having been born in the late 70ies and thereafter: they grew into the concept of ‘this is how things are’..I’ll do what helps me and my family. To be fair, in addition life really takes a lot of energy to survive.. As for the older generation of the ‘couch-party’: they might feel they’ve seen too much already. Whatever change comes into their lives might eventually be seen as an intrusion, an interruption of their self-chosen refuge-from-obstacles resulting into avoidance and routine life. I volunteer to assume they make 45% of the population.
           And then there is a fourth group. And the good news is: they are energetic and they are a ‘majority’ in the pragmatic sense of the word, covering all ages and all social strata. I would estimate their share in society as high as 40%. In this group I see all the people who carry the intellectual conceptualization of the process toward democracy. Here you find citizens who do care about national integrity, progress and pride.
Some members of this societal spectrum abhor both: the Muslimbrotherhood and the army. The first since they abused the country for their groups own ends, the latter for its infamous brutality especially during a demonstration against an arbitrary church demolition in late October 2011, leaving protesters heinously killed, without acknowledging security forces misdemeanor, plus the officers in charge were never held accountable for these incomprehensible killings. To be clear: they do appreciate the army for having helped the country against Morsi. From this camp matter of factually comes a great deal of support for the army even now, but refreshingly critical. However some support the army to the extent that they resented Egypt’s most famous satirists, Bassem Youssef, when he in his first show, after a three month break, mocked as well the army ‘worshipers’. Bassem Youssef used a somewhat displaced language and belittled his overly Sisi-passionate fellow  compatriots. That hasn’t translated into an overwhelming encouragement for his comeback. As someone said it right to the point: Bassem Youssef succeeded to unify the deeply divided nation in protest against his show. Fact is: I think Egyptians stick together when it’s about family. And currently ‘Sisi’ is still a family affair since he volunteered to support saving the countries national identity.
This mentally active 40% of the population, politically very aware people, wholly trust that the Egyptian army is willing and capable of standing firm to his promise on supporting the country toward democracy.
This segment of society with all its diverse individuals is unified in their wish to pursue democracy on a very rocky road with oftentimes rough winds along the destination. These people do it for themselves and for their home country. Sentimental reasoning.. Emigrating like numerous Egyptians already did wouldn’t appeal to them on the long run. – It goes without saying that their ideas of governance come with different mind settings on how to reach there best and fastest. – But isn’t that what democracy is about?
While in Egypt people are still speculating whether General Sisi will eventually give in to presidential candidacy ‘to complete the job’ as some campaign-slogan demands, the bigger question for Egypt’s political fate is: How to translate theoretic aspirations, part of whom are utopian, into practical politics while the country is in danger of sliding down into an economical catastrophe despite the generous financial contributions coming from the Middle East alleys?
Gross economy is a complex issue. However it doesn’t need a PhD in this field to understand that a state economy requires stability to develop and prosper.
While the interim government shows earnest efforts to work off their agenda and complies with the rule of civil societies already respecting freedom of protest and freedom of speech, they attract investors and conclude contracts.
In the meantime progress is being made on key constitutional issues. For the first time Egypt will, it seems very likely, allow complete freedom of religion.
The Nil water issue, which became a matter of serious worry during Morsi reign for his offending negotiation policy with Ethiopia, is becoming small pieces of good news, with both countries finding ways to make compromises.
The government put up an initiative to help close-to-bankrupt factories with favorable conditions and loans so they can bridge the time until the economy can eventually breath-through.
Expatriates are already being thought of for providing timely election in the embassies abroad.
The General Authority for Investment is reshaping to the institution it had rightfully been praised for, namely efficiency and professionalism. Some of its best personnel had fallen prey to displacement during Morsi reign..
Egypt seems to get back on track. Slowly but steadily.
What the interim-government however is not adequately catching up with is: reforming their own apparatus. What one minister succeeds to build up or rather reestablishes with gigantic efforts i.e. the Minister of Tourism who travels the world to bring Egypt back into the catalogs, is being torn down within a blink of a second from another ‘deep-state-obstacle’. Sabotage from inside? Take a recent example: The minister of tourism succeeded to convince Germany to lift its travel warnings. Not a day later, when ‘all Egypt’ had officially been declared safe for travelling a German tourist went for a stroll in the streets of Cairo and took pictures from a bridge and some buildings. He got detained for this. – If that isn’t an act of [self-]sabotage I don’t know what is. Here is my explanation to what I label [self-]sabotage: the officer, who detained the tourist did so following his own political agenda.. for the love of his Muslim brothers.. I am convinced that he wasn’t instructed to do this, that he very well knew that he didn’t have to detain the tourist. Of course this infamous incident landed in the news. So imagine you are sitting in Germany or elsewhere and ponder about your holiday destination after having read this..
And more: there still are labor-laws in Egypt echoing the Nasr-era with workers mentally having their expectations set for a granted salary with little demand in performance. Everybody can agree that a certain minimum wage must be considered to secure the workers livelihood. But the minimum wage in mind and in discussion doesn’t come with an upfront and honest debate about work-ethics and productivity. Practically speaking: when you double or triple the minimum wage, you can only do so by reducing the number of workers or employees accordingly, to avoid the companies’ bankruptcy. Everyone who has seen a factory or a governmental office from inside can relate.
Now apart from the Gulf-alleys who know all this circumstances: who from the in addition much needed Western countries (to facilitate speedy economical recovery) would risk investing in a country with uncertain conditions? The minimum-wage debate is postponed. The security question is still pending.
While inside the ministries not all of the employees embrace the change that could cost them their job the streets are still ‘full of protest’. Not factually but perceptionally.
Once you go through the papers you’ll read of protest announcements and one finds as well minor clashed that erupted somewhere. Daily we see how soldiers in Sinai get killed in ambush or openly. Does this give the feeling of safety and security? Streets are still being blocked, the interim-government is being contorted to ‘a slave of the military junta’ not only in some media abroad but especially locally, since we have ‘freedom of expression’. – And I still am waiting for the ‘media rule of conduct’ which had been announced on July 3rd together with the road-map.
What’s the picture for the normal citizen? Electricity is working fine, fuel-supply is stable but we are getting stuck in traffic jams which frequently make everyone question one’s own sanity..
‘What Egypt needs is a mental break’ is what I every now and then thought. Especially after the August 14th agony, where the Morsi-supporters didn’t leave any choice but burdening the government to disperse the sit-ins forcefully, since they were keeping the whole country hostage. A national trauma followed.
I thought the Eid El-Adha holidays would help. To understand Egypt is to understand human nature. I don’t. The holidays didn’t help much and time is again becoming crucial. The weaker the so called ‘anti-coup’ movement gets, the more media attention they receive.
This is one reason why Egypt is still ‘in a crisis’.
How to clear this bogging cluster of hindrances, manipulation and inherent sabotage?
               As for the continuous demonstrations and provocations: they’ll soon die out as far as the numbers of protesters one can observe in the streets allow predicting. Usually for every Tuesday there are ‘BIG’ demonstration announced aiming to ‘Bring back Morsi’; one of those demonstrations is in the neighborhood of my office, in Gameat El Dowal El Arabia Street, intersection Shehab. They shrank from about 1500 participants 2 months ago, to 60 people about 5 weeks ago down to literally a dozen, just last week, even after ‘president’ Morsi who obviously had instructed his son, had him spread the message of ‘Victory for justice I will be back’..
              What took me by surprise and has me seen what I’d call a shoot of a sign that ‘change has begun’ is when the Ministry of Interior, namely the general prosecutor on October 22nd ordered the detention of 4 officers who were responsible for the tragic death of 37 prisoners who tried to escape a police-van and who had been suffocated with thrown in tear-gas canisters. If holding the officers accountable has been just the beginning of showing respect to the citizens through not permitting double standards, then the government will get the trust from their people in return that is crucial to built a state in which all of its members feel a sense of responsibility for their actions, and for each other.
                Regarding manipulating facts using the media: this seems graver to me than any other issue for it so affects the national mood with bounce-off effects abroad: I believe this could be solved with one measure that had gotten lost on the way.
What prevents the government from eventually realizing the ‘media rules of conduct’? Frequently some  repressive ‘ban’-ideas on certain topics pop up  or one hears about a muzzle at whose worse end one only imagine to find claqueurs for the ‘magnificent government’. Why not make every journalist accountable for misreporting, exaggeration and distortion, summon him/her to a public televised defense where a team, subjected to rotation, will provide validated facts and ‘grill them’ over their blurring views?-  Take a moment to let this sink in. Please. I am making a plea to leave journalistic ethics not being subjected to random occurrence, regretfully mainly the case in the West, but to establish the code of ethics on a broad scale and in addition open the gates for the possibility of investigative journalism, which is not possible yet, since governmental authorities won’t allow access to certain information unless one is legally eligible. Simple follow ups on key-issues never had a chance to be carried out, since obtaining information on certain issues was legally not possible.
All of this sure would come close to perfection, when, in the same time an independent office would keep record and publish both: the original report and the disclaimers backed up with fact-sheets. These reports should be amenable online and in hard-copies.
If that, what I think is possible to put through with civil forces I reckon: Egypt has a bright future real fast. Think about the role-model character especially the media-conduct approach would send to the countries of the ‘free’ western world, where the media in the meantime mainly serve to promote preconceived ideas and product placement. ‘Being informative’ is the image they still carry and is being enforced by random highlights once in a while. Egypt has shown the world what legitimacy really means. It gave back meaning to the gaping void of the word democracy. The people of Egypt brought back the full capacity of the term.
If that, what I think is not possible to be put through with civil forces since they can’t built enough authority to get rid of fact twisters, if indeed, as some already speculate, it should require the authority of the army .. then.. Be it.-
Despite the numerous statements made by General Sisi himself where he stressed he would not be at disposal for the presidential seat and despite statements  by members of the government, the last one recently on Sky, where El-Beblawi said that Egypt would not be militarized since ‘the main gains of the revolution of January 25th had been to end the concept of a military state’ and moreover that the army sees its in its own best interest that a military state would harm Egypt, stressing the importance and nobility of the Egyptian army, yet leaving no doubt that their agenda is ‘back to securing the borders’, where the army sees their main activity, El-Bablawi almost seems to beg the Egyptians to understand that for the army ‘getting involved into politics’ means losing focus on their main mission. – The calls for Sisi are getting louder. If Egypt had free and international monitored elections tomorrow, he would get probably 85% of the votes with a minimum turn-out of 75%. And the election observers would keep wondering: how the hell did they rig this??
The way I see it: if the public pressure grows, if people try harder to push General Sisi into presidency since they see currently no alternative to Sisi: he should then not insist to stay with his principles and not make a point to keep his promise. Too much is at stake to risk losing Egypt again and leave fate to decide the course of the country. Both revolutions have shown clearly: the so called ‘people in the streets’ have an excellent sense of assessing the greater picture. They have a sharp mind and some have in addition a profound understanding of politics. The recent past has delivered proof.
General Sisi has proofed that he is a statesman, wise enough to select competent personnel; modest enough to keep in the background, devoted enough to leave his comfortable life and expose himself to public criticism, as happens with everybody who occupies the interests and stirs the curiosity of the people. Did he complain? No. Why not? I think the simple truth is: he doesn’t care. He has no time to care. I personally don’t think he even likes the idea of being i.e. displayed on chocolate pralines. It might even have irritated him. Or take the story with the dressed up donkey! I don’t think he felt offended. He is above and beyond petty-minded mockery. The only reason why I wouldn’t ‘want’ to see him becoming the president of Egypt is because of the people who would try to harm him if not worse.
As ‘things’ are in Egypt, I personally see no contradiction in having Sisi as president for a while, until the country has regained some stability and has the chance to accumulate institutional structures.
If Sisi would become president of Egypt than Egypt would become the first country that would be ruled by an army chief whose main aim were to prepare the country for democracy.-
In a world of deceit it takes courage to trust.- .. the strengths of the man’s gentleness and thereness precedes his promises.
Always remember:
‘All breakthroughs begin with a change in beliefs.’ ~
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