Sunday, July 31, 2011

A report on Egypt from a friend

A very good friend of mine (who wishes to remain anonymous) recently visited Egypt and wanted to share his thoughts about what he saw there. A very interesting insight into the state of the country following the toppling of Mubarak. 

Why the “Egyptian revolution” died before even starting.

My recent visit to Cairo was an eye opener on the nature of the revolution in Egypt. From the airport the foreign observer can see there is something off in this country and that people are in a strange mindset built on pride turned arrogance and anger turned envy.

The main conclusion of my trip to Egypt is that nothing has changed. The regime is still in place with the army controlling anything worth controlling. The system has used the demonstrations to get rid of the Mubarak family that was getting a bit too greedy but has ensured nothing would change. The generals are still dictating their orders behind the scene but how could it be any different when you see the physical importance of the army. Indeed, from the airport, you pass next to a huge number of buildings and bases that are all owned by the army in its different components. In other words, the army has built and controls such a network that it is not a “small revolution” that will impact their power.

Now let’s be honest, none of this is a surprise. We were all concerned about the “peaceful” military coup and the impact it would have on the revolution. The real surprise came from the people and their behaviour. The first surprise was the complete dislocation of the society. The divide is frightening with a happy few living (even now) like they are in Miami and the vast majority fighting for a piece of bread. Even now, clubs and fashionable bars are packed with Gucci wearing boys and girls who don’t hesitate to spend 300 dollars on a bottle of Blue Label or a Russian prostitute... while in the bazaar you can see people begging for a piece of bread. Even now, the upper class lives like they can suck the life out of this country ad vitam aeternam. They are still spending on booz and shiny things and disregard completely those who are standing at the door. They are still behaving like Egypt is not a Muslim country with places that are forbidden to a woman wearing the hijab. They are still living on a rent provided by the regime we wanted to believe was overthrown.

The second  surprise came from the prevalent mindset on the street. This was the most frightening sight during this trip. The best way to describe the situation is to use the word ANARCHY. It is not like Cairo was an easy going city where people were kind to each other in the first place but the situation has seriously deteriorated. The number of kidnapping is now equivalent to Sao Paulo in the late nineties and street criminality is worse than any place I have been to (and I have been to Mexico!). Any opportunity to take a few pounds is good from the cashier selling the visa to the garbage truck. The excuse used by all my interlocutors is the fact that people have discovered how much was stolen from the country by the apparatchiks of the regime and they see the state of poverty they live in... and they think: “Why not me, why wouldn’t I steal as well and take from those who have more than me”. The information, the discovery of the financial crimes of the regime has generated anger and envy instead of goodwill and a need for justice. People don’t want justice, they don’t believe the regime can ever give them justice, they only care about themselves and that’s it. All the stories we heard on tv about young guys helping with traffic and with the security of their neighbourhood is now in the past because the current situation (as I experienced it) is that any service is billable (and at the highest possible price) and that militias or private security are making a lot of money out of the anarchy reigning in town.

The fact is you cannot build a revolution without a doctrine and without principles. A revolution needs theoreticians to build the framework and the direction. France had Robespierre and Marat, Russia had Marx and Lenin but what do we have in Egypt... A revolution without head, without doctrine, without ideal. This is called anarchy! There is a clear lack of ideology and rules. Everyone says they want more freedom and justice but what is their definition of freedom? Nobody can tell me or tell the people of Egypt... So, they do what is best for them and for their close relatives... That’s called Anarchy and nothing good has ever come out of anarchy. Yes, the Egyptian revolution died before starting and what we saw on Maydan Tahrir was the initiation of an apocalyptic anarchist ritual not the beginning of a glorious revolution. Today, Egypt is a failed state with a corrupt army, a corrupt police, an economic elite enriched by rents instead of innovation and risk taking... and people who don’t care about their neighbours or their homeland. It is anarchy!


qunfuz said...

nobody would deny that the egyptian revolution is an ongoing process, and that it's far too early to claim success. it's now into stage two - battle lines being drawn between the SCAF (helped by Islamists) and the revolutionaries. But it's too much to say that the revolution has failed, or that nothing has changed. That's not what I saw when i was there in march and april. I saw an engaged populace. I didn't see chaos in the streets either. I heard that the crime rate is up, but central Cairo was no scarier than central London, or less scary in fact, even after the curfew. Times of transition, particularly after decades of stagnation, are bound to be difficult and confusing. But let's not play into the hands of the failed old regimes and pretend that the movement we now have in the arab world is not a good thing.

another thing - 'Anarchy' has a meaning beyond its popular meaning of 'chaos'.

seleucid said...

It's interesting that your friend uses the French and Russian revolutions are paragons of orderly conduct. Pray do tell, where is leader Robbespierre's head now?

Face it, revolutions are messy, and are usually only the beginning of any movement.

Also, don't talk shit about anarchism.

Lirun said...

i appreciate the author's line of reasoning