After a brief break last month, I invoked the massive demonstrations in Egypt as at least in the abstract an inspiring sight. The open challenge of authority, reminders to ones claimed rulers that there are more of Us than of You, appeals to more for reasons that should be old hat by now. That such originally brought down Hosni Mubarak after decades of strongman rule was a good thing, at least as far as an outsider can say. At the time, I chalked up the curious supportive presence of the Egyptian military as a dead canary, basically indicator of just how terribly the “civil” state had been doing. After all, to an extent we see similar unfortunate reaction to the corruption of the political ruling class stateside, as reflected in polls showing a huge gap in confidence between the military & the U.S. congress. That this persists despite the U.S. military being visibly much less autonomous than the Egyptian military in terms of what it does is, if anything, a strike against us for making distinction where there isn’t one.
Recent news of goings-on in Egypt since the removal of Mohammed Morsi from power, however, stand as caution flags. For one, opposition to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood gave way to arrests of its members and outright bans on religious parties. Now, as both a libertarian and a heathen, I have no sympathy whatsoever for policy derived from religious doctrine, whether it be the Muslim Brotherhood over there or the Christian Brotherhood here in the U.S. However, if the charade of representative government is even going to be attempted, it seems clear to me that step one should not be “explicitly exclude some people from the process”. I had previously remarked on this elsewhere last December, in the context of what the political result would be of Egyptian liberals articulating such openly:
So basically if the liberals in this case admitted that since the Islamists want Islamism as a collective condition & not one individually chosen that liberalism in fact doesn’t reconcile itself with Islamism or similar politically religious ideologies, their stance would be “what Islamists want is not individual liberty, therefore f*ck ‘em”.
Which would 1) be true! but 2) result in the liberals losing.
Today this realization is leading to suppression of people based on their political views. To the extent that liberal Egyptians support this, it is liberalism eating itself. That knowledge of what Islamists would do with such power doesn’t discourage claiming of it is another glimpse of the contradiction grating at the nerves of humanity. Yet another way in which despite our vastly different backgrounds we slog through much the same mud.
Also, the economic situation in Egypt is such that the most mundane things reveal a state apparatus that seems to have its hand in everything. Even something as simple as bread lent itself to the mass demonstrations:
Mohamed Abu Shadi, a 62-year-old former police general with a doctorate in economics, said Mursi’s government made “incorrect calculations” regarding Egypt’s wheat stocks.
The estimates made by former supplies minister Bassem Ouda, who hails from Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, were “based on guesses, not on facts”, Abu Shadi told Reuters in an interview.
When asked why Mursi’s administration was unable to accurately assess its wheat stocks, a crucial issue for a country where much of the population of 84 million relies on heavily subsidized loaves of bread, Abu Shadi replied: “That was why he left.”
When you give people bread, they call you a good Samaritan. When you heavily subsidize bread, they call you a skillful politician. When you ask why bread needs to be subsidized simply in order for people to have it…