Egypt Now- December 20, 2011

My Father-  Emad Mikhail


I agree with most of the analysis by Alaa el Aswani (in arabic). In brief he says: we are still under the Mubarak regime. The army has shown its real colors. It sought to destroy the revolution by dividing the revolutionaries. The more liberal types were appointed as an advisory council to the government. The Islamists are being given the parliament. The rest of the revolutionaries are being painted as dangerous thugs. His strange recommendation is that we need to work with the coming Parliament because it is the only elected body in Egypt (he does acknowledge flaws in the elections).

I disagree with this recommendation. The election process is fatally flawed and was stacked against the liberals and revolutionaries. The Constitution should have been written first. In my mind this Parliament is not legitimate. It is master minded by the military (i.e. the Mubarak regime). By the way, we have been under military rule since July 1952. All the presidents since then were military men. When Mubarak thought about appointing his (non-military) son, the army establishment disagreed and “protected” the 2011 revolution to get rid of him. Now they are destroying the the revolution because it threatens them.

Egypt faces no easy solutions. Somehow the revolutionary forces must recapture momentum, lead the process of writing a Constitution and install a government. They face the formidable might of the army and the Islamists.

Think of this analogy: the American colonists staged a revolution against the British crown in the 18th century. Would they have accepted an offer by Britain to hold elections for them and write their new Constitution?!! I know this is not an exact analogy but it is not irrelevant. A true revolution needs to overturn all the prior power structures. What happened earlier this year was that the army “stepped in” as the champion of the revolution and stood against “the enemy” (Mubarak).. But appearances were deceptive. Mubarak was not the only enemy; the whole military regime established since 1952 needed to go. They sacrificed one of their members to save the regime. We all fell for it.

I know this leaves us in the air. I have no easy solution and I fear that violence will rise dramatically. One thing we need to do is pray. Another thing to do is to help people think clearly.

My brother’s response- David Mikhail @damikhail

The only way the losses of the uprising (lets stop calling it a revolution) can be vindicated is through the complete subordination of the military, on every level. In my opinion, the largest obstacle to this goal is not the military, its the people, and more specifically their vulnerability to brainwashing and fearmongering. The SCAFs greatest asset is their status as protector, the paternalistic role they de facto adopted post Feb 11, achieved through the illusion of crime on the streets of Egypt. This is a trick that even the most educated are buying, let alone the masses, and the SCAF are squeezing every last drop of mileage out of it. This is coming from a victim.

Studies, including one by Gallup, one of the most respected polling organizations in the world, have shown graphs plotting actual crime rates versus people’s estimation of crime rates after January. The actual rates have remained stable, though the estimations have skyrocketed. The brainwashing is so deep that after seeing the graphs, one girl on facebook simply rejected it. She began coming up with excuses on why crime is actually high, her solid proof was a small portfolio of recycled stories. That’s scary. When people reject science, what is left to do?

Ideally, even if crime was higher, it wouldn’t matter. Protectors should still be democratically and transparently appointed, limited, scrutinized, accountable, and duly punished by a civil institutions. Among the results of the Enlightenment almost 300 years ago, this idea has not yet a priority in the average Egyptian intellect. For most Egyptians, human rights, civil liberties, and constitutional processes take a back seat to safety. They seem to prefer a police state with safety over civil liberties with possibly higher levels of crime dealt with in justly administered due process. This of course is most evident in the passivity of society over the last 60 years.

So, we have to attack the problem within these limitations. Think about it at the most basic level of logic: with a lower fear factor, “protectors” are less valuable. If there was a general sentiment of safety, the SCAF would lose their carte blanche, they would be removed from the pedestal that the population put them on post-Feb 11, and more scrutiny by the average Egyptian would be placed on the actual track record of the SCAF. “Al Amn” and “Istikrar” are the first priorities of every PM that has come in since Jan, because that is what people want to hear. Its a huge distraction (the new Israel), and I think these should be products of democracy, not goals. Of course there has been instability over the last 11 months, but it has always been linked to excessive actions by the army. The SCAF is more responsible than anyone for the drop in tourism. Peaceful protests don’t scare Russian middle age scuba divers.

If we can overcome this, we can maybe have a revolution. When Egypt collectively turns on the SCAF, it’s over. By Egypt, I’m not talking about a million people on city streets, I’m talking about the villages. A truly representative popular uprising, one rooted in ideology, not economics. The farmers across the Delta and Saeed, the unemployed, the underpaid, the unschooled, schooled, the professionals, the older ‘kanaba’ demographic, Copts, Protestants, Islamists, Shiites, Bedouins, all others marginalized over the last 60 years, and of course the army, who itself is a microcosm of the same disillusioned society, but even more so due to conscription. This will be when the population intellectually catches up with the liberals, when the lid that has been fixed on society for decades comes flying off in the face of the evil old men. Societal mean reversion, the reestablishment of equilibrium and justice.

Now for the other problem. I think the election was more free than it wasn’t. If it was tampered with, I think a perfectly civil, free election would still produce an Islamist majority. That is because democracy’s success is built on one massive assumption: that the “demos” who steer the country through the ballot box can make correct, rational assessments. This is not the case in even the oldest, model democracies, let alone a 60 year old dressed up junta. It’s a catch 22 – you need to have an educated electorate in order for the best candidates to be in power, and you need the best candidates to have been in power to have an educated electorate. There has to be a few ‘base terms’ of good, selfless leaders to produce future good, selfless leaders – the former ones will implement policies that educate the people to vote for the future ones. How do we get to these base terms? I have no idea, other than to vote for Baradei, and pray.

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