May 3, 2012

Mind the gap

It is simply amazing how – almost - a year and half has passed since February 11th, yet politicians and activists remain extremely disconnected from the general mood on the ground and the gap continues to grow. I'm not claiming that I have the inside story on what the Egyptian population is collectively going through and I'm also not suggesting that the "silent majority" has any real impact on where the country is going outside of the polling stations. However, I am pretty damn sure that January 25th would have never made it with the bunch of revolutionaries alone and I wonder – the way things are going now – how many of those people that took the streets during the revolution are actually willing to go down again given how things are developing.

Over the past year, SCAF managed to discredit all the civil powers; be it Islamists, revolutionaries or politicians. To be fair, those powers have done incredibly well discrediting themselves on their own. Each one of those players has acted selfishly and – exclusively - in its own interest, which resulted in clashes between the potential "leaders" and eventually to the disagreement on the most basic of demands.

The above is nothing new and it has been scrutinized to pieces by all analysts, what surprises me are the delusions of politicians and activists. I do not understand the calls for a "revolution". A revolution by whom? And to achieve what exactly? Who is going to join this revolution? With no leadership, no clear vision and a bunch of discredited political powers? What makes anyone think that after a year and a half of complete chaos, of total disregard to the simple demands of everyday people, that Egyptians will rise one more time and remove the only power (SCAF) that has been consistent. The fact that SCAF has done such a bad job over the past year and a half is one thing but who has offered a better alternative? Who has proven to be able to do a better job? Even I – someone who's joined January 25th from day 1 – am not willing to fight for the removal of SCAF, not because I believe they are doing a good job but because I see that everybody else has been doing a much worse job.

Not only have we – civilian forces - made a big caca in managing ourselves over the past year and a half, we also have delusions of a peaceful revolution that will force the army to fully hand over power. That same army that controls 35% of the economy, has its ex-members planted in every government organization and that has all the intelligence money can buy? Now, I'm not calling for a violent revolution but anyone who thinks that the process of removing the army from power will happen with sit-ins of a couple of thousand people needs to have his head checked.

We've learned over the past year and a half that we're not working against individuals but against a deeply rooted network of power and interest and the process of uprooting this evil machine is going to be a long one. This uprooting is not only concerned with the removing of a few people, it is dependent on our ability to create a collective conscious; our ability to influence education and awareness; our ability to change the structures of this society but before all on our success in changing the mentalities of our people. The next president will have little "real" power but he will have some and he has to use that power to slowly acquire more power. And we – as a civil society – have no choice but to gather around such a president and unify our efforts.

I'm sorry to say that without a coup lead by democracy friendly fractions of the army or a violent – Syria like – revolution we can't expect a different scenario. And to be honest, looking at all the conditions of this society, I definitely don't want neither a coup nor a Syria like revolution.

We're still learning as a civil society (political powers, activists, etc.). We have yet to understand when we need to work together and when we should compete. A civil society that looks like that should not be entrusted with running the country. And funny enough, that ignorant "silent majority" understands that. It's not that they are overwhelmingly impressed with SCAF's fantastic performance; it's just that they saw that the civil powers are incapable of leading the country. They also understand that those dreams of immediate change are the product of delusional minds. Ones that think that change will happen by removing a bunch of people. Those same people that regardless of their incompetence have at least managed to remain consistent when things were a major chaos.

It's about time that we start seeing things as they really are:
  • The army will continue to have significant power for years to come and we have to live with that
  • The next president will not be able to put the army on trial
  • The military will be uprooted slowly and it will only happen with a strong civil society that agrees on key basics
  • Change will happen when people are educated, housed and in good health
  • Our role in the coming period is to work at the grassroots and to continue to build a collective conscious, not only as individual players but as a civil society interested in seeing change
Now, you can close your eyes and continue to picture yourself running (in slow motion), dodging those bullets (Matrix style), flying over the barbed wire fence to land gracefully at the doors of the Ministry of Defense. You can continue to dream of that moment when you arrest Tantawi yourself and hand him over to a revolutionary court. Or you can open your eyes and realize the size of the gap between what you dream of and what you can actually achieve. When we realize that, maybe we can start working together as a population to make this place better. However, if you chose to continue to dream, mind the gap when you're coming back to reality.


  1. ..."not because I believe they [SCAF] are doing a good job, but because I see that everybody else has been doing a much worse job."

    "Everybody else" has not been engaging in outright murder of the people. As much as the MB are assholes, as much as revolutionaries fail at organizing, and as much as politicians are power-hungry opportunists, they are not the ones killing people and checking the virginity of protesters. To that extent at least, "everybody else" has doing a much better job than SCAF.

    The failure of activists and politicians at offering any better alternative to SCAF is because they have not at any point been given a chance to do so. Every alternative offered from the beginning (whether a presidential council, new constitution from the get go, restructuring MIO and the media) has been consistently turned down by SCAF, and often brutally so. Which leaves nothing for people to do but keep going to the square and hope that the rest will not fall for the black propaganda that's turned everyone against real change.

    1. SCAF are dirty, lying, murderers.. they're the scum of the earth.. the most evil force there is in Egypt.. they're sons of @#$#%% and they should all die..

      Now that we're done pointing the finger at them, what is your suggested solution? The activists and politicians have not offered it and they fell apart February 11th at 7 p.m. I'm not blaming them, everybody is learning still.. but it is what it is and I can not trust them with running the country. The main objective of this phase of the revolution has been realized.. the rest is not about sit-ins, it's about empowering people. It has to be that the Egyptian population is aware and involved, otherwise, it will continue to be the 5000 protesters in the streets demanding things that don't matter to the 80% that are poor, sick and uneducated.

    2. I don't believe we should ever be done pointing the finger at them. You are clearly a reformist, but reform works on two levels: empowering the people at whatever grassroots level ALONG with maintaining a faction of people who are putting unrelenting pressure on the authorities. In almost every revolution, it's the "extremist radicals" who asked for the impossible that led to the achievement of at least marginal change in the right direction. Without them, SCAF would breath all too easily. We need our "revolutionaries". They are, ironically, the key to reform.

    3. I'm not disagreeing.. I'm totally a reformist and I know all too well that without the "crazy" ones we'd never have a revolution and never would change. But radicals have a role and reformists have a role.. can't do one without the other. Having said that, unguided radicals can end up being a burden (just as much as reformists can be an obstacle). The important thing is to know when is the time to let which one of the two forces lead. The removal of SCAF is not a demand and it's not a single act. It's the popular pressure behind a political leadership that will slowly erode the army's power. Given the size of the infiltration, protesting to remove SCAF is very simplistic.

  2. I remember being told not to dream of topping the regime. I remember hearing that a small number of activists need their heads checked if they think they can change the regime. I remember thinking we should push for small gradual reforms because a revolution won't happen.

    Thank God the activists and revolutionaries of 6 April, Mahalla, Kefaya, Khaled Said protests etc never listened to this advice. Because although it seemed futile at the time they were laying the foundations for January 25th.

    And now the street action is laying the foundations too... possibly for a second revolution (who knows what the spark could be) and possibly just for a more democratic society build upon direct action. Either way, it must continue. And regardless of what we both say or think should happen, we know that it will.

    1. You know.. I was one of those tens of thousands that hit the streets on January 25th.. A year and a half later, I realize that we did a miracle in those 18 days.. the next miracle is not in the streets like this one, it's working with the people. We realized that the regime is not about individuals, it's deeply rooted and more importantly it is deeply rooted in the people's minds and behaviors, not in the government. This is a long battle and it won't be fixed with a few sit-ins or the removal of a few people. It will only happen when Egyptians are educated, housed and in good health. The seal was broken with January 25th but the fight is much bigger than that..

  3. One comment only: a revolution is a process, and you would like this process to go in the right direction and for that to happened you must have a trajectory (democracy) and a good Infrastructure (constitution). now to ensure your civil state and human rights you'll have to be supported by SCAF and to ensure the Democracy you'll have to work with the Parliament (cause democracy also mean free economy and free economy means breaking SCAFs monopoly over Egypt industry - wont be easy)

    Orit Perlov

    1. I agree.. and what I'm saying up there, is that this is a long journey.. it's no longer about removing a person or two.. not even removing 100 people, it's about re-inventing ourselves as a population. How can you blame the army for torture when our own people torture the "thugs" that they capture? How can you criminalize lying when we lie like we breathe? The grassroots is the answer at this stage..

  4. I actually did have a dream (the kind you have at night) that I roasted Tantawi in a WHCD-style setting. I can think of at least 15 ways that that's the most arrogant dream anyone's ever had.

    A million hypothetical points for the civilian forces' "big caca."

    I think many members of what you call 'civilian forces' are disappointed that change hasn't happened as quickly as it seemed after only 18 days of protest caused some key figures and the President to step down. It seemed easy to just keep trying the same method that proved successful once before. Obviously, this was a relatively superficial change than what was needed to address much deeper problems in Egypt.

    I agree with your bullet points, but regarding your second one, which I also agree with, I'd add that I question whether the next President will even have the incentive to attempt putting the military on trial.

    I'm also a bit cynical about the idea of a collective consciousness in Egypt. Everyone wants his or her basic needs and rights, but I doubt there will be much agreement on how to achieve that. We all clearly need to work toward that, but with all the various agendas and perspectives swarming around Egypt, I'm at a loss on how.

    1. We've just creeped up from the swamps.. the only way we're not going back there is when we as a population start to develop a sense of collective ownership.. might take the next millennium but it is the only way out of this shit hole

  5. I am in agreement in most of what you said if not all. However the coming president whoever he will be shall be empowered only by what SCAF wants to give him since we do not have a constitution coming from the people or by the people it will only be what they want to give him. I have been trying to work with the so called civil society working on grass roots but just like everything else I do not think we even understand what civil society means nor what grass roots means ( I mean the mojority not everyone) we also don't even know what projects will create an impact and we should focus on there is no long term plan amongs the various organizations etc.... I have seen so many initiatives to unite all these orgs, civil society activists even some of th epolitical activits etc and they have all miserably failed due to the individualistic approach we have been raised by and not to trust anyone and always assume that the other person has a hidden agenda, but by the way all of us do have a hidden agenda regardless of that agenda we can still work together. I do believe the journey is much longer than we realized as you said, will take much more effort, but I do believe in being in the streets for the constitution and nothing else, once we get that then the real long journey will begin. In th end I would like to conclude by F.... Everyone that thinks he is super man (in Egypt we Are the super man culture which in my opinion screws us all over)