The Egyptian Parliament is dissolved. The Constitution – violated in spirit for thirty years – is void. The Egyptian Army announced today the formation of a counsel to draft a new Constitution and stated that it will remain in charge for six months or until elections happen – whichever comes first.
“If the Egyptian people can create a democracy in the heart of the Arab world, it will be a more significant contribution to civilization than the great pyramids,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Egypt is providing a window to many Americans into an Middle Eastern world they never knew existed. Many can be forgiven, perhaps, for understanding so poorly what resides in the hearts of people in the Middle East, when the blaring brass horns of ostentatious oil barons and violent extremists so nearly drowned out the stifled murmurs of millions. Many truly believed that “this is the way they are over there”, many others wrote into the story their own fears.
Like believing an abusive father who declares, “I know these kids, they need a strong hand”, we took for granted the notion that ‘over there’ people only understood force.
But, just like here, the wild-eyed extremists and bloated pompous wealthy are rare. We never heard the rest, because they were never free to speak.
We hear them now.
The voices we hear are all so… reasonable! They sound so much like me!
Hassan, a man who took part in the protests, spoke with Jane Watkinson, a sociology student at Leeds University. Like all of the other voices bursting out of Egypt, he sounds more like a sociology student from Leeds than the Oil Sheik or Taliban that has been branded on Western minds.
Many know why the protests happened, but can you explain in your own words the reasons for why you took part?
Well, the corruption of the government has been intolerable. Its incompetence and indifference has been ruining the country in every way.
Economically, Egypt has many natural resources, fertile lands and a huge unused area. We have well educated andcompetent people that are ready to run businesses and scientific research as well. There was absolutely no justified reason for the economic situation. But the government doesn’t help or even allow most attempts made by anyone for any real improvement. This made Egypt import many products, which is a big waste of money. At the same time many people could not find any job opportunities.
Poverty was reaching a whole new level. The prices of most products have at least tripled in the past 10 years, yet the salaries have barely increased. In 2009 only, the prices increased by 20% while governmental salaries had only increased by 9%. And this was the biggest increase in salaries that the government had made in the past 20 years.
No talk of “Great Satan”. No business deals in Dubai. Just cogent clarity about socioeconomic problems. This could have been a statement from anyone from Kansas City to Kyoto.
Like the children of a brutal father – the only real truth in Mubarak’s condescending Throne Speech – the people in many countries in the Middle East have been banished to the back of the house and hidden from view. We deplore the vicious inhumanity of Kim Jung Il and pity his subject victims, but we accept as truth the harsh bonhomie of similar rulers of Muslim lands. Suffering of people in Zimbabwe tugs at our souls, but we allow that the rulers of Syria and Iran may be right about their citizens need of an iron hand.
No human being needs to be born and live under the iron hand of another.
As we try to wrap our minds around the changes wrought in Tunisia and Egypt we are just starting to try to squint intensely into the fog ahead. Could it be that the “system of checks and balances” that we have all (on every side of every line) always taken for granted is coming apart? Could the “Free Pass” given to certain countries to maintain autocratic and often brutal regimes be expiring?
Utopian futurists (like me) have long used the authorial cheat of skipping over the near-term details to focus on long-term vision. The common complaint is always that “Human Nature Doesn’t Work That Way”. That we will always be at each other’s throats, repeating ancient cycles. But events throughout my life refute that. We no longer threaten to sterilize our planet, the police states of the Iron Curtain era are essentially gone. India is more likely to supply services than need aid and China won’t likely go to war with us but they might well buy Las Vegas.
So, is the Middle East about to throw off its shackles as a whole? If so, how long until the West gets fully behind it?
Or am I still just too optimistic for words?