Tuesday, December 24, 2013

On Advice to Revolutionaries

A lot of advice is given day and night over all the television channels as to how we must ally ourselves with the military and move forward because of the Muslim Brotherhood threat. I’ve read a lot of it that sounds great from a literary perspective, talking about deals to be made and compromises that we should do. Most of the advice is given to everyone other than the police, the military  and the government.

I think such advice really patronizes those fighting for our cause. The problem is that the words sound good, but they mean nothing to those on the ground. It addresses none of our real concerns, it provides no way out. If advice is talking about building a real democracy then we all agree to it, but such advice ends up addressing the wrong party. The revolutionaries aren't running the country, they're just monitoring its progress. 

While we all agree we want to build a democracy, some of us on the ground are worried about 'How'. How can you deal with a regime that offers revolutionaries positions in government and then offers them rape and death threats if they don't accept? How do you ally yourself with a military that is overreaching for more power and does not want to compromise any of its interests for the sake of the country? How do you address unjust laws passed that give police the power to select your next parliament and to keep you in jail? How do you address a protest law combined with a constitution that can get you tried in a military court for protesting.  (Yes, you can get tried in a military court for protesting because CSF troops are not police, they're military conscripts and the police usually fabricates charges against protesters).

These are just a few simple examples, the rabbit hole goes deeper. So until there is solid advice that answers the real concerns and the how of the matter, I would advise the advisors not to give us advice that doesn't really give us much to do. If only it were that simple, if only it were that possible. In case they write away, they put out a disclaimer that this is just literature. 

On the other hand and to be fair, there is a problem with revolutionaries too. They do have valid reasons for opposing the roadmap, the constitution and the protest law. They do have valid reasons for going out to protest and rejecting the unsound advice. But they do not articulate their ideas and their reasoning well enough. A few go out in protest and say ‘Down with military rule’, with this chant not being representative because the military now rules through proxy, and the chant alienates more than charges. To counteract this, some say ‘Down with MB guide’s rule’, another nonsensical chant because he isn’t ruling. 

In a sense, both Rabaa and June 30 are the flip side of the same coin that undermines January 25. The trouble is that revolutionaries aren’t working on patiently counteracting the silly flawed arguments put forward by Rabaa and June 30 supporters turning as populist as their counterparts. In order to move forward, we must address the nonsensical notions of our advisors and our opponents by patiently coagulating our rhetoric so that it’s more cohesive and comprehensible and irrevocable. Until then we must, side-by-side, call the oppressors out on their oppression, call the liars out on their lies.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A False Sense of Security: The Egyptian Military’s Lost Bet on the Police

Recently the regime, personified in the entity of the police, lead an attack on Egypt’s activists who opposed the protest law and the military trials of civilians. The attack on 26 November 2013  was brutal, vindictive and lacked professionalism. The police violently assaulted protesters in a manner that violated the law they were implementing and furthermore targeted women through beatings and physical assaults during arrests and while in custody.
The attack on these activists who are greatly related to the January 25 revolution can be simplistically described as an attack on revolutionaries. The attack on a legitimacy already gained by revolutionaries is a move that may cost the regime much if not corrected. At the end of the day, the legitimacy of a regime is determined by its perceived integrity, even when taking extraordinary or unlawful measures. This may explain why unlawful attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood were widely supported and did not negatively impact the regime’s popularity at least among the wider section of the public opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, the recent attacks on the revolutionary class may prove problematic to the regime. Despite numerous efforts,  accusations against the revolutionary activists were never solidified. As a matter of fact, the regime reversed its positions several times with regards to past events. Most recently, they acknowledged the Mohamed Mahmoud protesters as martyrs who died for a legitimate cause, even though the killings were performed by the police and supported by the army in November of 2011.
The acknowledgement took the form of a press statement by the police and a cheap monument erected in the middle of Tahrir square on 18 November, the anniversary of the events. They  may have thought that such a shallow gesture would be enough to placate the revolutionary class that had restrained its opposition to the regime for some time. The gesture failed to bring about desired results, mainly because there was more at stake for the revolutionary class than a memorial. The activists remain searching for accountability and real change in style of governance which never really took form.
The recent retaliation can perhaps be explained as frustration from the current regime because of failure to placate the revolutionary class. The attempt ended in a huge political triumph for the revolutionaries on 18 November 2013. This is perhaps why the police reverted to what they are accustomed to, attempting to provide a security solutions to what is essentially a political and social problem. Police have reverted to Mubarak era practices in order to bring about stability. The current regime spearheaded by the military is perhaps counting on its current popularity in the hopes that police may find a solution to the constant instability in the country.
It is my assessment that such measures will not work. The economic situation is far too dire and the alliances formed by the current regime representatives are too fragile for such oppressive measures. The regime is counting on a false sense of strength derived from their controlled media, security apparatus, judiciary system, army supporters and MB haters. Despite military fervor, the tide can still turn against them.
While at first glance, such institutions and tools seem to translate into formidable power, the government cannot continue to exert its hegemony over society without the consent of the numerous factions of society such as workers, students, activists, lawyers, and so forth. That is where the failure will come about – unless the regime can quickly undo the damage. This remains unlikely to happen considering how incompetent Egypt’s political class proved to be. The military, however, seems to have become more sensitive to public sentiments. There is a chance they may understand the potential shift in society that will be caused by the retaliation of revolutionary activists.
Despite the confrontational nature of these activists and their mistrust of the generals who they believe are ruling the country behind the scenes, the military’s worst enemy is its own police force charged with the country’s internal security. It is the corruption and incompetence of this police that will more likely eat away at whatever legitimacy the current regime has drawn from mass protests (which they now want to hamper).
At the end of the day, the military may soon realize that they  have no possible path for stability and consensus except through reforming the police, which they, not the activists, will need to do.  With such an obvious conclusion, the question remains whether the military itself is free enough of corruption to take such measures, and whether its own network of interests and false sense of security will burn the political class it is trying to build.

Originally published on Counterpunch.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Myths, Sheep and Bootlickers

Poster by El Teneen

Myths  Rabaa supporters must believe to continue supporting  what they do

  1. Morsi is the legitimate president of Egypt because he is democratically elected
  2. The MB never ruled because they were never really given a chance to
  3. The failure of Morsi’s rule is due to a conspiracy by the media
  4. The failure of Morsi’s rule is due to a conspiracy by felool (and sometimes Copts)
  5. Morsi may have made a mistake not reforming the police, or maybe he was trying to reform the police but he wasn’t given enough time
  6. The numbers of June 30 weren’t really that big
  7. Morsi had his mistakes, but they were political mistakes not crimes worthy of removing him from power
  8. The Sisi regime is much worse than Morsi’s and that’s why the Muslim Brotherhood members did not object to Morsi’s rule
  9. Elections were free and fair under SCAF
  10. SCAF cannot hold free and fair elections now
  11. Protesters under SCAF and Morsi were hired thugs
  12. MB protesters are not violent

Myths military supporters must believe to continue supporting what they do

  1. All Muslim Brotherhood members are terrorists
  2. The state is fighting a war on terror
  3. The police has been reformed
  4. Those who have been killed in Rabaa deserved to die and the crackdown is justified
  5. The new road map is the path to stability
  6. The army is patriotic and has stood by the people
  7. This is not a coup, this is a revolution
  8. Revolutionaries are naïve or funded from abroad and do nothing but protest
  9. We must vote yes to the constitution even if we do not like everything in it
  10. We can change the constitution at any time
  11. Military trials are a necessity
  12. State Security no longer exists in its oppressive vindictive brutal form

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Land of Fallen Heroes

Revolutionaries have let people down. That’s the sentiment. People are disenchanted with their notions of justice and democracy and instead opting for pragmatic entities with more power such as the military. 

The revolution did not deliver because it was idealistic. There were never enough opportunists within the revolutionary camp to take power.  The reason is that opportunism by definition gets you expelled from the revolutionary camp.  It was always idealistic, and that’s why it could never make deals; could never deliver a knockout blow, but that’s also why it hasn’t died yet. 

In talking about the revolution, I’m not talking about famous activists who are no longer present on the streets, nor others who have opted or a more political route. The real revolution is the unsung heroes holding on to revolutionary principles every day. We mostly hear about them when they die, and a great many live and die in silence. That is the true revolution that does not want to die. We’re in a war of attrition fought by a generation of revolutionaries born out of the darkest injustices. Despite no assurances they will ever win, they are holding on to values that those around them seem to have forsaken. 

But it’s not just revolutionaries who have let people down, people have let revolutionaries down. Many respected figures have lost that respect by giving way to flawed values and perceived practicality over adhering to sound moral positions. In effect the tables have turned in Egypt, the younger people hold the higher moral ground. They can see murder as a crime, theft unacceptable and impunity as corruption. They’re being asked by an older generation to turn a blind eye to injustices, to be practical, to be adults. Since when did adults preach moral corruption in the world so blatantly? No wonder those young people are in a constant state of depression and despair.  It’s not because they’re being beaten, arrested, tortured and killed on the streets while trying to stand up for what’s right. It’s because those they may have respected and looked up to have condoned lies and crimes over truth and justice.  It’s because the moral responsibility of identifying what’s wrong and what’s right rests on their shoulders. Young as they are, they bear that burden.  It’s a treason of sorts, committed by the larger faction of society, leaving the moral responsibility up to their children. 

As the revolutionaries take on what seems to be the whole world, those around them mistake their obstinacy for arrogance. It’s not arrogance, but perhaps their only defense in the face of a world gone mad. They are confronting a world that wants to take whatever soul there is left in them. They’re obstinate not because they’re always right, but because everyone is asking them to forfeit all that they are, to corrupt their soul.  

There never was any winning for these young people anyway because they were never just fighting for themselves, always fighting for others. It was a battle too colossal for any small group to win on their own. 

People looked up to revolutionaries once upon a time, thinking they would lead an exodus out of the morally forsaken land, but it was much too difficult. A great many including grownups were born as babies after January 25, and the world expected them to run before they could even crawl. Such high expectations rested on them, and they were just children fighting the ugliest of beasts. The older generation left them to battle in what should have been their fight. When those young people were overwhelmed, conspired against and beaten down, almost everyone looked away. Everyone was looking for a winner and revolutionaries were looking for truth and justice. Everyone was looking for salvation, and revolutionaries were looking for dignity. 

Back then when revolutionaries called out murder against the police, people applauded their bravery. When they asked for military trials to stop, people commended them. When they spoke against injustices performed in uniform in the name of law, country and religion, their values and morals were cherished. Now, all of this means nothing, such notions are mocked and ridiculed. There’s no room for idealism in the new Egypt, there’s no room for revolutionaries, no room for heroes.

Perhaps today revolutionaries with their values and their high moral ground are seen as fallen heroes. Those fallen heroes still hold on to their values in the midst of accusations of treason, in the midst of their own depression and despair. But it is those who have stood by the killers, the thieves and murderers in uniform in the name of practicality who are the true villains. They’re the fallen heroes, the heroes that should have been, the heroes that never were. They have let down their children because of their fears. They have let down those who could have believed in them because they themselves were the real children who needed a uniform to trust. 

I do not know if it is possible for revolutionaries to rise again and capture the hearts and imagination of society through their sheer resilience. I do not know if this is a tale of triumph or defeat.  I do not know for certain if there will come a time when people wake up. What I do know is that these young people are worth something in this world, for holding on to ideas of justice, truth and heroism in a land of fallen heroes.