Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Death of a Nation's Conscience

Setting aside miracles, something about the story of Jesus seemed incomprehensible to me when I was younger. I found myself wondering how people were so willing to cheer on Jesus’ crucifixion although he had done nothing but preach values of goodness. After three years of preaching, he was smeared and condemned to death. There is no surprise his deeds bothered religious leaders and rulers, but that people he’d helped turned against him so quickly was what troubled me.

Three years into the revolution, that part of the story doesn’t baffle me anymore. Jesus offered personal liberation not political, and because he was unable to provide for anything but the soul, he was blamed for not doing enough and his death cheered on. On the anniversary of the revolution, it has become apparent that the nation has turned against it.  The rumors surrounding the 25 January Revolution have ranged from accusations of treason and foreign funding, to being a plan hatched by the Muslim Brotherhood. The underlying issue that has turned people against the 25 January Revolution is that it did not deliver. For three years it preached nothing but values, but the biggest accusation against its prime actors is that they did not provide anything but a personal, impractical salvation. There are no policies in place, no projects and no formidable organisation representing this revolution. That is why people are cheering on its death.

Three years on, what’s left of the revolution remains isolated. Here revolution would have to mean those who have chosen to side with values rather than individuals, rights rather than ideologies. The block of individuals that once captured the imagination of Egyptians and the whole world has now been shrunk, targeted and smeared.
The reason why we’re still talking about the revolution that took place three years ago (other than its anniversary) is because this revolution is about conscience. It revolved around the idea that justice was possible irrespective of race or creed; that lies, corruption and crimes can be called out, no matter the perpetrator.

Today, none of these ideals seem to have picked up. Seeing all the regime crimes justified, it seems that the revolution is dying. On its anniversary, the regime celebrated by crushing protests that did not support General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Such measures are widely accepted by Egyptian society. Many of its activists were arrested and imprisoned and it seems that there is no real control over the actions of the police who act with impunity.

The conscience of the nation seems to be at bay as Egyptian citizens are arrested, beaten and tortured without due process. Citizens are treated in a manner that contradicts the constitution they just voted on, but no one seems to mind. Many ask if those tortured, arrested or killed were Muslim Brotherhood members or supporters, as if it justifies these measures. Even when those arrested are described as activists opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, you get the usual rhetoric that they must have done something wrong.

The space for peaceful opposition in Egypt is shrinking. How can there be opposition in a police state controlled by state security agenda and a supposed fight on terror? Egypt has drifted further from its promised goals of democracy and freedom, and what’s worse is the mass support for that drift. Many Egyptians have made their own gods, not only worshipping them, but cracking down on those who don’t. A revolution that has rejected such gods has now regressed.

The power of the revolution was in finding a moment with consensus that the only way forward was through justice, equality and dignity. Today, people don’t mind less bread, less freedom, less dignity. The consensus seems to be lost and the regime’s smear campaign against a revolution that aimed to end its corruption is now more effective than ever.

The real trouble is that the revolution seems to be confronting people now rather than the regime. The people chose to see its path as a failure, opting for a quick solution, finding a saviour in the army.  The revolution that fought for the people must not continue to confront them. After all, it was a revolution to give people choice, even if that choice is to reject it. Egypt must continue its path without revolutionaries until people realise once again that there is no way forward but equality, justice and freedom.  Perhaps the revolution and its conscience have to die for now before they can rise again.

First published in Daily News Egypt on 27 January, 2014.

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