Thursday, November 10, 2016
Early polling showed Bernie Sanders beating Donald Trump. In those early polls Hillary Clinton lost to Trump. I don't personally believe polls are accurate in general, but many do. What that means for believers, is that they chose a risky route. They wanted Hillary to win the primaries even though the DNC would have come to power more assuredly if Bernie was it's nominee. In fact those voters were Hillary or bust. They turned down the candidate who was closer to democrats on the issues because they gambled on Hillary changing her popularity. I'm not generalizing or judging motivations, maybe they thought she was a better candidate, maybe they didn't like Bernie, I'm talking about the practical implications.
When push came to shove Bernie rallied for Hillary because he realized the Trump danger early on. The DNC on the other hand, wanted to destroy Bernie. It was not because he wasn't aligned with them on issues, but because they had special interests. Maybe they thought Hillary was a better leader, maybe they thought Bernie wasn't capable of delivering, but still, they too gambled on liberal resources rather than weighed out what's more aligned with their platform.
One thing I respect about Bernie is that he stuck to the issues. Following her triumph over Bernie, Hillary shifted her focus to one thing, how she isn't Trump. Hillary was silent on most issues, she did not want to gamble her connections with big businesses once in the white house so that her words won't be used against her. In effect, she wasn't able to win over a bigger base.
People did their part and she won the popular vote, mostly out of fear of Trump. However, the question that that needs to be asked is: what did she do to try and win over those who wanted a better economy for themselves and who know for certain that the status quo wasn't good enough? Did she promise a better economy for them like Trump's empty promises? Not so much, and it's because Hillary knows the value of words and chose hers wisely. That is something we can respect Hillary for, she tried not to lie about her positions on issues so that they do not haunt her while in office, but that came at a cost. In effect, Hillary became silent about most issues that weren't instigated by Trump, she never called him out, she just responded to his silly ludicrous claims. She missed most opportunities outside the 'glad I'm not Trump' zone, and failed to comment meaningfully on something as obvious as the Dakota pipeline.
Hillary sat on the fence and hoped that Trump's stupidity would be enough. It wasn't. Mocking Trump and avoiding the issues gave his poor supporters no alternative but to challenge the status quo. The politics of fear were employed and even though fear of Trump did not deter voters, the politics of fear won. The real fear here for the working class was the continuation of the status quo. Hillary Clinton did not alleviate any of that fear.
Those who support Hillary are probably happy with the status quo to a great extent. There is currently a president from a discriminated group. I do not deny that a woman president would be progress, but to those whose lives will not be bettered it's cosmetic. Obama bailed out banks, lead drone wars, came after whistle blowers and under his presidency big businesses thrived and continued to make colossal profits. This simply isn't good enough for most.
I'm certain there are many who chose Trump for his racism, but what about winning over those who just wanted a shift in the status quo? What has been offered to them beyond cosmetic check boxes of progress?
There is something wrong with a country that would vote for a vile character like Trump simply because they are unhappy with the status quo. While people should be accountable for their bigotry, there are many reasons why they ended up that way. Media was sensationalist, catering to their base, on both sides. The liberal media focused on Trump and his crazy supporters. It may have been better to identify what is really wrong with the country rather than what is wrong with Trump and his supporters.
Saturday, November 05, 2016
Friday, November 04, 2016
This article was published in DNE on 2 November 2016.
As calls for protests garner more attention from the media and citizens who have long ignored them, many serious questions about Egypt's trajectory arise. This is perhaps Egypt's most disheartening moment in recent history. Besides the unprecedented scale of human rights abuses, it is obvious to dwellers and onlookers that Egypt's economy is swiftly spiraling towards collapse. The leadership is struggling to keep its head above water, as the long sought after hope of political stability turns frail.
What makes the moment more tragic is not the absence of hope but its fleeting presence. Egypt's path to recovery has long been clear. Yet, the economic interests of the policy makers have stalled any political will to execute them. Economic figures aside, future prospects are primarily based on trust. As conditions worsen and the interests of the political elite become clearer to the average citizen, trust in Egypt's present leadership withers.
Egypt's economic ills are but symptoms of its political ailments, and they require urgent redress. Egypt needs direct political reforms to establish a system capable of executing long-term plans beneficial to the country's future.
At the moment, the majority of decisions are taken by non-elected officials belonging to one security apparatus or another. They have three major motivations: narrow individual interests, securing the present regime, and a revenge agenda against Islamist or secular opposition. Their decisions are not subject to oversight. The parliament's handpicked members are more a representation of security agencies than of the people.
Similarly, the entire political system lacks cheques and balances. There is no manner to challenge decision makers without paying a heavy price. Egypt's top auditor, Hesham Geneina, was removed from his post after releasing statements about his report's findings that indicated mass corruption. In theory, that ought to have triggered an investigation into the government bodies accused of financial violations, but the opposite happened and Geneina was referred to trial.
The absence of balances has also corrupted the market in Egypt. While the army's role in the economy has long been established, the army is now, more than ever, directly involved in policy. This means that generals control the army's share of contracts and the shares of non-military owned companies in the market. Hence, it is not just the army's economic empire that affects the market, but rather the complete hegemony over economic and business policies.
Many civilian companies are subcontracted by the army, but they have no means to litigate against the army if they are extorted in some way or another or their payments delayed. When the army does business, it does not pay taxes; it utilises poorly paid conscripts, and its budget is not subject to parliamentary oversight. Even if the army produces goods or delivers construction projects at a lower cost, there's no way to ensure that profits made are pumped back into the economy. Money is taken out of the monetary cycle.
Private businesses have to compete with military industries that do not have to pay labour, taxes, customs, and transportation, and have no difficulty finding foreign currency to conclude their deals with partners abroad. This arrangement certainly doesn't consider long-term, economic growth.
Egypt's hope lies in the ability to challenge political, economic, and social policies. Egypt must prioritise the country's interests rather than a few individuals who enjoy impunity or corrupt rewards.
To find hope, trust in the process and leadership must be restored. Opportunities must be afforded to clever, competent decision makers. In actionable, concrete terms, hope lies in a parliament comprised of fairly elected representatives of the people willing to challenge the government, in the immediate release of all political prisoners (estimated to be in the tens of thousands), in repealing the flawed Protest Law, in ending the targeting of civil society so that it is vibrant and able to call out abuse of power, and in abiding by the Constitution to call into account all extrajudicial decisions and actions taken by state officials.
These steps are where hope lies in the short term to instill trust, and in order to stand a chance, there's more. The army must gradually distance itself from its hegemonic role in the economy and allow for businesses to operate within a fair and healthy market. There must also be a commitment from the government to end brutal police practices and devise an organisational restructure with meaningful oversight. The judiciary must end punitive rulings that serve the regime.
Egypt's youth, its most important resource and symbol for its future, are targeted instead of embraced. Many are defamed, imprisoned, disappeared, and sidelined. Instead of engaging with youth, the regime opted for a flashy youth conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh. The conference was insulting to many as it attempts to window dress systematic abuses against Egyptian youth each day. A more realistic youth conference would have been held in jails where many politically enlightened youth are being held. At this more legitimate youth conference, we would have witnessed Egypt's forcibly disappeared youth reappear and go home with their families.
Empty rhetoric and obstinacy is the regime's alternative to meaningful change. False promises for a better future only entrench Egypt deeper into its failing trajectory. Egypt's hope lies in investing in youth and accountability; hopes that Egypt's trajectory miraculously changes without real reforms are lies.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
There's little real in politics to talk about which hasn't already been said. It feels as though people take a long time to catch up with what is happening. Each time I start writing, it feels I've said these things before and the repeat causes the sentences to be more robotic, less passionate, seemingly more rehearsed.
I read through my old stuff and I realize I gave it my all. Maybe someone out there has read what I tried my best to honestly reveal. Maybe someone out there was inspired to do the same. I'm tired of repetition and it feels I've been on a break from saying things how they are.
I'm not sure when I'll return.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
There's a bit of a trend to try and describe some communities as living in a bubble.The idea has become so deformed that people use the term incorrectly. So if people are interacting on twitter sharing similar views, they call it a bubble, if people have facebook timelines which show only their supporting views they call it a bubble, when revolutionaries are talking about torture and police brutality while most citizens don't, they call it a bubble.
I don't think people really understand what a bubble is as opposed to a community. A bubble is mostly defined by an unawareness of those around you, not by your preferences. You can't be in a musical rock bubble if you're aware that others like hip hop or house. The fact that you have a different taste or preference doesn't place you in a bubble. When you have preferences that are not mainstream, it doesn't put you in a bubble.
Bubble here is being oblivious to the reality of the world around you rather than relates to the choices you make. One particular example that stands out is the revolutionary bubble, which is complete nonsense. Revolutionaries are perhaps some of the most aware people of the existing contradictions in the country and the different communities and 'bubbles' out there. The fact that they've chosen a set of tastes and principles doesn't put them inside a bubble, particularly that their main concerns are the bitter realities of regime brutality that others want to shield themselves from.
The fact that other communities are not so accessible to them so that they can influence them doesn't put them inside a bubble, they just don't have means.
Also worrying is how many, even from within these circles, completely discard revolutionaries or activists as citizens. There is a form of elitism shrouded in the appearance of humility there. These activists are citizens too and just because they are trying to change things beyond their local scope doesn't invalidate their citizenship or opinions and most certainly doesn't warrant describing the whole lot of them as living in a bubble. In some sense, revolutionaries are the biggest non government sponsored coalition whose cohesion is based on a set of principles rather than an an institution.
People have used the term bubble to express their escape from the madness, in that sense it's building your own defenses against the surrounding madness, but there's a difference between choosing to isolate yourself and being oblivious to what is around you.
The more we kill in absence of rule of law, the more we lose. The more we cheer for these killings, the more we lose. The more we repress in the name of fighting extremists, the more extreme we become. The war on terror feels like a hole growing bigger every time you think you've removed something from it. We may be defeating one brand of terrorists but we're creating more and expanding the pool.
Terror can still prevail even if 'terrorists' do not.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Below is a screenshot of a series of tweets and interactions with the Dutch ambassador to Egypt in which he claimed Egypt has made progress on the path towards democracy. Having checked the speech and seeing these responses, I called out the Dutch ambassador on what he described as democratic progress.
He implied that I did not have the gift of close and contextual reading.
All this is okay but what is note worthy is that the ambassador used to follow me on twitter, and furthermore extended an invite to discuss the topic further at his office. That is why it is all the more perplexing that at some point following this conversation I was blocked on twitter by this ambassador.
That's not very diplomatic is it?
Here is a link to the original tweet: https://twitter.com/RenaNetjes/status/725626112303321088
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
In a recent speech, Sisi finally confessed that taking down the Russian plane was a breech in Egyptian security and an act perpetrated by extremists. In the same breath he alluded to the murder of Giulio Regeni as a similar act, hence fortifying whatever predisposition loyal Egyptians had that he was killed by Islamists to frame the Egyptian regime.
The first murder of a Morsi supporter following the July 3 military takeover was caught on tape outside the Republican Guard headquarters on 5 July when the army shot and killed three pro Morsi protesters. I did not want to believe we had so quickly descended into the same violence and brutality we had fought so vehemently against under Mubarak, SCAF and Mohamed Morsi. That first kill meant a complete return to SCAF days where the military was rampant, vicious and as always, unaccountable. In utter disbelief and in the hopes of averting reality, I rushed to examine the evidence, I saw a few videos showing the shooting, from different angles, along with photos of the poor man's head which had been shot.
No sooner had the young man been shot and media circulated social media, conspiracy theories started to appear to salvage the narrative that things have not descended into the same old crimes and impunity. I remember being dragged into these theories in the remote hopes that they would pan out and we would not have to once again confront the military's crimes. Please let it be something else, please let it be something else I thought to myself.
Duly like an apologist, I began to examine the pictures, the videos and the testimonies. I looked at theories that postulated that it they were Muslim Brotherhood supporters who shot themselves in order to frame the military. It seems so silly now, but I had to treat it seriously, maybe it would offer salvation. The evidence pointed to a black car in the background passing at the exact same moment he was shot. There were also photos of his head with a small wound entering, and the back of the head blown off, indicating, by those theorists, that he had been shot from the back.
I entertained all these ideas and posted them and got into discussions. I may have even ignored Jeremy Bowen's testimony regarding that incident which he witnessed in order to give these conspiracies the benefit of the doubt. While some people responded to me by saying, “How could you?”others were very objective and dispelled all these lunacies. Exit wounds were larger than entry wounds, both angles show that the soldier shot him, there was no evidence that the black car fired any shots and more than that, the military was armed, accustomed to killing and it made no sense for protesters to kill their own instead of military personnel.
From that day onwards I toyed around with theories to explore them but was never able to dedicate that much attention or give them credence as much as I did the first time. The rest of the kills were about sometimes entertaining ideas of how justified they could have been, but never buying into it.
The Rabaa massacre was the price paid by Egyptians who entertained conspiracy theories and found justifications for the regime as they continued to kill innocent people with impunity. Many are not even aware of how monumental that price is till today and continue to argue there was no other way.
Five years into the revolution, a wider base of opposition was created thanks to the uprising in 2011, but that sheer number lead to more brutality against the growing number of dissidents. Crimes against humanity are as widespread as never before, forced disappearances, torture,.. With every escalating brutality comes its own set of conspiracies and justifications. The simple harsh reality of brutal criminal security forces in itself too brutal to handle in the minds of many.
This brings us to the brutal killing of Italian student Giulio Regeni who was kidnapped on January 25 and tortured to death with cigarette burns, stab wounds, broken ribs and signs of electrocution all over his body. The act is seemingly unprecedented, although a Frenchman was killed by the police in September 2013. Yet the disappearance the brutality and the manner with which it happened has only been customary with Egyptians, never with a foreigner.
The fact that it is seemingly unprecedented was enough for many who cannot deal with this as an escalation in brutality as another conspiracy theory. It must have been the Islamists that kidnapped young Giulio, tortured him exactly like the Egyptian police and dumped his body to implicate the police, who would, sure, do this to an Egyptian, but never in a hundred years would they do this to a foreigner. That is the rhetoric and the main reasoning, despite the army killing eight Mexican tourists, which they would claim is different because it was an accident.
It wasn't the media campaign and pressure from the Italian government that caused authorities to dump the body, no it was a perfectly timed plan by Islamists. To feed into this convenient conspiracy theory, a security affiliated newspaper, Youm 7, purposefully mistranslated security forces to Muslim Brotherhood from an Italian paper that postulated that Regeni could have been killed by a rival security agency to undermine Sisi. In another strange twist, another Italian paper reported on the mistranslated Youm 7 article that claimed it was the Muslim Brotherhood who killed Regeni. To make matters worse, an Italian paper noted that eyewitnesses in the NY Times piece who described how Giulio Regeni was taken by plain clothed policemen were not consistent in terms of timing with what they had found on Giulio Regeni's messages which indicated he was able to text 2 hours after the alleged arrest by authorities.
This to them seems like a golden opportunity to discount not just the eyewitnesses but the three security sources cited in the NYT piece indicating that Giulio was in police custody before his death.
The most enlightened of them would say that we still do not know what has happened and that investigations are underway, so we should not point fingers, and yet in the same moment, the mere mention of the Muslim Brotherhood in an Italian piece, has caused some on occasion to jump to the conclusion that investigators suspect the Muslim Brotherhood. Having examined the said paragraph it only commented that trade unions were monitored by the regime and garnered the interest of the Muslim Brotherhood who sought to create unrest. That unrest was all too quickly concluded by the apologists to be the murder of Giulio Regeni.
There are many benefits and motivations of having Islamists kill Regeni instead of the regime. It would confirm the bias that Islamists are an absolute evil, it would offer hope that while Egyptian police do this to Egyptians, there is still hope they are responsible enough not to do this to foreigners. But in reality, many also understand that the police would never own up if they had done this and the international implications if they did would be huge, and would mean that this is indeed a criminal regime that is far too brutal and ugly to carry the country forward.
It is fear of confronting such a reality that drives some to believe that it isn't the police, although I'm very certain many know deep down inside, just like I did when I examined the first murder, that Egyptian security forces the most likely culprits of this heinous crime. It doesn't even matter that the Ministry of Interior sent out instructions in a periodic secret memo, shortly after Giulio's murder, not to take action against foreigners without informing state security and the ministry of interior.
Denial is an endless river in Egypt, and it is surprising what you can find if you're looking for it and how easy it is to ignore reality.