02/6/14

Structural vs. Cultural violence

In Egypt we had a pretty nasty form of structural violence that was embodied in the state’s massive bureaucracy, and web of interests that surround it. It was nasty, inefficient, and very corrupt. The revolution attempted to call for end to that violence and was still taking baby steps in trying to find a more human replacement. The magical eighteen days in Tahrir in early 2011 saw a wonderful experiment where people were trying to create a new reality and a new order, they were trying out new ways of dealing with others…gentler and sweeter ways.

Before anything they were attempting came to fruition, they were faced with cultural violence by Islamists. The Islamists claimed divine authority and were naturally bent on extinguishing all experimentation as they viewed them as silly and futile. They had their perfect ways and had no need for those where reaching out for something nobler…yet without history laden labels or structures of power. The Islamists attempted assimilate the machinery of structural violence in their arsenal of cultural warfare.

As soon as the horrors of their designs became clear to the vast majority of Egyptian, a revolt ensued. Tragically, since June 30th, 2013  no alternative means were found to supplant either forms oppression. One thing is patently clear, most Egyptians would opt for the familiar and impersonal structural violence that they had suffered  for decades, than to give a chance for Islamist cultural violence to run its course…democratic process be damned.

12/10/13

Why will I Vote a Reluctant “yes” to the Proposed 2013 Constitution

I will be voting “yes” on the next constitutional referendum. It will be a vote with limited enthusiasm and excitement. It comes about from a painful analysis of the sorry state Egypt is now in. My aspirations for a post revolutionary Egypt remain much higher.

My concern is that the alternative to a positive outcome of the referendum are a great deal more grim. The way I see it, we have three options on the menu:

1. A very hard-core Islamist constitution that will be regressive and anachronistic if the MB or their ilk rise again to power…a “no” will make that more probable.

2. The 2012 constitution which already included military trials (the most abhorrent part in the new constitution), but missing out on many of the good points with regards to freedom of belief and minority rights in the proposed constitution

3. The 1972 constitution which gives the president completely unchecked powers. i.e. full regression to the pre 2011 state.

Escaping the sad fate of 1 makes 2 or 3 (or some mix of the two) very likely . I do not see a fourth option. The revolutionary idealists never managed to organize themselves politically over the last 3 years. Beyond making moral statements, and standing for what they believe is right, their sacrifices have been well exploited by many parasites.

The proposed constitution is still a small victory for the civil and progressive camp. A beach head, that I hope they will be able to expand upon later. The alternative is to risk domination by the Islamists, in which case society will come to complete stasis and no progress will be possible except via an all out civil war.  Although the military will continue to play an active role in Egyptian politics in the coming years, with some hard work and a bit of luck we  might be able to gradually contain and limit their influence. With the Islamists our chances of doing that is zero.

image

04/21/13

The Coward

I saw him fall to his knees,
crawl for mercy
…. from a self appointed god.

As a man drowning at sea,
exhausting all his energy swimming away from the visible shore
… for a straw to save him.

Damn him and his race!
He will get no quarter from his idol
… and no pity from me.

Cowards are the muck that we have to
tread through on our long march
… to freedom.

12/17/12

Peeking above pain, suffering, and reaction

Fascism, arrogance, lies, misinformation, deception, subterfuge, the abuse of cherished beliefs and symbols for political again, double dealing, backstabbing, and underhandedness! This are the some thoughts the come to mind when any flavor of Islamists is mentioned, but more so with the “Muslim” Brotherhood.

There is a palpable frustration, hate, and mistrust towards the MB and Islamists in general. The damage they have done to their creditability will be neigh impossible to fix. Even if we are lucky enough to stave of a civil war, we are being pushed into becoming a low-trust-society with all its nasty sociological, psychological,  and economic implications. They can celebrate their “yes” referendum victory all they like, it is Pyrrhic!

They have mutilated themselves almost irreparably and in the process have also created serious fissures in the Egypt’s social fabric. Even when they get pushed out from their position of political dominance, which I am confident they will, it will not be easy repair the damage that they have done.

The time ahead requires a great deal of wisdom on part of all non-Islamists. We will not move forward if we just continue to react to their base, cowardly, deceptive, and self-serving behavior. 

12/8/12

A battle against democracy or fascism?

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leadership and public relations apparatus  and their supporters and been  repeating this rhetorical question ad nauseum:

Why are all those protesters going about protesting? There will be a referendum on the constitution in a week and if they do not like newly drafted constitution they could simply say so at the ballot box?

They are also fond of adding:

Those who are currently protesting want to bring down a democratically elected president. They are such sore losers and pathetic whiners. But we will defend the will of the people, we will not let a corrupt and counter-revolutionary minority dictate their will on the rest of society. In a democracy we work out our differences via the ballot box, not protests.

So here I am, standing with those who are crying out for freedom, and being labeled an enemy of democracy and an elitist. Such has been the message that the MB incessantly trying to spread to western media during this recent crisis in Egypt. The message it sends to its members and other hard core “Islamists” supporters is far less varnished, it goes something like that:

Those who oppose the president are enemies of Sharia.  They are westernized secular liberal infidels who must be fought by every means possible. They are enemies of Islam.

In short, they present themselves as victims of retrograde forces that are trying to kill Egypt’s young democracy and that they must also protect legitimacy and sharia (such was the slogan of their demonstration as Cairo University last Friday). Internally, they label their political opponents as infidels and enemies of Islam. In their twisted ideology, such enemies are fair targets for “jihad”, which in the minds of their more hardcore members often translate to physical liquidation.

From the MB’s demonstration  on Dec 1. Egypt’s flag is a sitting mat, and the MB’s banner is held high

It is telling that during their demonstration their were two prominent chants:

يا باديع يا باديع انت تؤمر و أحنا نطيع
Oh Badie, Oh Badie, you order and we obey

and the more ominous

إدي يا ريس الإشارة واحنا نجيبهوملك في شكارة
Give us a signal president and we will be bring them (i.e. your opponents) in a body bag

Such are the peaceful way of the brotherhood. The president, it seems, wields secondary power compared to Badie (the MB’s supreme guide). It was the supreme guide who was issuing statements today about how get out this impasse and not Morsi.

Most of those who voted for Morsi in the presidential elections thought they were voting for a president, not a marionette who is controlled by the leader of an organized that is shrouded in secrecy and that is implicated in numerous terrorists activities.

It is becoming clearer by the day that Morsi is not your garden variety president, he is backed by highly organized group who can act as his shock troops on demand. Morsi has been trying hard to maintain a strangle hold on popular media via his minister of information (a sort of miniature Joseph Goebbels). In the past few months, Morsi’s administration has been politically appointing members of the brotherhood in key position in Egypt’s sprawling governmental bureaucracy. Most Morsi’s speeches have been from inside mosques and the language and rhetoric are more akin to a grand khalif  that a president.  Liberals as becoming increasingly aware that if left unchecked Morsi might do seriouse damage to Egypt’s tolerant and cheerful culutral DNA. Morsi has not given reason in the past five months for his non-MB and non-Salfi supporters to trust him. Hence, the vast majority of liberals and leftists have come to the conclusion that this is man who is almost impossible to do business with. Almost all Morsi’s non-Islamist advisors have abandoned him.

Morsi has given himself unlimited powers via his illegal constitutional decree. There was nothing in the constitution that he had sworn to respect that  gave him the power to issue constitutional decrees at will. In the early days of his presidential term, Morsi had annulled a similar decree that was issued by the supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF) on the grounds that it was not put up for referendum.  In the face of mounting public criticism, Morsi seems to be trying to deflect attention away from his failing by  pushing the country to the brink of a civil war. He does that by painting his opponents has enemies of religion and unleashing his shook troops to cow them into submission. The counter reaction is often quite ugly and many, in response to losing hope in attaining any measure of justice, are resorting to attacking  the headquarters of the Freedom and Justice party (FJP).

Morsi declaring to the MB and other Islamists: “In the name of the infallible, inerrant, and untouchable ruler. I call upon thee to prepare for a  holy ‘Jihad’ to protect my holiness”  (by Ahmed Nady)

I feel we are living under a reign of terror. MB militias can go about and beat-up and torture anyone with impunity. They can then claim to be victims, and try to muster sympathy for another vicious attack. They even stoop so low as to claim those who died during clashes with their militias as their own martyrs. Things were never that bad under Mubarak. The MB have no problem reneging on oaths or promises, they lie, they deceive,  they distort, they torture, and they murder. They even have the nerve to do all of this while falsely claiming that it justified by divine law. They flagrantly violate the Sharia that they claim to be protecting. They pose the greatest threat to genuine message of  Islam (at least from my perspective)  in modern times.

Morsi is asking us to be patient and trust him fully for two month while he retains his god like powers. We have a very bad history to giving rulers full trust and full authority and hoping they will relinquish it when it is no longer necessary. It started with the coup d’etat in 1952, when the generals promised they would restore democracy in a year or so, and they stayed in power for 60 years.  Mubarak has his emergency status that was supposed to last a few months, extended to 30 years. SCAF was suppose to hand over power to civilian control in 6 months and it lasted for over a year (it could have lasted much longer, if was not for the tax in blood that the revolutionaries had to pay).  Now we have Morsi! He has given us no reason to trust him and has no accomplishments that would vouch for him. But, he has his militias and his supporters to call up to crush those opposed to him. They fail to see how absurd they sound when they declare “We are going out to protest against the protesters who are protesting against our president.”

Why am I going out in protests and risking live and limb? Is it to thrust this or that politician forward? Is is pure hatred for  Islam (as the MB and their friends like to claim)? No. I am simply fighting for right to live in this land with a modicum of freedom. I do what I do because I do not want my children to be tortured or disfigure for expressing their views.  I do not want them to be arrested for the crime of thinking differently as Morsi and his friend would have it. I do not want people issuing fatwas that it is okay to kill them for opposing a particular politician (yes we have that now and they do so without any risk of prosecution). I do not want them to live as second class citizens in while the MB lays waste their history and cultural heritage.

It is absurd to cast the current struggle as one between pro and anti Morsi groups. It is one between those whos stand for fascism and those who fight for freedom.

The protester at the presidential palace (Itihadeya) on Dec 7, after the broke through the army’s barricades and occupied the road leading to the palace. 

We will fight this battle out to whatever conclusion. Our failure would be a disaster for Egypt and a terrible calamity for the rest of the world. 

12/6/12

Premonitions of a civil war

Any illusions that religious extremists can be rehabilitated by forming political parties, should now be dispelled. It is becoming quite clear to that this we have replaced a dictatorship by a murderous fascist organization. Terrorists will never give up their violent ways for ballot box. They will subvert the democratic process itself to insure domination. They will cheat, lie, bribe, and kill in their pursuit for unchecked powers. The rehabilitation experiment is now over, and what remains now is struggle (likely to be bloody) to remove the religious fascists from power and to find a way to heal the nation afterwards.

Prelude to the great clash:

  • Morsi’s ambitions plan for the first 100 days of his presidency was nothing but smoke and mirrors
  • Police brutality is the on the rise without the slightest hint of reform
  • No sign of reforming Egypt’s corrupt governmental institutions
  • A crack down on the media that leaves many wondering about freedom of speech 
  • Banning porn sites, which many see a an forerunner to online political censorship. 
  • Shirking from responsibility in response to the terrible crash that left 51 children dead.
  • The killing of a political activist Salah Gabr near Tahrir and three of more in later clashes
  • Morsi issues a shocking constitutional declaration last Thursday he gave himself god-like powers.  He can issue laws at will, through anyone in jail to “protect the revolution”, will being fully unaccountable to any authority. This was in clear violation of the laws and constitution he had sworn to protect and uphold when he was sworn in as president.
  • Burning of the freedom and justice party (FJP) offices in several governarates in response of the killings in Tahrir and the dictatorial decleartion
  • Massive protests against Morsi in Tahrir in Nov 27, and Nov 30. They demanded that the dictatorial constitutional declaration be annulled, and that the current constituent assembly be dissolved and new one formed the is more representative of Egyptian society. 
  • Morsi responds by orders the constituent assembly to finalized their work in couple of days and put a new constitution up for referendum  
  • Morsi gets his supporters to stage a large rally near Cairo University. Those who organized the rally declared that the rally is about “Legitimacy and Sharia”. Many of the rally participants who, were shipped in on buses from all over Egypt, viewed the political dispute as a battle between godless infidels and their God fearing president who want to reinstate divine law in the land.
  • On Tuesday Dec 4 the largest march since the early days of a the revolution moves toward the presidential palace. The march was intended to give Morsi, “one last warning”. It was supposed to pressure him into some sort of political compromise. The march was peaceful, and at the end of the day many protesters staged a sit-in in-front of the presidential palace in Heliopolis.
  • Morsi responds by sending armed militias on Dec 5, from all over the country to break the sit-in that and display the might of his group. The police and army do nothing as peaceful protests are beaten and tortured. More Morsi supporters and pro-democracy protesters arrive and wide scale fighting ensues.   Morsi’s supporters are armed with shotguns, tear gas, knives and swords. The battle becomes more intense, six are killed and over 350 injured. 

Morsi is simply saying to those who disagree with him: go to hell!!
In times when a constitution is at stake, a wise leader works to build consensus. He does not go around beating up his opponents. He does does not start a civil war. 


The revolutionaries are not some sheep that you can shoo off with stick. Morsi is treading very dangerous waters. The little hope for a political solution out of this impasse that might have persevered a little that is left of his dignity is now, beyond any doubt, over.

A popular perception is growing is the Obama administration is strongly backing Morsi. The US showered praise upon Morsi  as a respectable  international statesman for his effort in mediating a cease fire in Gaza. He was on the cover of time as “the most important man in the middle east“. His absurd obstinacy only became clear after lavish praise by Clinton and others were heaped upon him.   Many see the Morsi as the US’ man in Egypt, in the same way the Mubarak was. Many see that the United States has not given up the habit of cultivating dictators that are friendly to their interests in the middle east.

If we succumb now to fascists who cloak their murderous ways in religion, the implication for Egypt and the rest of the world will be dire indeed. In minds of all Egyptian liberals, Morsi has lost all legitimacy. He must step down, or be forced to step down. It appears that there is no peaceful ways to achieving that. The less bloody option would  involve the army stepping it. It the army steps in, we are back to SCAF rule. The liberal coalition leadership in the form of ElBaradie, Sabahy, and Amr Mousa seem to be running out of creative solutions to this crisis.

A civil war seems eminent. Lord have mercy!

10/17/12

The limits of tolerance

As I observed the ugly events of Friday, I had trouble swallowing the argument that all sides were plain wrong. To my mind it was the MB who was the instigator in all of this. Their thuggery, dishonesty, and their relentless desire to fully appropriate Tahrir is the primary cause of clashes.

Intolerance exists in every faction, but more so amongst those who claim to have a divine mission. They see those who disagree with them as apostates. Liberals, on the hand, have no problem with what others think or believe so long as they do not trespass on their own rights.

The recent conflagration was primarily about the MB trying to restrict the rights of others to object. It started there and ugliness on all sides ensued. I hoped that the battle for the constitution would be carried out through rational debate. I see now that there many religious conservatives would rather conduct this battle via a street fight.

The tectonic plates of modern Egyptian culture have collided at Tahrir. The stresses are building and left to its own devices, an Earthquake in bound to ensue. In their voracious pursuit of power and hegemony, the MB have effectively killed  the cross cultural/class dialog that characterized the early days of the revolution.

06/20/12

إين خط الدفاع عن الثورة المصرية؟

أشعر انه يتم استدراجنا الآن إلي معارك ليس لها علاقة بالثورة و أهدافها. الناتج من هذه المعارك هو تقسيم كعكة السلطة بين أطراف عندهم مصلحة في بقاء منظومة الاستبداد التي ثار لتحطيمها المصريون في يناير 2011. 
كان لهتاف “الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام” في الثورة دلالات عميقة تتعدي تنحي حسني مبارك عن رئاسة الجمهورية. منظومة الاستبداد كانت ترتكز علي أربع دعائم هي:
  • عدم الشفافية: لم يكن يعلم الشعب ما يحدث في دهاليز السلطة حيث تحدد مصائره.
  • الانعزالية: كان هناك إحساس عام بالضعف و قلة الحيلة و عدم القدرة علي علي توصيل الآلام و المعانة و الأحلام ل”أولي الأمر”.
  • الهيمنة المطلقة: كانت النظام يسعي لأن يكون المتحكم الذي ليس له منازع في مصائر الخلق. كان هناك إحباط لمحاولات المبادرة الفردية أو الجماعية. حتي المؤسسات الغير حكومية كانت تعاني من تدخل سافر من الدولة في عملها و حرية حركتها.
  • تزييف الوعي: كان النظام يقوم بحملات منظمة لنشر أكاذيبه و إعطاء الإنطباع  انه يعمل من الأجل الشعب و مصالحه في مواجهة قوى خفية تريد الشر لمصر. كان أحد محفزات الثورة أن النظام فقد القدرة علي تطوير أدائه في ظل التطور الرهيب الذي حدث في سبل الاتصالات في العقد السابق.
 هذه الدعائم أدت بدورها لانتشار المحسوبية و الفساد لدرجة جعلت الحياة اليومية للمواطن العادي لا تطاق.  لهذا هتفنا “عيش، حرية، عدالة اجتماعية” في الثورة و نحن نعترض علي الناتج الطبيعي لهذه المنظومة.
 الآن نري جماعة الإخوان في أوج صراع عنيف من أجل السلطة و ليس من الغريب أن نري كثير من الثوار منحاز إلي الجماعة في هذا الصراع المحموم. العسكر هم من قتل و سحل و عري و عذب و أعتقل من بعد التنحي. الإخوان و إن كانوا تخلوا عن رفقائهم في الثورة  لم تلطخ أيديهم بالدماء (علي الأقل بالشكل المباشر).  قد يبدوا لكثيرون أنهم أولي بالتأيد في هذه اللحظة. هذا علي أساس انه يمكننا أن بعد نساعدهم في سحب كل مقاليد السلطة من العسكر أن نكمل صراعنا معهم كمدنيين أمثالنا.
 أرى في ذلك سقطة فكرية و منهجية شديدة. في قراءتي لأحداث ما بعد التنحي أري أن الإخوان هم شديدي الحرص علي الحفاظ علي الدعائم الأربعة السالف ذكرها. آري في تنظيم الإخوان الداخلي تكريس لهذه الدعائم و لهذا لا أستطيع أن أراهم محطمون لها. و إن كنت أرى في بعض شبابهم بصيص لبادرة أمل و لكن قياداتهم لا أمل فيهم و لا رجاء.
صراع القوى القائم اليوم بين الإخوان و العسكر ليس له علاقة بما أراه انه الهدف الرئيسي المستتر لقيام الثورة و هو:

بناء نظام سياسي و اقتصادي  بتميز بالشفافية و الانفتاح و يتيح لأفراد المجتمع كامل الحرية في اتخاذ المبادرات الإصلاحية و العمل لحل مشاكل الوطن بشكل جمعي. 

هذا الهدف يستحيل تحقيه طالما لم تهدم دعائم الاستبداد.  لا أري جدوي من إهدار الثوار لمجهوداتهم في “حروب رمزية” ضد المجلس العسكري أو أن يهبوا لمساعدة الإخوان طالما إن هناك غياب للرؤية في كيفية تحطيم هذا الدعائم. الأفضل هو استغلال اللحظة لرسم مسار لتحطيم هذه الدعائم العفنة و استبدالها بدعائم أكثر نبلاً و فاعلية لتحقيق أمال المصريين في إطلاق طاقاتهم الإبداعية و الإصلاحية. 
الهتاف في التحرير ضد النتائج الطبيعية لمنظومة الاستبداد لن يغير من الواقع شيئ طالما لم تصحبه رؤية واضحة لخلق نظام أفضل. المعركة الآن يجب أن تكون من أجل خلق  دعائم لنظام جديد و نشر التوافق عليه.
06/19/12

Where is the Front Line of the Egyptian Revolution?

We are now being dragged in battles that are of marginal significance to the  aims to the Egyptian revolution. They only alter the distribution of power amongst parties that have a vested interest in maintaining the very same political structure and web of interests that Egyptians revolted against a year and a half ago.

One of he prominent rallying calls of the revolution was “the people want to bring the system down”. The major features of the system where:

  • Opacity: nobody had a clue of what goes on the in corridors of powers where  destinies were being shaped.
  • Insularism: the population felt helpless and that the voices are not heard and their needs are not answered. There was a general feeling that a things were getting worse, not much could be done about it.
  • Overbearingness: the state was the all powerful and would stifle any attempts of independent or group action. NGO work was often restricted and subject to intrusive governmental oversight. 
  • Duplicitousness: the state promoted lies and engaged in disinformation campaigns to justify its existence. It made life difficult for dissenters and free thinkers and tried to isolate (and when no one was looking eliminate) them to prevent any nascent challenge to their authority. 

Those feature gave rise to cronyism and wide spread corruption that made daily  life very bleak for the average Egyptian. Hence, the popular chant in the early days “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice”. Now the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is  engaged in a power struggle with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Both of them have shown very clearly, during the past year and a half, that they are eager to maintain the promulgate  those features.

The power struggle between MB and SCAF has little bearing on what I see as the a key implicit demand of Egyptian revolution:

To create an open and transparent econo-political system with maximum latitude for popular initiative and collective problem solving.

This can never come about while the above features remain intact. I do not see it worth the effort of the revolutionaries to engage in “symbolic wars” against SCAF or to come to the aide MB as long as those features remain intact. There should be instead a concerted intellectual effort to chart and path that would  eliminate those rotten features and supplanting them by novel and efficient ones.

Chanting in Tahrir against the symptoms (or emergent properties) of the said features will not bring about positive change. The battle now is for outlining a clear plan for system wide transition and forming popular consensus about it.

06/11/12

A Game Theoretic Perspective on the Current Voting Dilemma

I am here trying to expose the rational reasons of my choice. My decision is to invalidate my vote in the upcoming elections.
You have a rational player (lets call him S) who is now entrusted with setting a up game were different parties compete. S has a vested interest in the outcome of the game. S would have to be incredibly altruistic not to make the rules of the game favor the outcome he desires.

You have also have another player, (lets call him M) who has been getting small positive payoffs from S. M was foolish enough to think he could outmaneuver S at his own game. In fact, M was directly responsible for putting S in a position to put down the rules of the game and was immediately given small rewards, while another player (named R) objected strongly. 

In strategic interactions between S and R, S has shown himself to be completely non-altruistic and R suffered severe negative payoffs. In strategic interactions between M and R, M has shown himself to be also completely non-altruistic and R suffered negative payoffs, but not as severe as when it interacted with S. 

R is now asked to support either M or S in a game in which he was eliminated. The outcome of that game will determine who gets to interact strategically with R in the future. R’s support for either player is costly (i.e. it is an acknowledgment of the rules of  the game). R knows that S will not be fully eliminated under any outcome. R calculates that his expected payoff is unlikely to change under any outcome. R knows that although long ago his payoffs were strongly correlated with M, but that has ceased to be the case.
R decides not play this game.