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.


Background to Inhumanity

In the midst of the brutality that the MB are experiencing, I can not be help but wish that they were facing a more lawful treatment. 

To keep matters in perspective, I also remind myself of the following facts:
1. Their recent murder of political opponents in bin al sarayat, and Alexandria.
2. Their torture tents in Rabyee and al-nahda
3. Their waging of a guerilla warfare against the Egyptian army in Sinai
4. Their hate speech in their rallies, where they label their opponents as infidels worthy of brutal death
5. Their supplications to “God” that there fellow Egyptians of a different political persuasion face horrific devine punishment
6. Their local speech the stokes sectarianism, and their international propaganda where they color themselves as defenders of democratic values
7. Their incessant exploitation of religious sentiments to drive divisions in Egyptian society, and more recently the army.
8. Their gleefulness and inhumanity to the atrocities that anti-SCAF protesters were facing during the transition period.
9. Their tireless attempts at bringing about laws that would criminalize protests while they were in power
10. Their complete reluctance to reform the Police, as long as it did a good job of stifling their political opponents
11. Their appointment of their own very private “general prosecutor” for the purposes of applying selective “justice”
12. Their incredibly long list of lies, broken promises, and doublespeak
13. Their attack on peaceful protestors last November and the flexing of muscles by their militias…with full impunity.

The above is not written to justify any inhumanity towards the MB or Islamists in general, but to understand the root causes of such inhumanity. Such understanding is crucial if we are to move forward with creating a society that is free from animosity and vitriolic hatred.

I hope that one day I will live in a country where the rule of a law is applied with full impartiality, and where laws are put in place to protect the rights and freedoms of the citizenry, not some select elite. Be it military, religious, or otherwise.


A coup they say!

In February 2011 the supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF) removed Mubarak. He was then still technically a democratically elected president. The army was responding to the will of the majority of the people. Back then (as now), Mubarak still had a significant number of supporters.

In July 2013 the army, removed a democratically elected autocrat who did a pretty lousy job of running the country and also sought to  impose his ideology on the Egyptian people. Now, as then, the army was responding to the will of the vast majority of Egyptians.

It is to be noted that this time the scale of demonstrations was several times larger than any experienced during January 25-February 11 2011.

We are grateful and proud of our army for the role that he played in both instances. We are well aware the sins of SCAF in the transitional period. We are happy that they seem to have learned from their past mistakes and are opting to stay away for power and have immediately handed power to the the head of supreme court as our constitution indicates in instances of impeachment. We are hopeful that they will continue to show wisdom and maturity in the coming days.

Cartoon by Ahmad Nady showing puny and vocal Morsi supporters attempt at terrorizing Egyptians

To be clear, this is a popular impeachment of democratically elected president. The army here is the  executor of the will of the Egyptian people. To call this a coup, is to gravely insult  the millions who went out to the streets calling for Morsi to step down, braving countless terrorist threats by Islamists and putting their lives at risk  to make their country a beacon on light and civilization in the region and not a breading ground for intolerance and terrorism. 


It is time to Rebel, it is time for Tamarod

I have been noticing some anxiety with regards to June 30th. How will it unfold and what will happen next.

I think many people want to see a clearer long term vision and they are right in seeking that. However, they often seem to demand too much in terms of what can be planed and accounted for. This is a long drawn war and the first battle will start by the end of the month.

The Tamarod movement is simply calling for early presidential elections. They declare that the current government has brought nothing by disaster to our lands and that we simply can not afford to continue like this for three more years.

The laundry list of grievances is very long, it includes lies, deception, breaking down the state, naked power grabs, a medieval constitution, fomenting sectarian strife, collapsing economy, horrific human rights violations, a corrupt prosecutor general, activist detentions.. and finally a a disgustingly parochial and buffoonish president that likes of which Egypt has not seen in modern history.

If you are worried about what sort of of political arrangement will emerge out of early presidential elections, or what happens if the army steps in, or a civil war erupts … there is no good answer. It is a bit hard to see that far ahead or to account for all the political dynamics that may emerge. Tamarod is a grass-roots none ideological block that is only very loosely affiliated with the politically impotent National Salvation Front. Their immediate goal is to remove the Islamists strangle hold on power. They have to maintain their laser like focus on that.

If you have good ideas, bring them forward and try to articulate them the best you can. But I beg you, do not just sit still and watch country sink into oblivion for lack of a long term vision that no one can honestly formulate. If your are a Doctor and you have patient who is going into cardiac arrest, you apply the defibrillators, then you worry about treatment.

What Tamarod are doing is bold intervention to save this country. If they succeed there might be a little hope left… if they fail, then it is curtains for Egypt…IMHO.


The bane of Morsi

Morsi! thou art abominable !

How many youths will have to die?
…to save your face and preserve a lie!

How much tears must be shed?
How much blood must be bled?

How many holy words used in vain?
To sow confusion can cause much pain?

Renaissance is nonsense!
Conscience is pretentiousness!

How many noble words by avarice consumed?
Can they one day be dug out and exhumed? 

And the word of God you used to claim…
the passions of many who now worship your name

Morsi! thou art hideous !


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!


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.


Changing the rules of the game

Morsi turned out to be a mastermind at scheming and hatching plots and making bold moves. In one swoop he:

  1. Neutered the dreaded SCAF
  2. Cut sweet deals with high members of the judiciary and the military 
  3. Singlehandedly canceled  amendments to the constitutional declaration and even rewrote bits of the constitutional declaration to give him more power

The events that transpired yesterday is still leaving many with their heads spinning. None expected the mighty SCAF could be so easily displace. Very few are questioning if his moves are legal or constitutional. Among the ranks of the revolutionaries, many are just happy to see SCAF gone, and that an elected president is asserting his powers. With regards to ridding rough-shoot over legal constraints, the logic is  “SCAF has already  done that before, many times, so why not a elected president”.

Yesterday, Morsi managed transform himself from a fumbling president to a national (or even supranational) leader. His powers seem to expanding without limit. During last night’s speech his tone, demeanor and words seemed to be of someone who is trying to attain full spiritual and corporeal powers in the manner of the “rightly guided caliphs” in the early days of Islam. He made sweeping allusions to the wider Muslim Ummah and the important role the Egypt must play in it. Morsi alluded to the divine mandate under which he sees himself operating. His said:

Islam has everything we need as we progress to stability, security, safety, renaissance, and development…. we move towards and better tomorrow. Do not worry, for it is God who protects this Ummah, not by my work, but through his will.

Morsi clearly sees himself as the executer of  divine will and the man most capable of gleaning solutions to the nation’s troubles via his elevated reading of Islam. Some went as far as seeing his speech as a veiled declaration of the “Islamic Republic of Egypt”. The new Caliph is in town, he gets make new rules and execute them at will. 

Many do not yet see it, but this is bad news for the revolution and the revolutionaries. Combining executive and legislation powers and having substantial influence over the judiciary is quite worrying. Morsi has more power than Mubarak ever did. History teaches us that power,once obtained, is rarely ceded without a fight.


Deflecting Criticism

If somebody raises an important and valid point with regards to a given political situation or fumbling leadership, the standard responses by many of the fans of the status quo to detract from the serious issues at hand is:

1. Where were you when X happened
2. In the past you did X or Y and hence have been labeled Z. How dare you bring that up now
3. Political group A or B used to do something similar while you looked on, how come you are now complaining
4. Your criticism stems from the fact that you HATE us, so it can not be taken seriously
5. Mr. A or Mrs. B who are universally acknowledged as scumbags are voicing a similar sounding criticism, hence your perspective on the matter has to be wrong.

All to these patterned responses would either put on the defensive or steer the discussion away from the issue that you are raising. Hence, shouting matches ensue, angry words are exchanged, frustration peaks and …. the issue remains unresolved.

If you are lucky enough to manage to neutralize all of  above points while maintaining a modicum of civility, the final line of defense is:

6. In this or that country they are also having a similar messy situation, why do you expect that we should be any better?

At this point my advice would be to just walk away from the discussion. Continuing at the point is likely to cause an artery to burst.


The fumbling president

The tide of mass frustration is welling up in Egypt once more. Most people did not have high hopes for president Morsi. Those who knew the complexities of the highly entangled governmental bureaucracy were highly skeptical of the electoral  promises for the first 100 days of his presidency.  However, it is quite surprising to many that he is fumbling so badly.

Lets go through litany of frustrations:

  1. Morsi formed a ministerial cabinet that is widely perceived to reflect his ideological leaning with little attention payed to competence or experiance
  2. Daily blackouts in major cities with little understanding of the root cause or the why the government did such a poor job at capacity planning. It also does not help that Morsi promised increase the flow of electricity to his friends in Gaza.
  3. Morsi is dragging his feet in releasing political prisoners that have been detained by SCAF and tried in sham military courts, yet he promptly pardon jihadists  who have been implicated in terror cases well before the revolution. 
  4. Morsi did little to quell the sectarian strife that  has flared up in Dahshur. It is believed by many that inaction in this matter will give rise to widespread attacks against Copts.
  5. The recent attack on Egyptian soldiers on the Gaza border. Morsi was slow to react and his administration did little to clarify what has really transpired to the population. 

Morsi will continue to be the lightening for anger and criticism if he continues to fails  at communicating with the country’s citizens. He seems to follow Mubark’s style of perpetual vagueness and opacity. As a member of an underground organization for most of his life, Morsi it grossly inept at being transparent or making the government in general more transparent.  His leadership abilities are now being questioned by many.

 Morsi’s Islamist supporters  try hard to spin his actions into something more palatable, yet the president seems determined to shoot himself in foot and presenting himself as a gruff rookie. Their frantic defense is eroding the little of what is of their credibility.

If Morsi were continue along the current trajectory, it is highly unlikely that he will survive his four year term.