Sunday, June 24, 2012

Egypt and the Disease of Power. . . .

Events in Egypt over the past 18 months have been sadly comical. First we have the initial rebellion. For over forty years the people of Egypt endured ruthless tyranny (which Western countries, including Canada, supported and called democracy), and it was not until the price of food spiked amid feelings of general unrest that the people took to the streets. It is a sad commentary on politics that people will endure the most outrageous abuses of human rights for over a generation, that others would actively support that suppression, and it is only when the daily routine of the majority is affected by something like food prices that they say that they have had enough. Are we in for the same fate (and given our support of tyrannical regimes, do we deserve that fate)? Are we going to let Harper - our own Mubarak - dismantle our system of rights and democracy with litte concern as long as we have ample amounts of bread and circus? Given people's sad reaction to the protests in Quebec I suspect we are in some fairly deep trouble. Apparently not nearly enough Canadians really care about rights and democracy (the right  - and obligation - of dissent being one of the most important ones).

After the initial rebellion in Egypt I was very skeptical and my partner, whose family is Egyptian, was - I think - irritated by my apparent jaded misanthropy. My reaction was that the power system in Egypt was far too complex and comfortable to let people actually have democracy just like that. Power has a life of its own and it tends to be self-replicating, which is what makes it so dangerous. Once power entrenches itself, it is very difficult to unseat (a lesson Canadians should be taking to heart in a big way). Thus you will often see power, like a virus, change bodies but remain just as virolent and deadly. So I figured that the power held by Mubarak and his cronies wouldn't dissipate, it would simply change hands. Sadly, time has proven my conjecture to be correct. What you have seen in the past two weeks in Egypt is a quite coup in which the Army has made it perfectly clear that they are in charge. Pure and simple. Power has ceded nothing and will continue to cede nothing.

The most unfortunate part of the story of power is that when it becomes deeply entrenched it often takes a violent, bloody effort to unseat it. And this violent, bloody effort creates a new virus of power that is just as dangerous as the first.

Canadians be warned. Stephen Mubarak Harper is a dangerous virus of power and the disease that he is creating at the heart of our government can destroy our rights and our democracy. And even if he lets us have another election it will only be if he believes that whoever takes his place will carry that disease forward and will not return to the Canadian tradition of democracy. (Disclaimer: for the Indigenous people of Canada the disease of power has plagued them continually for our entire history and they have enjoyed little of the traditions of freedom I speak of.)


thwap said...

Great post. Although, to their credit, the Egyptians had no long experience of democratic rights and freedoms. For much of the 20th Century they were under the cruel authority of the British, and then under some military strongmen, and then under the multi-decade "state of emergency." We Canadians just regard our whole parliamentary system with bemused or irritated contempt.

In Egypt's case, fighting back would mean torture or death or at least starvation for one's family. People can live without some rights so long as they're left alone or intact. Actual starvation and homelessness (or the threat of it) in the face of profiteering means you have very little left to lose and the pent-up anger explodes.

In Canadians' case, there are enough shiny objects (alas, much if it paid for via increased debt) to distract us. Plus, our version of "fighting back" involves marching around for an afternoon or a week or something. Which is of little practical benefit. So some people wonder what the point would be and they acquiesce.

kirbycairo said...

Dear Thwap - thank you for the comment. I certainly didn't mean to undervalue or denigrate the long struggles of the Egyptian people. Indeed, they have fought long and hard against oppression of all kinds. I guess what I find strange is that, as usual, it was the indispensable dire-hard freedom lovers that really fought and paid the price while so much of the people were simply satisfied with the status quo as long as they were getting through life ok. This is the way it always seems to be. Yet what we really need for change to take place is for the "average" everyday folks to stand up and say enough is enough.

In Canada it is ridiculous. Women fought for the vote, human rights activists fought for so many of our rights that we enjoy today, but as soon as some people go out and protest and continue the struggle, so many people just call them names and denigrate the entire struggle from which they, themselves, have benefited so much through history.

Anyway - point taken. I don't want to lesson the great struggle of those who were in Mubarak's torture houses, carried on with Western support.