Our “nasty” revolution
BY KHALIL AL-ANANI
No matter who will be Egypt’s next president, the fact is that the military will wield power for years to come. So instead of wasting our energy in following a bogus transition, let’s celebrate our “nasty” and humiliating revolutionary spirit.
Many of the so-called liberals and secularists have betrayed their liberal ethics and values by backing the military’s recent coup with the addendum to the constitutional decree. While they are fully aware of the consequences of such a coup, they chose to stand with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Their panic from the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) superseded the aspiration to build a new democratic regime in Egypt.
It gets even more awkward when some liberals and secularists claim that ex air force commander Ahmed Shafik (with SCAF behind him) will be the guardian of a ‘civilian’ state. While many Egyptians view Shafik as a wild version of Mubarak who seeks to abort the revolution and reproduce the old autocratic structures, the notoriously elitist liberals perceive him as the hammer that could suppress Islamists’ increasing power, hence palpably supported his candidacy against the MB’s Mohamed Morsi.
To add insult to injury, they defended the recently amended constitutional declaration which entrenches the military’s domination over politics. Instead of standing in the middle ground between SCAF and Islamists and manoeuvring both for the sake of true liberalism, they chose to stand on the wrong side of history.
The political calculations of liberals and secularists will shortly be proven completely wrong. Neither in Sudan (1988), Algeria (1990) nor Pakistan (1999) did the military take power and built genuine democracy. They all sacrificed democracy to maintain power. True, Islamists might not be much better than generals when it comes to democracy, but their persistent inclination to bargain and make deals with other political forces is undeniable, while generals don’t compromise; they just simply pass orders and others must obey.
Another face of our “vulgar” revolution is the embedded tendency of self-humiliation. Over the past few months, it has become clear that the Egyptian revolution has lost its ethical compass in the political conflict. The presidential race between Morsi and Shafik exposed many of the social and political inequities in Egypt. Apart from the blatant political propaganda on both sides, the shameless mockery of Morsi’s veiled wife was particularly deplorable. It reflected how social groups in Egypt view and perceive themselves and the other.
Social discrimination on satellite channels and social media networks reflect the need for an “ethics” revolution before talking about democracy. The unethical warfare sponsored by private media has reached significantly new lows. Tawfik Okasha, the presenter-owner of Faraean channel, has become a media celebrity for no more than demonstrating his obscene skills. Shamelessly and relentlessly, he, along with some better-known media tycoons, advocated not only the return of the old regime, but ironically the entrenchment of the military into the heart of Egyptian politics.
From a Marxist perspective, the presidential race was not merely political, it was also a reflection of class and social conflict. While there are no official records of the election results, preliminary indications show that Morsi won the vast majority of Upper Egypt’s votes and Shafik won most the Delta’s large constituencies. At its core, the race was between the upper and middle classes, the rich and the poor and those who accumulated huge fortunes under Mubarak reign and those who paid the price of that. True, some of the poor voted for Shafik and vice versa, but those were the exceptions that prove the rule. Upper Egypt houses the most impoverished areas in Egypt while the Delta is relatively urbanized.
The social differences between Shafik and Morsi are significant. While the former was born in urban Cairo in the early 1940s and joined the Egyptian Air Force (EAF), the latter was born in an extremely poor village in the Delta province of Shariqa. The core social construct of Shafiq’s campaign belongs to the high and upper-middle classes (in terms of fortune not values), while the majority of Morsi’s supporters come from middle and lower classes. While the former was defending the economic benefits of the remnants of Mubarak’s regime, the latter was fighting to alter the social status of indigent Egyptians. At least that is how they were perceived by many voters. Not surprisingly, business tycoons financed Shafik’s campaign to maintain their economic and social leverage.
While many Egyptians sought to eradicate Mubarak’s regime, it seems that his “rotten” legacy is still alive, dominating our minds and ethics.
Khalil Al-Anani is a scholar at the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University in the UK and a former visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute. He is the author of The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: Gerontocracy Fighting against Time, Shorouk Press, 2009.