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How we create Gods

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Ziad Akl

Ziad Akl

Three weeks have passed since the Egyptian army’s commander-in-chief Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi made his very impressive and deservingly historic speech announcing the ouster of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency. Those three weeks saw many developments: politically, economically and even socially. Among these developments is an unmistakable and blatantly obvious increase in the army’s popularity. It is understandable that the army became more popular after it fulfilled the demands of millions and in fact saved what remained of the state before further approaching collapse. But what’s quite alarming in this scene is the amount of army propaganda in the media and quite often among individuals.

I do not know if the army is deliberately a part of this propaganda process or if the media is doing it on its own. It also could be a pre-meditated strategy to be used as a political tool to ward-off accusations of illegitimacy. In other words, the propaganda might be temporary, until the politically sensitive situation between the army and the supporters of Morsi becomes less contentious. Whether temporary or not, voluntary or deliberately, this army propaganda will indeed have consequences.

The army propaganda I am referring to includes all the songs and the video clips that praise the patriotism of the army, all the talk shows that try to prove that the army does not make mistakes, and all the newspapers that are starting to become one-sided and evidently biased information outlets. The real problem we are facing right now is an extreme lack of objectivity and a state of justified hatred towards the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies.

I am not trying to stir up the military-civilian rule debate; Egypt does not have civil institutions that are capable of being the core of a state in the first place. I am actually referring to a process that Egyptians have historically inherited and a technique that some state branches as well as individuals in Egypt efficiently practice; making Gods out of national leaders.

Although a very short time has passed, there are already alarming signs of what this army propaganda might do. The wave of defending the army and refusing to hold it accountable after the clashes with the Brotherhood at the Republican Guard headquarters was a sign of how objectivity is thinning in this matter. I am not trying to say who was right or wrong since both sides, the Brotherhood and the army, have a terrible record of justifying their actions and twisting facts. My point is seeing how some of us are accepting from the army now what we wouldn’t have accepted before.

On another note, late army general Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s last and only vice president and a cornerstone of the Mubarak regime’s security matrix is suddenly celebrated as a national hero whose glorious patriotic life is shown in army-produced documentaries. Again, I am not about to judge Suleiman politically here, but I am simply stating the obvious facts of how integral the man was for Mubarak’s regime with its entire corrupt legacy. What I want to say is how something that would not have been accepted back in 2011 is suddenly accepted now. The army propaganda is somehow changing the dividing lines between what’s right and what’s wrong.

If this propaganda continues together with the absence of objectivity, then we are pretty much on the way of making new demi-gods. Soon it would be easy for the army not to be held accountable for what it does. In fact, it could even be as bad as leaving the army to decide what the revolution is, who its enemies are and what exactly are the actions that jeopardise its goals. We can easily put ourselves in a place where our own truth becomes that of the army’s.

The whole point of this article is to watch out for what we are creating out of our infatuation with the army. Nations do not pay their armies back for taking patriotic stands. The Egyptian army indeed took a brilliantly patriotic decision three weeks ago, but from now on, the army must be judged on the basis of what it does, not on the basis of what it has done. What the army did indeed gives it legitimacy, but it does not exempt it from accountability.

We need to ask ourselves why is it that suddenly some of us are prepared to accept what we did not accept before. Where exactly did we lose our objectivity? And more importantly, why is it that so far some of us are simply refusing to see a connection between this army leadership and the former rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces?

About the author

Ziad A. Akl

Ziad A. Akl

Ziad A. Akl is a political analyst and sociologist. He is a senior researcher at the Egyptian Studies Unit in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

  • AzzaSedky

    Yes, I agree that suddenly the army has become the hero. Egyptians are singing its praise. A bit of an overkill I must admit.

    However, this is where Egypt should be. The army and the poiice are part of Egypt. After Jan25, Egypt was a broken country; its army the enemy, its police force the same. We are finally where we should be: one people.

    See “Finally, Egypt is in good hands,” http://azzasedky.typepad.com/egypt/2012/01/three-kinds-of-thugs-emerging-in-cairo-the-hook.html

  • Shankar Lal Hussain

    Democracy is best for peoples not army…egyptians will repent one day…army will not fight israel…..it will kill its own peoples and will be weak like Syria…..time will prove it.

    • Sally Wilton

      I just wonder why you want Egypt to fight Israel in the first place? Egypt has already made a fool of itself fighting Israel, why do you want more of this nonsense?

      • Mohsen Shobak

        Because Israel is an occupational entity committed massacres against Palestinians during the mid of the 20th century to occupy their land. Later, putting Palestinian under siege, does not allow them have their independent state, forcing then to immigrate by force and hard living conditions. Furthermore, it is waiting for the opportunity to re invade Egypt through Sinai and it is a threat to our national security in the region!

  • Ibrahim Ben Nemsi

    The liberals thought they could use the army to add some force to their revolution.

    Now it turns out that the army was using the liberals to add some popular legitimacy to their coup.

    Hopefully one day, liberals and islamists will realise that the state apparatus (army, police, state media etc.) is their real enemy, and whoever tries to make deals with it will lose in the end.

    Only then will it be possible to achieve real change – the kind of change that was the dream of the January 2011 revolution.

  • sam enslow

    The educational system in Egypt teaches the “great men” theory of history. Great men change events – not people or other forces. This leads to cults of personality like Stalin’s, Nassers, and many others. When Egyptians yearn for the past, they do not recall a time. They recall a person, “Oh, to go back to the times of King Farouk,” for example. Of course, when things go bad, all blame goes to one individual also. Mubarak was not the only corrupt, inefficient Egyptian during his rule to be found in Egypt.
    Autocrats NEVER make mistakes. Egyptians often complain about any phrase in the US press that says less than, “The great people of Egypt..” I wish they would read how the US press treats President Obama and the problems in America. They would believe the US will collapse tomorrow. Only by identifying problems can there be any hope of solving them. There are no ‘sacred cows” in US politics. The Military/Industrial Complex, Corporate America, The Courts, -everyone is subject to questioning and have an obligation to defend themselves to the people – and they still get away with too much.
    There is much talk of educational reform in Egypt. If Egyptians are to be free, the educational system must provide a Liberal Arts education. The term “Liberal Arts” is Roman. It means the education needed to live as a free man/woman. The people need to learn how to think, not what to think.

    • sam enslow

      One more point about the perfection of the autocrat. I recall when if people wanted to say something was true, they would say, “You can tell that to Mubarak.” Hard to believe, isn’t it?
      But if the autocrat cannot make a mistake and there are still problems, then it must be someone on the outside that is causing problems. In Egypt, it is the Americans, the American-Zionist Conspiracy or someones conspiracy against Egypt. This is only a surface veneer. But it takes time to get Egyptians to admit they are indeed responsible for what happens in Egypt. I remember seeing the film of “The Yacoubian Building.” I was suprised it was made in Egypt. When I asked Egyptians if it represented a reality in Egypt, the answer was, “Yes, But it is not “nice” to talk about such things.” I asked my question because as I watched the film, I noticed that audience was not shocked at all by its content. Bassim Youssef brings humor to the condition of Egypt, people laugh, but are not quite sure they should. Egyptians know what his happening in Egypt. They just need to say it out loud in public without shame.

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