Who would have possibly imagined at the beginning of President Mubarak’s reign that after more that 25 years we would reach the stage we are in now. The beginning was promising in a way that is completely different from the picture of Egypt we have today.
Ten people were killed in the struggle for bread in less than two months. Even those who believe that Mubarak will go down in history as the president who did not provide bread for the poor, despite the available resources, will pity him.
Since the president is aware of that, he has intervened in a way that has never before been recorded . He was not ashamed to resort to the security and military establishments to solve the bread crisis and paid no attention to criticism by the opposition describing his move as the “militarization of bread .
If the inability to provide bread for the poor indicates the crippled performance of any regime, it is a seal of shame for such a regime, which can be described as “a patriarchal state .
Since 1956, the Egyptian state has been a patriarchal one based on a social contract whereby the state is committed to providing care and support to its citizens from the cradle to the grave in return for their commitment to their duties as “sons and daughters of their “ruling father .
Uppermost among these duties is the need to remain loyal and subordinate to that patriarchal regime and never attempt to break free or become independent. They also learn to practice their rights within the limits set by that regime, even while administrating their social affairs.
This social contract means that citizens must leave major issues in the capable hands of the regime. They should trust the regime and believe that it is doing what is best for its citizen.
The ruling regime in Egypt has insisted on going on with this social contract, introducing only minimal amendments to it. However, it does so in an era in which similar regimes have collapsed because of the impossibility of applying this model. No state whatsoever – no matter how huge its resources are – can provide everything its people need without their free participation in developing these resources and creating new ones through social and economic activity independent of the state.
Although the state has gradually withdrawn from its commitment to feed and support the people since the 1970s, it did not accept a reciprocal withdrawal by citizens from their compliance with the regime, except in rare occasions.
The state allowed plurality of political parties, but under heavy restrictions that confined them inside their headquarters. Therefore, the leaders and members of these parties have mainly devoted themselves to their internal conflicts.
The small elite surrounding President Mubarak played a major role in preventing the liberation of the political system from the constraints of this social contract because their own interests are bound to that contract.
As a result the state became burdened with the commitments of the social contract, unable to provide new resources. The dependence of society makes it incapable of contributing to the solving of its problems, including the bread crisis in any of its various dimensions.
If this was a mature society that had the opportunity to become independent through political parties and social organizations with a considerable level of freedom, it would have been able to topple the corruption and put an end to the manipulations of those exploiting subsidized flour.
President Mubarak underestimated the social unrest that started to emerge and spread before the latest constitutional amendments and continued to spread throughout the time it took to pass the amendments in March 2007.
Those who benefit from keeping the regime without any tangible reform have managed to sustain the status-quo in order to propagate and prolong the political stagnation, but under an erupting socio-economic environment that is heading towards explosion.
The final result was the inflammation of the crisis to an unimaginable extent. There are fights every day in some areas just to get a loaf of bread. The strikes are even shifting from the working class to the middle class. On the very same day a tenth victim was killed in front of a bakery in Al-Qalubeya (March 21), Minya witnessed two protests against the shortage of subsidized bread. The protestors stopped the traffic on the main road.
Meanwhile, university professors were preparing for another alarming strike to confront the regime, while the doctors postponed theirs pending a meeting with the Prime Minister.
It is a truly tragic scene close to the end of the reign of President Mubarak (may God give him health and long life!). It is horrible to see the impact of the actions of those who have been close to the presidency for long decades, enjoying the power, influence and wealth while blocking every route to reform as they were never keen to preserve even a good image of the era that gave them everything.
Dr Waheed Abdel Meguidis an expert at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.