Of patriotism and pyramid schemes

7 Min Read

By Rania Al Malky

CAIRO: Absurdity has taken on new meaning in the Egyptian socio-political context.

If one year after Egypt’s downtrodden and destitute people toppled Mubarak with thunderous, unrelenting calls for bread, freedom and social justice, those very Egyptians are being coerced into donating part of their paltry salaries to support a government they did not choose, then it’s safe to say that the ‘revolution’ has failed.

Love for one’s country is one thing but bailing out a decrepit failed economy that has been systematically mismanaged for 30 decades, and especially so in a year of crisis, by appealing to the nationalist sentiments of people who can barely feed their families, borders on the criminal.

The ramifications of the NGO crisis, which was contrived by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and led to an equally contrived US reaction of false threats to cut off $1.3 billion in military aid unless charges are dropped against 19 US NGO workers, have been stupendous.

Not only has this opened the doors wide to political outbidding by the whole gamut of public actors, from fear-mongering members of parliament to finger-wielding televangelists, it has also fed right into the foreign conspiracy theories propagated to this very day by Tora prison inmates who’ve believed their own lies, still claiming that infiltrators were behind the killing of protesters in January and that they were protecting the nation from a colonialist deluge.

The exaggerated legal action taken against five foreign NGOs is part of the systematic plot to tarnish the uprising, a plot that started even before Mubarak was forced to step down.

But the recent calls to replace US military aid with “Egyptian Aid” has exposed the utter failure of the current political leadership to get us out of the economic gutter and to navigate Egypt’s place in the new geopolitical order.

It further exposed SCAF’s willingness to sacrifice the people’s aspirations at the alter of its own narrow self-interest. Worse still, it has proven the power of the directed rabble-rousing media (both state-owned mouthpieces and private channels) to convince a segment of society, generally considered the intelligentsia, to back an initiative that is as legally questionable as it is morally unconscionable.

When Salafi preacher Mohamed Hassan first brought up the idea of Egyptian aid, ridiculous as it is, one never imagined that all state institutions would jump at the opportunity to practically rob the Egyptian people, some of whom miraculously believe that by doing so they are saving Egypt from a diabolical foreign scheme to compromise our national sovereignty. Such is the power of the media.

Not only have Egyptians watched with disbelief as millions were spent since last August on a show trial for Mubarak and his cronies, some have now become convinced that they must ‘voluntarily’ donate one day’s wage each month until June to support an executive authority that has let them down and committed more human rights abuses in one year than the tyrant himself had committed in 30.

There have been mixed reports on whether the ‘donations’ by government employees will be voluntary. A leaked circular from the Tax Authority, incidentally headed by the wife of SCAF’s number two General Sami Anan, implied that those who refuse to abide by the ‘voluntary donation’ will end up with their name on some blacklist. Although the said Tax Authority chief Munira Al-Qady had denied in an Al-Ahram interview that the signature on the letter was hers, and that in fact, she had identified the employee who both drafted the letter and forged her signature, she initiated no disciplinary or legal action against him, sufficing with moving him to a different department. She then drafted a second letter emphasizing that donations will only be deducted from salaries following the consent of employees.

The story just doesn’t gel.

Similar complaints by government employees in various fields have also been reported, with one school teacher from Mansoura telling Daily News Egypt that she was told that the salary cut will be made anyway and that those who did not wish to donate will have to present a written request for reimbursement. Another from Kafr El-Sheikh province said that not only will she be forced to make the donation, she will also not be compensated for supervising the Shoura Council elections for which she was promised LE 500.

To add insult to injury, and in violation of the law, there have been no announcements on where that money will be spent and who will be overseeing that spending, only some vague reference to the fact that it will not go into the state treasury, as if to assure the public that it will not be misappropriated.

Here’s a thought: A good friend came up with this idea and I think it’s brilliant. Why can’t the “Egyptian aid” initiative be a little more selective? Doesn’t it make economic sense to raise the money from those who make more of it than others? The highest paid state employees who are supporting this drive should in fact be the ones required to make the “voluntary donations”, along with the likes of Sheikh Mohamed Hassan, who I’m certain will only be too happy to give up one of his luxury cars for love of his country.

Patriotism comes in many shapes and forms and those who like to make us think that they have more of it than the rest of us, should put their money where their mouth is.

Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.

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