There isn’t a talk show or an article which does not attempt to take a stab at the current mesmerising state of Egyptian affairs. The guests are different, the writing styles are diverse but the burning question remains unchanged: “What is the solution to all of this?” This question on its own carries within it a big part of the problem.
From the culture that brought you the Ring of Solomon and the Lamp of Aladdin, we live in a society which is constantly searching for easy answers and quick wins. We have grown accustomed to the idea of an easy fix that can make all troubles go away. This feeling is further cemented by a hint of fatalism which engulfs our way of life. As said by novelist Natalie Clifford Barney, fatalism is the lazy man’s way of accepting the inevitable.
We carry the same rationale in our approach to the political situation in Egypt. When faced with a stubborn situation we reach out for this Ring of Solomon. We are looking for salvation now. “Let the army intervene and sort this one out,” shouts a young man. “Let’s get a presidential council in place of this current president,” says another. I am reaching out for my magic lamp at this stage but can’t seem to find it.
After years of shunning the political life, many of us are grappling with the new reality of Egypt and trying to be part of it. To our disadvantage, we started out with an easy win: ousting President Hosny Mubarak. We thought we can build on this success and continue in our jolly ride protesting and demonstrating in hopes of shaping a better tomorrow. Until… oops! We hit a roadblock! We were confronted by the deep meaning of democracy, that he who controls the reins is not necessarily the leader, but is certainly the one who can control the masses in a systematic and organised manner. This electoral game baffled us and is continuing to do so; so we continue to disregard it in pursuit of victory elsewhere.
I hate to continue breaking the old news by saying: It will NOT happen. There is much risk in attempting to pull the country forward solely based on anger and dissent. You want to take your chances that this time is different and that the tides have turned? There is even greater detriment when flip-flopping between alternatives. The summer of 2011 was the summer marked with the slogan: “Down with SCAF”. Now, the summer of 2013, bares the markings of: “Let the army rule for a little while”. At this stage, I am not reaching out for the lamp but reaching out for certain people to ask them directly: “Have you gone mad”?
The true problem is that, conservative thinking, which favours good old-fashioned democracy by virtue of results at the polls, is not sexy enough. It does not provide the fix now. It does not provide salvation now. I agree that it does not. It can, however, project us beyond this very instant to a more sustainable future. You want to pull a “Tamarod” movement to shake the status quo, more power to you, because this is needed as a pressure movement. Yet you cannot expect to rule the country through a pressure movement. One must have a mandate and unfortunately one must win one. Winning one requires participation in this unsexy world of politics which entails going door to door, canvassing, campaigning and actually showing up to the polls on Election Day. The fact that a ruler is toppled is seriously a non-event no matter how glorious this goal might seem to be. The question of what’s next is even more pressing because it requires a serious structural adjustment and change in attitude on how we approach political change and transition.
If we are gung-ho on changing things through the same attitude, we risk ending up in the same place again and again. Chapters from the books of Algeria and several other crisis-torn African countries are open for the eyes to read and digest the lessons to be had. In the heat of the moment, however, the voice of reason is silenced, and the unsexy conservative voice is lost in the clamour as everyone reaches out for their magic lamp!