By Wael Eskandar
Very little has changed with regards to Egypt’s trajectory of descent into a social and political abyss ever since its security forces dispersed the Islamist sit-ins using great force and even much greater impunity. The slope of decline into a more oppressive police state has indeed been very slippery and while there’s room for more damage, what has already transpired will take years and years to fix.
This bleak picture is what any distanced observer may have painted after having followed some of the major events that unfolded over the past one and a half years since the military takeover in July 2013. Yet equally important to point out, is that many Egyptian nationals overcome with emotions, fail to see the picture for what it is.
Continued oppressive measures will not bring about real social stability. Yet many wait in hope of some sort of miracle that fixes economic grievances, reforms the police force, and roots out corruption.
Unfortunately those in charge of running the country may be suffering from what is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, where those who are incompetent are incapable of recognising they are incompetent. What’s more, they don’t recognise competence in others.
Objectively speaking, Egypt is no closer to the promised democracy sought since 2011. The police are unable to efficiently stop crime or even disperse a sit in without killing hundreds of unarmed protesters. The military has promised a laughable cure to AIDS and failed in containing violence in Sinai. Terrorism and acts targeting security personnel are at an all-time high. Even cover-ups aimed to manipulate the judiciary with the help of the Ministry of Interior were not properly safeguarded when conversations of leading SCAF army general were exposed.
Yet, despite all that, many Egyptians are unmoved by such failures and incompetence. One explanation is that they themselves do not recognise their own incompetence or the competence in others, but another is that they are suspending their disbelief.
The idea of being deeply immersed inside what you know is fiction, aware of the reality that contradicts the presented narrative but ignoring such conflicts is known as the suspension of disbelief. This happens when reading a novel knowing full well that it is fiction or that there are things that don’t add up. You keep yourself in a state close to that of hypnosis, ignoring the faults and flaws of the plot and the contradictions with reality in order to complete the novel at hand.
Such seems to be the case with Egyptians experiencing their own stories, but following a faulty, improbable state narrative that offers fictional hope which many desperate, frightened and frustrated Egyptians want to hold on to.
The Mubarak verdict was no real surprise as it was in the making for some time, ever since Mubarak was forced into the cage to appease the public. There was no way that a regime trying itself would ever find itself guilty and that is why Mubarak needed to walk.
Reactions celebrating his release came as further entrenchment into a fairy tale that justice could be served through a politicised judiciary. The most recent alleged leaks show that corruption and politicisation seems widespread when a small sample of what happens behind doors shows an army general asked by the public prosecutor to issue a decree with an old date declaring a military facility as an MOI prison.
Yet despite heavy army presence on the day of the sentencing thousands turned up outside a cordoned off Tahrir Square to protest the ruling chanting against all forms of oppressive rule whether that of Mubarak, Morsi’s or Sisi.
The response was brutal as is now customary. The protests were dispersed and two people were killed for objecting to a judiciary sentence they feel was manipulated or politicised. The regime could not risk the public exposed to too much reality so as sustain their narrative. That is why critical media voices have been silenced in one way or another.
Stable countries have established credible justice systems that offer its citizens a shot at fairness without forcing them to take matters into their own hands. This was not done out of the goodness of their hearts but as a necessity for continued governance. The continued absence of justice will eventually lead to collapse as courts become even more glaringly tools of oppression, and as failed security policies affect all sectors of society, yet those looking on will continue to look the other way.
Despite the constant failings, a great many are not yet ready to acknowledge the shortcomings of current leadership to help avoid the damage. The signs are clear to those with an open mind but no amount of signs or books about history or the present can tell you about the current reality if you choose not to see it.
Some argue that the revolutionary dream was just as much of a delusion as ignoring the failed trajectory we’re on today. But there’s a difference between the revolutionary dream and delusions. The revolutionary dream was a result of an acknowledgement of current realities and aimed for something greater by fixing these problems. Present delusions may be as imaginary as dreams but are harmful because they completely ignore the current reality. The current regime is not only forgiven for grave failures but encouraged. In effect, the state of Egypt will probably worsen in the absence of a proper wake up call. Sadly, the suspension of disbelief may continue until the final curtains, but by then the damage to the nation may be more than anyone can bear.
Wael Eskandar is an independent journalist and blogger based in Cairo. He is a frequent commentator on Egyptian politics and has written for Ahram Online, Counterpunch, and Jadaliyya, among others. He blogs at notesfromtheunderground.net