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Notes from America: General Al-Sisi brought out the worst of Egyptians - Daily News Egypt

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Notes from America: General Al-Sisi brought out the worst of Egyptians

By Ahmed Tharwat French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) said: “In democracy we get the government we deserve.” He was, of course, talking about true representative democracy that produces leaders the people want and choose. The assumption here, however, is that people know what is good for them and they chose freely. The French philosopher was right …

Ahmed Tharwat
Ahmed Tharwat

By Ahmed Tharwat

French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) said: “In democracy we get the government we deserve.”

He was, of course, talking about true representative democracy that produces leaders the people want and choose. The assumption here, however, is that people know what is good for them and they chose freely. The French philosopher was right about one thing – leaders who run or ruin our lives bring out something deep in the people they govern and rule.  What he failed to recognise is that this is not only in democracy, but in authoritative regimes as well, where even dictators have to play politics to stay in power.

Western democracy brought Eisenhower, Kennedy, Bush Jr. and Obama, who brought out the different characters of the American people. Unfortunately, over the last six decades or so, Egypt has probably ended up with dictators who tried to appeal to the best and worst of Egyptians. In my opinion, General Al-Sisi is the worst of them all, as he has been appealing to the worst of Egyptians, and in turn brought out the worst of Egypt.

The so-called “Free Officers Coup” for the first time brought actual Egyptian leaders, middle-class military dictators who, in one way or another, reflected, for the first time, the culture and values of average Egyptians: not the elites or the colonialists. Nasser, with his dictatorial style, rallied the people around a sense of national pride. Sadat represented cunning and deceitfulness. Mubarak ruled for 30 years by appealing to Egyptians’ love of a sense of stability.

Morsi was elected with more than 50% [of the vote] in a fair election, by appealing to laymen’s religious feelings and naïveté. General Al-Sisi’s political and military manoeuvring came, appealing to the worst of Egyptians. With his false pretence of pluralism, the saviour of Egypt with his hyper-nationalism, hyperbolic bravery, and his unwarranted self-assurance, General Al-Sisi brought with his jihad against the incompetent Brotherhood the worst of Egyptians vices – the “tribalism” of Al-Sisi vs. the Brotherhood, xenophobia, disrespect for others’ views, affinity to irrational thinking, and a very sinister anti-intellectualism.

A culture of hatred and thuggery had spread everywhere: in the street, at work, in organisations, and family homes. Political harassment leads to sexual harassment, where politically abused citizens lose their respect for human dignity and themselves. Al-Sisi has brought a deep sense of hate and revengeful culture, where Egyptians – I think for the first time – speak to each other in such a venomous and irrational discourse. “Kill all the Brotherhood traitors” has become a common thread in public conversation.

As Thanassis Cambanis reported in  Foreign Policy: “In prosecuting its war on terror, Egypt has lumped the Muslim Brotherhood together with the jihadi Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis – equating dissent in the vernacular of political Islam with bombings and assassinations.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood is the parent organisation of extreme ideology,” Al-Sisi toldthe Washington Post in March. “They are the godfathers of all terrorist organisations. They spread it all over the world.”

Egyptians have been exposed to Al-Sisi’s hyper-antiballistic media machine, and they have never before resorted to such divisive mannerisms or hateful speeches and propaganda. Egyptians now adhere to conversations that take shape as irrational tribalism: if you aren’t supporting Al-Sisi, you are part of the international Brotherhood organisation, a traitor, and a foreign agent.

Since Al-Sisi ousted the first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, he had a free hand and mandate to do what he pleased with impunity. He may not have rigged the election, but through the intimidation of any opposition, shutting down their media, while employing the state-entrenched propaganda machine, he was able to rig people’s minds and the electorate.

Now no one is safe in Egypt. The Al-Sisi government has been working on the elimination of any symbol of decency; people mysteriously disappear, and if they aren’t getting killed in the street or in their homes or at work, they are killed by legal execution with a politicised judicial system and chequebook judges. As Professor Ragui Assaad of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs put it on my TV show: “Egyptian judges and media are trying to outdo each other in showing their hate of the Brotherhood.”

Since Al-Sisi’s military coup, we have seen mass executions, disappearances, and mass-detentions, which according to human rights organisations, accounts for more than 40,000 detainees.  Egyptians have not lost just the right to live with dignity, but also the right to die with dignity.  General Al-Sisi, with his media machine, turned Egyptians against each other, the good noble Egyptians against those foreign agents; the Egyptians who hate Egypt. Al-Sisi has turned Egyptian institutions into political agents to suppress and eliminate oppositions from the right and left.

Here, Thanassis Cambanis comes in again: “Al-Sisi’s paranoid style appears to be the product of a coherent view among Egypt’s fractious security services, which are showing a unity of purpose in carrying out the campaign against all political dissent. The military, police, intelligence agencies, and courts are pulling together to carry out the government’s political vision – an impressive bureaucratic achievement, but one that bodes poorly for democratic reform.”

Just this week, General Al-Sisi had appointed a shady figure as the Minister of Justice, a man who once professed on national TV that “we (judges) are the masters and the rest are slaves”. One wonders: why would a dictator need a minister of justice anyway!

Just four years after bringing forth the most impressive revolution that toppled the longest dictatorship in Egyptian history, Egyptians have lost their sense of who they are, and so they stopped even trying. Egypt has become a dead poets’ society!  As George Orwell said in his book “1984”: “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution, one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

Ahmed Tharwat is host of the Arab-American TV show Belahdan. His articles published in national and international publications. He blogs at Notes From America, on www.ahmediatv.com Follow him on Twitter @AhmediaTV

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  • Al sissi

    You are an utter idiot, author.

  • Merfen

    A very narrow-minded article written either by a foreigner or an Egyptian who’s been living outside the country for decades. This kinda black and white view of Egypt’s state of affairs that this author tries to convey is actually very misleading. The main problem I, as an Egyptian, see in the country is the stagnation and deterioration of culture and education for decades. This hateful climate is actually the result of that, and I’d argue that this fanatical nationalism is the only thing holding the country and it’s 90 million inhabitants together (yes, the crushing majority of Egyptians LOVE Al-Sisi and you’d have to be retarded not to see it if you live in Egypt, as you claim). There is also this stupid idea that ”Democracy is the only way to freedom and prosperity and that’s how we advanced because freedom of speech yada yada bla bla”…NO AND NO. It’s because people worked their asses off all day for CENTURIES to advance themselves and built these gigantic sustainable complexes called nations that could survive and thrive and THEN gave the people those petty ”freedoms” that they love to brag about so much. Seriously, this idea needs to stop cuz it’s retarded. Never in history had civilizations been built on ”democracy”. Stop spreading lies and believing them…

    • Mahmoud Refaat

      Can you name a “civilized” country that is not democratic?
      PS civilization and history are two different things.

      • Merfen

        My point is that they didn’t start out with our modern governing system of democracy. They shaped their economies, culture, education, and institutions by means which would seem extremely oppressive and dictatorial to us in this age, and THEN implemented the modern method of democracy which we know of. Now I’ll ask you this: can you name an advanced democratic country that started out democratically? One thing that people don’t realize with democracy is that the most important prerequisite for the success of democracy, as put forth by its inventor, is a powerful and educated middle-class. Therefore, with cases like Egypt where most people are poor and almost illiterate, and where their votes are bought with some rations, a very popular and charismatic visionary like George Washington, or Al-Sisi in this case, is the best formula for success. I mean, if most people chose the guy, why isn’t that considered democracy? Or is it just voting that counts? Sorry I always write a lot. Venting my anger.

        • Mahmoud Refaat

          I understand your argument, but don’t you think we should start where others ended? they were trying out to find successful formulas, now they found one, why should we keep trying? but also don’t you think that ignorance and illiteracy are actually “effects” NOT “causes” of dictatorship and fascism? Very few dictatorships, if any, would be interested in giving people a proper education, because that would be eventually their end. Al-Sisi’s charisma is fake, the guy doesn’t even know how to speak properly, but that’s off-topic, please keep in mind the guy ousted an elected president (regardless if we liked him or not) just to put himself in power, now that’s a coup and coup-leaders are usually not in the best interest of the people, not to mention he was not actually elected at all, he ran through elections that he dominated by force without any real opponents, just like any dictator would do. The guy killed and imprisoned thousands without any real vision so far, nothing I can touch in reality which screams “improvement”. I agree with you that education comes first, but do you see any improvement in that sector? I personally don’t, because so much money has to go for prisons construction, paying the several increases to judges, policemen, and military staff. People with education are actually targeted (e.g. university professors and students). If any positive change should happen, it won’t happen under the current regime, we’ll take a long time to recover, well if we recover at all.
          lol, I tend to write a lot too :), Regards

          • Merfen

            Well, it’s actually a very old formula, ancient even. Democracy was introduced in it’s first form more than 2000 years ago. Anyway, I don’t think it works like that. If we were talking science, then yes, we keep building on the past. But in the case of democracy in Egypt, you don’t even have the base on which to build anything, which is education and culture. Regarding the second point, humans naturally aren’t born literate and sophisticated, hence why we have our education system. But, you’re right in that dictatorships tend to suppress education, so you end up with non-advancing, stagnant-minded generations that will eventually enact revolutions to overthrow said dictatorships. It really is a cycle. Regarding the coup part (which I really don’t view it as such, pardon me), I say we judge his performance after 2 years of his rule, since that’s the time he asked for. Nevertheless, one can only look at Egypt’s neighbors and see the huge contrast in terms of stability and security. I don’t believe in absolutes. ”If it’s not absolute democracy it doesn’t work!”, or ”dictatorships are always terrible!” is not realistic. It’s not like Egyptians would have revolted against Mubarak if he had fed them, gave them jobs, a proper education, etc, just because he is called a ”dictator”.There really is no such thing as a fake charisma, to be totally honest with you. You’re either liked or you’re not, there is no fake liking. Of course he wouldn’t to intellectuals, he is relating to the poor people and moving them by emotions alone. The guy is very charismatic, domestically and internationally. And since the majority of the Egyptian people currently like him (the very same people who voted for Morsi), he thus gained his legitimacy from the people themselves. I’d call that democracy, too. Cheers 😀

          • tvcaldwell

            He asked for 25 years – not two years. See you are having to lie for him. People don’t need charisma; if they did, they would not go for Sissy who has none of the qualities that go to make a person charismatic. If the elected government had not given him the position of Defense Minister, no one would have known he even existed. The next tyrant that comes along has not been heard of yet, but rest assured when he does take over, he will be the hero for those who worship military tyrants. If people wanted charisma, they would have asked for Bassam Youssef; well they can’t because he had to flee the country for mildly criticizing the same military he encouraged to take over, but that is a discussion for another time. I think you get my point.

    • tvcaldwell

      The above is precisely the example of the sort of attitude Tharwat was talking about. You may not like what he says but you cannot deny the FACTS he stated. Perhaps you are only used to the military controlled media where they try to outdo each other to show their support of the tyrant. That may explain why you cannot palate open discussion. They would have to be retarded if they don’t praise the military rule. Reminds us of Bush’s “you are with us or you are against us”.

      As for LOVE ing Sissy, all the tyrants in the middle east including Gaddafi, Saddam, Assad, Ben Ali, Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak were all LOVEd by people and used to get more than 90% of votes; Sissy, of course, has outdone all other tyrants by settling for no less than 97%. The point is – the next military tyrant that takes over will also be LOVEd by your ilk and will be getting 90+ percent of so called votes. To state your LOVE in such strong words only proves you are a diehard crony, nothing else.

  • Jan Vodsloň

    The best article about the current situation…

  • Intellectualist

    Al Sisi-Allah is an atheist, Gabriel is the internet, and you are today’s prophet. You have my email. Only atheists are not subservient to a higher power, Ergo, Allah can only be either an atheist or be subservient to an atheist. Muhammed’s challenge in the Quran to either accept his guidance or provide another that’s better is direct license from the Prophet himself to reform his work.

  • Adam Canis Lupaster Pallipes

    Without delving in to ‘blabla’ Egyptians do not need anyone to bringout the ‘worse’ in them! We are a people whose vast majority are already hateful, tyrannical and vile… Neither Morsi nor Sissi nor Mubarak etc are to blame – after all our regimes have all come from us, they weren’t imported. We are very good at screaming: “Conspiracies’ and blaming our own wrong doings as being caused by outsiders! we are an extremely contradicting, lazy, dirty, inhumane society and sadly we will continue to be like this for a long time to come. We have no notion of democracy, respect of personal freedoms, or even respect in general. Until we stop blaming others for our garbage baggage and start changing ourselves individually, we shall continue on our very successful decent in to oblivion. R.I.E.P. Egypt. Your children have disgraced and failed you.

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