Sunday, December 4, 2011

Message to Egyptian Revolutionaries: GET REAL!

So the experiment of populism has produced an unsurprisingly miserable outcome.  No need to whitewash the result through tortured reasoning about the differences between backward and even more backward brands of political Islam, the allocation of distant minority votes or trying to make sense of the idiosyncratic voting system Whatever feel-good factor was generated by the relatively high voter interest and participation, the landslide victory of the Islamists is a blow to the cause of the betterment of a progressive Egypt.     
This result should not be a surprise.  It is virtually exactly the same result as that of the constitutional referendum from last March.  The vote simply is a reflection of what Egypt has become over the past sixty years – a country lacking in economic growth, lacking in proper education, lacking in cultural openness, and a country that is highly susceptible to the corrupting influences of a paternalistic state and even more paternalistic and manipulative religious clergy.  The result is also unsurprising because it stems from an ill-considered process of political transformation driven by street demonstrations, Twitter feeds and idiotic political televangelists that cornered the ruling authorities into following quick-fix solutions to protect what will always matter most to them – maintaining a pliable status quo wherein they always come out on top.  And the result is unsurprising, because the brain-children in the White House fatally comprised the standing of secular forces in the region by naively (Team Obama is too ignorant to have done so intentionally) aiding-and-abetting the intractable rise of the Islamists.    

Get used to it
What is surprising, annoying, depressing and ultimately most damning to the cause of a progressively transformed Egypt, however, is the reaction of a wide spectrum of the self-appointed guardians of the defunct Egyptian “revolution.”  However well-intentioned and passionate, the ostrich-like vision of liberal activists to the trying circumstances surrounding them has been detrimental to the good cause.  The majority vote of the Egyptian populace will not be won during this election cycle, and it could not have been won. 

But instead of accepting and working within the country’s realities, their self-righteousness has not allowed the revolutionaries to understand that populism is a form of government in which they will lose.  Instead of doing what they should have done since January 26 and build alliances within the ruling system to lay the groundwork for sustainable change, the revolutionaries have gone back to their puritanical intellectual comfort zone found in a square and in online la-la land.  Instead of responding to the invitations from a military leadership that distrusts the Islamists even more than liberals do, or focusing on influencing the direction of the new cabinet (still with its single Copt in the least influential ministry – a telling indication of the shallowness of real change since January 25), or pushing immediately for laws that can protect individual rights – social, economic and religious – from the tyranny of a religious mob, the liberal puritans continue to hope beyond hope for an electoral hail-Mary.  So ridiculous, and so untethered from reality, have the revolutionists become that many now blame the electoral misery on the person most responsible for what little political and organizational credibility they have in Naguib Sawiris, because of his daring to publically express his personal preferences (or is it because of his daring to accurately recount the historical fact of Egypt’s Coptic roots?).
This all must stop, and with immediate effect. It is time for the liberals to get a grip and focus their attentions on tangible gains. Those gains will happen only through leadership (by credible leaders, like Naguib Sawiris, not the ringleaders from the Lord-of-the-Flies encampments), sustained engagement with authorities (however unpalatable the authorities may be) and an acceptance of a reality that will only change in increments.

The alternative to this is pretty obvious at this point.

Too much skin


  1. Great post. "Tortured reasoning about the differences between backward and even more backward brands of political Islam" - refreshing to see someone speaking sense on this. You might enjoy my similar post, 'No, we absolutely must not 'embrace' Islamism'

  2. "not the ringleaders from the Lord-of-the-Flies encampments

    your disdain for tahrir is disappointing despite the fact that you do make valid points that should be learned from. you are blaming young activists that are up against the well funded organized SCAF machine and its international alliances, or similarly the well organized well funded MB.

    again, the points you make are valid, however they are missing a lot of info and it is misleading to the degree that your lack of support with all its pros & cons essentially characterizes your position as a reformist, and not a revolutionary. but as you will learn, reform is no longer acceptable. tahrir will remain, there is no going back, and its just the beginning, wait until the hungry get hungrier. neither Sawairis, nor MB, nor SCAF will stop that wave, which has already started...

    i would also note that suggestions to problems you see make your posts more worthy of reading. otherwise your criticism can me mistaken for anti-revolution

  3. Naguib popular support with the people vs Islamist groups? And if the whole premise that SCAF fears MB's legitimate power (as it used to with Tahrir revolutionaries) then most likely SCAF will respond to MB also, not Nauib Sawiris really...

    Some interesting thoughts but the solution "Naguib" as a popular and able to get mass support and/or capitulations from SCAF is a bit of a stretch.

    Moreover, I think that the revolutionaries (including Baradei tried very hard to sit down with SCAF and enact real change - for example, they pushed for Esam Sharaf who was in turn neutered by SCAF when push came to shove).

    All in all, I think that the military has just been far better at playing the game and as (the article you commented on) from Steven Cook (,1) the problem is they have been stubborn since around mid-July and slowly pissed away the support they had. (For example, the military contorlling State TV is a large driver of that given 20% internet penetration).

    Moreover, I think there is fear within Egypt but many Egyptians think/hope that MB would focus on the reforms at hand (probably in a politically selfish manner but regardless) in terms of getting rid of police state (given they got most of police abuse/torture over the past decades) in addition to being able to be a wide based legitimate platform to battle SCAF for capitulations.

    Finally, while MB and SCAF fight for support by tarnishing each other, the liberal parties will be given an opening (much as MB was given an opening through Mubarak's attacks on real opposition parties).