This is not an uplifting post. You have been warned.
December 20, 2011 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Well, to put it simply, The Big plan is the same as the immediate plan: they want you dead. It’s not that they want to kill opposition; they want to kill the opposition, literally. This country ain’t big enough for the both of you, and they have everything to lose. And they have guns. And the media. And all the keys of power. And you want to overthrow them. How do you think they will react to that? Give you cookies? - an on the ground report of what's going on in Egypt now from a blogger turned parliamentary candidate.
posted by The Whelk (37 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't believe the guy who runs Sandmonkey is running for parliament in Egypt. Funny dude.
posted by RedShrek at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2011


Wow....til I got to the end I thought this was going to be an OWS statement. Telling.
posted by spicynuts at 9:24 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Telling.

The kids getting the shit beaten out of them, set on fire, having their eyes gouged out, murdered and left to bleed out on the sidewalk would sit mouths agape at your cheap theatrics.

That's not to say OWS isn't important. It is. But hijacking the agony of that desperate nation teetering on the edge of darkness just to lend gravitas to your cause is a shitty, shitty thing to do.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2011 [18 favorites]


Absolutely fantastic, insider view of what a real revolution looks like as a revolutionary. It's cold water to the face, but should be required reading for all occupy and similar folks who've looked to the arab spring for inspiration, especially the talk about symbols vs. "the cause"

And this is why I didn’t get involved: I couldn’t understand the Battle for Mohamed Mahmoud, because it’s a battle to hold on to a street of no actual significance or importance, and yet some of the best youth this country had to offer died or lost their eyes or were seriously injured protecting it. The same thing goes for the current battle. What is the purpose? What is the end Goal? A battle for the sake of battle? Just like maintaining a sit-in for the sake of maintaining the sit-in, even though a sit-in is supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in itself? I mean, I would understand if the aim was to occupy Maspiro or something, but they are not even attempting that. They are maintaining a fight in the street, because they got attacked at that street, so the street immediately becomes a symbol and we must fight back and not be driven away even as we get beaten and killed. Because it’s all about the Symbol, and not about the cause or the goal, and people are dying.
posted by crayz at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


"The parliamentary elections are fraudulent. I am not saying this because I lost- I lost fair and square- but because it’s the truth.

I find this type of confused writing very uplifting.
posted by three blind mice at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was the eye-opener for me. It's so devious and simple that it's about the only thing I've read lately that makes sense of what's happening in Egypt right now:

Ensuring that the Salafis have a big chunk of the parliament (one that is neither logical or feasible considering their numbers in Egypt) achieves two goals: 1) Provide a mechanism for the security apparatus to keep the Muslim Brotherhood in check if they ever thought of using religion as a weapon against SCAF (As far as the salafis are concerned, the MB are secular infidels) and 2) to really frame the choice in our (and the international community’s) heads between a “Islamist country or a military regime”, because, let’s face it, The MB are not scary enough for the general population. But the Salafis? Terrifying shit. You add to that the piece of news that the average Egyptian duty-free buying alcohol limit over night went from 4 bottles to a single bottle, and that they now have a “women only” cue in the Airport, and you have the Upper-class and Upper-middle class – alongside with the west- pissing in their pants and psychologically ready to accept military rule over Islamic one. A fake and a false choice, especially that new parliament will have no power what so ever over anything.

Thanks for this post, The Whelk.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's not to say OWS isn't important. It is. But hijacking the agony of that desperate nation teetering on the edge of darkness just to lend gravitas to your cause is a shitty, shitty thing to do.

I sort of assume that spicynuts was referring to the text of the post. I assumed the same thing until I got to the word "Egypt".

Maybe try not assuming that people are clueless assholes?
posted by brennen at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


R. Schlock: You're new around here, aren't you.

I appreciate your emotions about Egypt. No need to derail that with an attack on another poster. This isn't that kind of online community.
posted by Twang at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


The thing that scares me is that everyone in Egypt is on a train, arguing about who should be the engineer -- and the train is going 70 MPH towards a cliff.

Egypt imports about half the calories it consumes, and right now it isn't exporting enough to pay for all the food it needs. Its remaining balance of hard currency isn't all that great, and from what I've read it's going to run out next year some time.

Then what?

Egypt's biggest source of foreign currency has traditionally been tourism, but with the way things are in Egypt right now that's collapsed and it'll stay collapsed for a long time, maybe years. Egypt exports energy (oil, gas, electricity), but not enough. And there just isn't anything else.

What happens when the money runs out?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:42 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It looks like they knew they'd be fought for protesting and that they knew this and still went out in a (from what I can see mostly) non-violent way says alot about their character.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:45 AM on December 20, 2011


Telling.

I thought the same....which doesn't mean the situation in the States is the same right now,
but it suggests the direction it's going in.
posted by eggtooth at 9:47 AM on December 20, 2011


R. Schlock >

The kids getting the shit beaten out of them, set on fire, having their eyes gouged out, murdered and left to bleed out on the sidewalk would sit mouths agape at your cheap theatrics.

Those kids are fighting for self-determination and against tyranny and injustice. That they're being brutalized to a far more severe degree than OWS protesters doesn't mean that OWS protesters are engaged in "cheap theatrics". This is not some kind of zero-sum martyrdom contest, and criticizing OWS by pointing to worse human rights abuses against Egyptian citizens is thoroughly perverse. It seems like you're perpetuating the insidious idea that only the most egregiously abused deserve any sympathy and that those who are abused -- but less so -- should feel ashamed of themselves, simply for living in a world where some are treated worse and daring to make their own voices heard. That strikes me as a very unkind and morally vacuous position.

That's not to say OWS isn't important. It is. But hijacking the agony of that desperate nation teetering on the edge of darkness just to lend gravitas to your cause is a shitty, shitty thing to do.

Really now. I hardly think that anyone has "hijacked" anything here, and besides, Egyptian protesters have actually been supportive of the OWS efforts. It's considerably more shitty, to spew invective against someone who merely observed that the two struggles contain interesting parallels, than to note the ideological commonality of the two.
posted by clockzero at 9:48 AM on December 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


but it suggests the direction it's going in.

*sets self on fire*
posted by R. Schlock at 9:48 AM on December 20, 2011


It's weird, this seemed like the obvious endpoint during the "revolution". Anytime an army holds that much power, they're not going to give it up, but they'll happily offer you a scapegoat.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:51 AM on December 20, 2011


but it suggests the direction it's going in.

*sets self on fire*


Self-immolation due to irritation with other peoples' concerns about human rights abuses, rather than to protest abuses themselves, is especially bizarre and jarring in this context.
posted by clockzero at 10:01 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"And you want to overthrow them. How do you think they will react to that? Give you cookies? "

It really is the same question here as there
posted by eggtooth at 10:04 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Egyptian women protest in Cairo against brutal treatment
posted by homunculus at 10:20 AM on December 20, 2011


Egypt's biggest source of foreign currency has traditionally been tourism, but with the way things are in Egypt right now that's collapsed and it'll stay collapsed for a long time, maybe years. Egypt exports energy (oil, gas, electricity), but not enough. And there just isn't anything else.

That isn't even the timebomb. The timebomb is that they have a demographic bulge of youth coming into the economy (4% each year, right now) and no jobs for them. The domestic economy is going to go south on a much more fundamental level than mere foreign exchange.

Wikileaks, Tunisia and repression might have been the spark, but demographic changes (ironically caused by improved infant/child survival rates) mean that right now the economy needs to grow hugely to just keep the fiscal and social stability it has now. That's at a time when Egypt is both too unstable to attract foreign investment and is fundamentally not that competitive an economy. Instability there isn't going away any time soon, and frankly running the place is somewhat of a poisoned chalice right now.
posted by jaduncan at 10:25 AM on December 20, 2011


Egyptians' attempts to link themselves with the OWS movement is not, as we often and stupidly assume, a validation of what is happening in the US. It's a desperate attempt to keep the eyes of the world on what is happening there. Let's try, hard as that might be, to keep that in mind.

As they say on wikipedia, [citation needed]. Why are we mindreading this beyond face value, and even if we are, why is it not at least equally likely that they wish to express solidarity with another anti-economic/political-status-quo grouping?
posted by jaduncan at 10:31 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


[Folks - please do not make a non-OWS thread into an OWS thread, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:33 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


To give some economic context to the amount that jobs are being created for that bulge: Egypt's job vacancies drop 93 per cent year on year in August 2011

Unemployed people with time on their hands, not much prospect of a move away from poverty on a personal level and violent police. It's not exactly an untried recipe for civil disturbance/revolution. The lack of union gains in Egypt is noticeable, but unemployment is so high that employers hold all the cards; most people are either unemployed or being underemployed, including the politically informed college grads.
posted by jaduncan at 10:38 AM on December 20, 2011


Sorry if my tone offended anyone. Hadn't realized it was tea time around here. But anyone who reads--actually fucking reads--the link The Whelk posted here and thinks: "OMG, that's totally what's happening to OWS!!!1!" needs a dose of perspective stat. Preferably to be administered rectally.

Please link to any comment in this thread above yours where anyone has said this. You want to set a strawman on fire, that's on you.

Otherwise, what it sounds like you're saying is no one who isn't an 11 on the scale of being repressed gets to say anything, or see similarities between their situation and anyone else's. By your metric, the Egyptians should shut up because hey, at least they don't have it as bad as the North Koreans!

Don't confuse your need to invoke the aura of crisis in order to accomplish political change with the plight of those who are, this very moment, suffering terribly. Doing that is an insult to those brave people.

Let me repeat: no one in this thread has done this. If you have an issue with people who have done this in some other thread or forum, take it up with them there.
posted by rtha at 10:47 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


The scenario described by the blogger is sobering, but not uncommon in post-revolutionary situations.

The Chinese experience in 1911 was similar-- decrepit leadership departed, and into the power vacuum flowed the military and private armies. China even had an elected parliament, which was full of aspirations. Many intellectuals thought that having a constitution, judiciary and elected officials would solve China's problems. However the warlords had different ideas and they shot a lot of the liberals.
posted by wuwei at 10:50 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought this sentiment from the article was especially interesting:

When you ask the average Egyptian, you will find that they didn’t have a problem per say with corruption, but rather with the fact that things were both corrupt and dysfunctional. How many times have I heard the phrase of “He could’ve stolen all he wanted, and we wouldn’t mind, had he only made the country better while he stole” regarding Mubarak? Hundreds.
posted by clockzero at 11:12 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Egypt's biggest source of foreign currency has traditionally been tourism, but with the way things are in Egypt right now that's collapsed and it'll stay collapsed for a long time, maybe years.

If peace returns in a final and definite way, it might be fairly soon. Who wouldn't want to be on hand at the founding of a new democracy?

I remember reading (was it in the New Yorker?) that Egypt's armed forces has its tentacles insinuated into much of Egypt's economy, esp. in manufacturing. Many Egyptians own refrigerators that were made by the military. According to Wikipedia:

The Armed Forces enjoy considerable power and independence within the Egyptian state. They are also influential in business, engaging in road and housing construction, consumer goods, resort management, and vast tracts of real estate. Much military information is not made publicly available, including budget information, the names of the general officers and the military’s size (which is considered a state secret). According to journalist Joshua Hammer, "as much as 40% of the Egyptian economy" is controlled by the Egyptian military. (Sources cited: NYT, NY Review of Books)

It should be remembered, BTW, that Egypt got some of their military equipment from the U.S.

The thing about military power is, it absolutely depends on discipline, but the mindset that could maintain it in a situation like this is alien to me. Obviously it's there yes, but still. Those soldiers have got to see they're fighting against their own people, that they're being wielded as the instrument of oppression against their family, friends and countrymen, innocent people? But that always has been the danger of organized fighting forces, hasn't it? That people would come to identify with the organization first and their identity as human beings second.
posted by JHarris at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


But that always has been the danger of organized fighting forces, hasn't it?

Danger, hell--isn't that what boot camp is specifically designed to do? Break down the individual ego and replace it with loyalty to the team?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:49 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those soldiers have got to see they're fighting against their own people, that they're being wielded as the instrument of oppression against their family, friends and countrymen, innocent people?

As the last century has been rather littered with counterexamples, you may need to rethink your assumptions.
posted by dhartung at 11:52 AM on December 20, 2011


homunculus: "Egyptian women protest in Cairo against brutal treatment"

I'm not linking it, but I saw a video via reddit (I think? Maybe it was an econ blog linklist)... The soldiers are ruthless and brutal and gangstomping people. The poor woman had her shirt torn off, and they were stomping her. It was not something I expected to see, nor something anyone should ever have to go through.

This is bad, very very bad, and I wonder...

The whole thing w/the military not attacking because "they're our brothers and sisters protesting" -- was that just the grunts following orders of the military command as opposed to taking orders from Mubarak back during the revolution -- not out of their own will, but doing the work of the generals and the generals using the patriotic rhetoric as propaganda to gain trust and thus power? I should have known, and had suspicions, and I'm sure many on here were saying such things, but... I didn't think it was actually true.
posted by symbioid at 12:02 PM on December 20, 2011


Oh - and so when he talks about needing to not focus all on politics itself, but also on the human condition/aspect, I think this is an important thing.

And I know we're not supposed to bring up Occupy, but I do think in this sense that's one thing that Occupy has been hammering home with their attempts to be apolitical -- not that i necessarily agree, but that they have hope in some way, but... have enough pessimism to say "what demands? you will just ignore them." At least, I get that as the general feeling amongst the more radical among them. Anyways...

The focus on the social aspects is one interesting thing that made me think about Antanas Mockus, mayor of Columbia for a period of time in the 90s. He set about a radical way of changing how the city works, not through traditional politics, but via an artists lens. He had traffic mimes engage the driving populace to get them to learn and follow the etiquette of the road. In some sense, this could almost be said to be similar to Giulliani's more authoritarian approach of getting small infractions (Jaywalkers) from the ground up. Not that I agree w/Rudy on anything or his approach, but perhaps the reflection that we need to start from the ground up and ...

I think I have an old anarchist pamphlet laying around, it was an anarchist publication against terrorism and the name of it is "You Can't Blow Up a Social Relationship" and I think that's a key point. Focus on politics, on destruction on "blowing up the old" is a thing, but social relationships are bonds between people. It's what makes the Egyptian Military what it is - a giant social complex. A hierarchical one, but clearly, it is a relationship. The protestors worked on some of that and built institutions, and insofar as they succeeded in one sense, they had the power of the military behind them (or at least not shooting at them, outright). Now, they have the guns aiming at them and brutalizing them, and the goal needs to be somehow to continue to forge ahead and the creation of a culture of respect and building the new world together and building community without necessarily being political? How does one do that? How do you build trust without necessarily being political (and thus painting yourself as a threat) but still keeping an implicit understanding that your community is revolutionary and political without being overtly political in any sense for the time being?

Building community, like John Robb talks about (Resilient Communities, in his terminology) is perhaps the key thing for a successful revolution? I dunno, but it seems that's the thread that I'm seeing here. Build culture, art, community, life. Politics is a sort of death. Not that politics is to be avoided, I am not one to say never to engage, but rather focusing on politics solely as the only method of change is shortsighted and lacks the larger context as it's merely one social institution amongst many. Why did the Muslim Brotherhood succeed insofar as they did? Because they were an institution of some sort, a set of social relationships. They built community when they could. They provided what the state didn't our wouldn't provide. They suffered under the old regime, but slowly won some rights for their organization...

It's depressing reading it, because his point is quite true. I mean, it's kinda what Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration:
Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Once people stop suffering they stop revolting. What the line is for "suffering" is contextual (and hence, why we have people arguing over what people should be fighting for... "you're not really suffering, stfu"). And if most people don't feel they're suffering they're not going to rise up, and even if they feel they are suffering, if they feel there's an imminent relief of that suffering they'd rather not rock the boat. So people don't want to get more insecurity for a payoff that may or may not come 3-5 years down the line after a lot of hard work, when they need to eat today. I think I used my character limit just now.
posted by symbioid at 12:32 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not linking it, but I saw a video via reddit (I think? Maybe it was an econ blog linklist)... The soldiers are ruthless and brutal and gangstomping people. The poor woman had her shirt torn off, and they were stomping her. It was not something I expected to see, nor something anyone should ever have to go through.

It was horrifying. I don't blame you for not linking it and I don't want to look at it again, but I don't think the new level of rage in Egypt can be understood without it.

For those who haven't seen it, this piece which jeffburdges linked in another thread has more information, including pictures and the video: A Photo That Encapsulates the Horror of Egypt's Crackdown
posted by homunculus at 12:32 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Egypt flyer to taxis warns of Israeli, American, Masonic, Al-Jazeera conspiracy in Cairo clashes
The flyer below, distributed to taxi drivers across Cairo, details a conspiracy to foment violence in the country. It blames America, Israel, Masons, Al-Jazeera and called leading writer Alaa al-Aswany agent number 1 in creating the clashes in the country, which has left 14 dead and over 700 injured.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:43 PM on December 20, 2011


Are there any imaginable prospects of the US cutting aid to the Egyptian military?
posted by Anything at 6:52 PM on December 20, 2011


Ahm...yeah maybe it's irrelevant now..but I meant 'til I got to the end of the QUOTED PARAGRAPH'. Jeez.
posted by spicynuts at 8:59 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Egyptian Government Issues Apology, Will Likely Continue Treating Women Like Garbage
posted by homunculus at 12:55 PM on December 21, 2011


The Despair of Egypt: How the country's politicians, activists, elites, its sponsors in Washington, and most of all the military have failed it at a critical moment

"Perhaps the most depressing read this week is a dark and self-critical essay by the revolutionary, blogger, and failed parliamentary candidate Mahmoud Salem, better known by his blog pseudonym Sandmonkey. He now believes that he and his fellow revolutionaries blew a chance to connect with Egyptians during the brief, hopeful moment after Mubarak quit; that, Salem argues, is when people were willing to change. Now that moment of possibility has evaporated."
posted by homunculus at 3:19 PM on December 24, 2011


Egyptian judge frees anti-junta blogger: Alaa Abd El Fattah was detained for two months, pending investigation into charges that he incited violence against military
posted by homunculus at 4:03 PM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Court Orders Egypt's Military To Stop 'Virginity Tests'
posted by homunculus at 12:28 PM on December 27, 2011


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