I’m not particularly fond of the daily fare of social networks like Facebook, but at last such tools have been used to advocate for a democratic society and urge protests aimed at the removal of an oligarchy that has been in place since for thirty years! Now, that’s employing the Internet in a constructive manner, and I applaud the youth liberation movement in Egypt for its fervor and ingenuity.
As Frederick Douglass stated in the latter part of the nineteenth century, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” Certainly, the masses of people repeatedly demanded the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, and today their earnest met with success. Hallelujah! Alhamdulillah!
After Anwar Sadat was assassinated, Mohammed Hosni Mubarak seemed like a godsend. He appeared generous to the opposition, freeing many political prisoners, and interested in opening up the economy to the marginalized. But that soon changed. In trying to squash what he saw as radical fundamentalism, the trajectory of his rulership changed dramatically. Rather than becoming a paradigm for democratic leadership, he became increasingly repressive and oppressive, allowing for nearly half of the population to live at subsistence levels. Mubarak cracked down on free, fair, and open elections, and sought to orchestrate his eventual succession. He put a lot of his personal allies in high political positions, including his son Gamal. Egypt has been in a state of emergency for decades, which served as a vehicle to crush any political reform. The dream of democracy was transformed into a nightmare of exploitation.
Somehow, Egypt remained a strong ally of the United States, as administration after administration simply looked the other way in order to maintain American interests in the region. As we have become increasingly receptive to the alleviation of pain for the Palestinians, we have not stridently criticized Mubarak for closing off refuge for displaced Palestinians. Because we consider Egypt key to our national security interests, we have oftentimes suddenly become blind when Egypt offends–as we have been with Saudi Arabia as well as with Israel. Rather than support the burgeoning liberation movement in Egypt, we acted like immobile deer in approaching headlights. The Obama Administration did not have the foresight or insight to discern the unrest brewing at the surface; it was afraid that any words critical of the Mubarak regime would enervate our friendly relations and destabilize the region. Mubarak use this softness on the part of the United States and continued to horde money for himself and his henchmen for a couple decades.
What’s in store for Egyptland now? I would never fully trust military personnel to rule a country. It would be optimistic, however, to expect the military to share power, for the instability of the country needs to end, and who else but the military can forge such a state of affairs? I think a civilian coalition should spring up to help organize a new democracy that believes in curtailing the plight of the disinherited. That’s what ethical government is all about!
In a very real sense, Mubarak is a tragic figure. Despite his billions, he clinged to a position against the will of the people. He still needed to be bolstered by status and station, rather than ceding to the masses their own process of striving for ideal democracy. In essence, he had become corrupt to the bone: delighting in power and disdaining the people whom he, at one time, vowed to support, sustain, develop, and enhance. Lord Acton was right: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Mubarak had to be forced out; an it happened without the violence of most protesters. Now that’s how to walk like an Egyptian!