Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Egypt and Democracy: Catastrophic Success and Unity - Where Are the Egyptian Liberals?

Reading around the net and the news in Egypt, the Liberals are quite upset over the outcome of the referendum.  As the Weekly Standard suggested, the Liberals who marched in the streets did see the outcome of the referendum as not just a "yes" or "no" vote on amending the constitution, but approval or disapproval of their "revolution".  

However, this would be a mistaken interpretation.  The facts are that most Egyptians just want to get on with the business of living and get the process, any process, that would move Egypt's political process, hopefully free, forward.  They have been patient for thirty years, they were patient with the revolution and now they are impatiently pushing forward without possibly truly considering the dangers of trying to throw together the law of the land in the form of the constitution.  Laws that, as they should have already seen under the last constitution and government, can and will exist for a long time.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. 

No truer words were ever written.  It is exactly what is at play in Egypt, despite the revolution:   "all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." 

The people of Egypt do not all share the same experiences under the last constitution or the Mubarek regime.  At least, not in their minds.  Obviously, not everyone was thrown into prison, tortured by police or beaten to death in the streets.  They have grown accustomed to the rough treatment by police as "necessary" to secure the population.  A form of mass Stockholm syndrome.  They have become accustomed to corruption and bribery.

Most importantly, they have become accustomed to eking out an existence for their families and waiting for someone else, anybody else, to come along and solve their problems.  Their problems have boiled down to shelter, food and security.  They have little comprehension or care at this moment how the lack of freedom and the security of individual rights prevents them from securing those basic necessities or stifles any ambition to improve their lives and do more than "eke out an existence".

From their experience, their problems  may be due to the government, but they have no idea exactly why it is the government's fault.  Therefore, the simplest answer is to change government.  It isn't an idea that one system or idea is better suited to help them, but that any change has got to be better so they will accept what comes and give it all of 30 seconds to prove itself before they shake their heads and wave it away as irrelevant to their every day struggles.

The revolutionaries wanted Mubarek gone.  They wanted the constitution changed.  The revolutionaries got what they wanted and, to paraphrase a commenter at Mahmoud's blog, "shut up already".

As those who have read history know, no revolution is the revolution of ALL the people.  In the United States, it is supposed that one third of the population supported the revolt, one third were loyal to the British King and one third wanted to be left alone.  Fortunately for them and for later generations, the revolutionaries did not "sit down and shut up". 

Unfortunately, the revolutionaries in Egypt may have put the horse before the cart.  Or, in more modern terms, suffered a "catastrophic success".

They achieved a victory before they were ready to consolidate their power.  They overthrew the government, but did not have a long enough period of time to promulgate their ideas and reasons for resisting to the population.  Most revolutions have had a long period of build up, for ideas to be sifted through, reviewed and spread throughout a major part of the population.  Further, most revolutions do not end up with the military of the previous oppressive regime running the political program instead of the revolutionaries with their revolutionary ideas as a "victory". In this case, it has left those who were already more organized, who had already been doing as revolutionaries do, the long build up of ideas and promulgation among the population, with the most power, even as the revolutionary youth paid the price.

Now they are in a race against time.  Time they do not have to do the things that they should have been doing over the long haul.  Time that was reduced from years into weeks via the internet.  They know how to revolt, but they do not know how to "play politics"

The Liberals still have a chance for some success, but first they are going to have to adjust their goals and accept that, while they may be small and disorganized, they will still  have the power to shape the future.  They are going to have to work with the opportunities given them, but they will also have to "keep their eyes on the prize".  They must dream the big dream, but take the small steps to get there.

Right now, they are disorganized, they do not have a central message nor have they organized to effect that message.  Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood who has a consolidated base, a strong organization and various methods for promulgating their message.  Equally as important, the Liberals are an amalgamation of many groups with various ideas on how to achieve those desires.  Further, while some have appeared in the media, the strategy of having no leader to thwart the government forces has returned to bite them.  They have no spokesman.  Or, at least, not one that they can agree on.  Not even three or four or twelve.

Of course, before they can choose leaders, they must consolidate their core or cores.  Movements like the April 6th Youth and the Revolutionary Youths have nominal leaders, but they are "revolutionary" leaders, not political leaders.  There focus is narrowly defined in terms of their socialist agendas for labor as evidenced by the top priorities of their previous demands though some of those demands have been met.

4 - the launch of the right to form associations and trade unions and the issuance of the establishment of newspapers and other media with no restrictions other than the notification to a competent judicial authority
5 - the holding of trade unions and student unions, according to the law of each of them
Others they are not likely to achieve such as restraining those who participate in the current interim position of forming a constitution would not be able to participate in the next elections.  A hope of limiting people's and organizations desires to doing the "right thing" for Egypt as opposed to seeking their own path to power.  A noble, if naive hope when what they should have been concentrating on was consolidating their base of support and spreading their political ideas on freedom.

The other Liberals are in even worse condition.  They do not even have these nominal leaders nor do they have any manifesto, declaration or platform that translates ideas of freedom into the ideas by which men can govern, live and achieve their ambitions.  They are barely a cohesive group, much less a group that can write a declaration or translate it into the terms of governing a state.  They have their version of pamphleteers on the internet along with their Liberty Tree of Twitter, but it is at best described as a fast moving train of noise whose strain of liberty has as yet to be simplified into statements that can be accepted, translated and disseminated. 

They need their Thomas Pain and Thomas Jefferson to step forward quickly.  These ideas, once they are imbibed by the masses have a chance of moving out of the "virtual town square" into the public square.  The advantages of the tools at their disposal means that they could, very likely create the materials, the Pamphlets, that they can disperse among the people on the street.  They can use these tools to infiltrate the media.  A media that, even in a free nation, has limited time and space.  They can even circumvent the main stream media to get the word out and unify their base.

One of the things that the Liberals need to accept is that, in politics, in the heat of a revolution, there is no such thing as a non-partisan.  There are those who are participating and those who are not.  The idea of "unity" in the Egyptian revolution has taken on some strange idea that the groups with less power should not disagree with the groups that do have power because it will rock the boat.  This is, in fact, still some bizarre hold over from those days when "evils" were "sufferable".  That some group, any group, has a more definitive claim on shaping the outcome of Egypt because they have "suffered more" when it is clear that all of Egypt has suffered under the tyranny and corruption of the last regime.

The demand for "unity" is exactly the demand that the old regime used to keep the masses silent in the face of even the most horrific acts.  Let "unity" fly out the window with the rest of the heresies that defame Freedom.

If there is any "unity" to be had, it can only be found when the leadership and core of all parties understands that the freedom of all can only come when they stand ready to defend the rights of the least among them.  Because, one day they may be the party out of power and the tools they set in place by law to oppress any other will become the tools used to oppress those who fall out of power.  It is the vicious circle of oppression that the people of Egypt have already endured and that must come to an end.

That is the message the Liberals, the Future of Egypt, must begin to send immediately.  Not some weak idea of "unity" that has been used to oppress them for over fifty years.  It is Freedom, only Freedom and always Freedom.

Yet, the Liberals are curiously silent in the public square except to be scratching their heads, lamenting their perceived "failure" and wondering what they should do next now that their first plan has gone array. 

What they should do first, from this perspective, is to decide who they are.  Are they the eternal revolutionaries marching in the street for every demand?  Or, are they the guardians of freedom for all?

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