Monday, July 29, 2013

Laugh In The Dark

A couple of little old ladies (ok, one of them was me so maybe the "ladies" part is an exaggeration) were having lunch yesterday at the new Lebanese place on Road 9 in Maadi. (Al Balad is nice food, a little pricey, but good.) Anyway, we were talking and my companion told me that at every single shop where she'd stopped that morning the workers within were bursting to talk to her about all the advice Egypt seems to be getting from governments abroad. The gist of each outburst was "But none of those people have been here! None of them has seen their businesses go under because there's no power/gas/clients/money! None of them have had to listen to the crazy religious jabber of people who think that the age at which a girl marries is more important than the security of our hospitals!" There were variations on the theme, but essentially that was what she was hearing, and being a nice woman originally from Pennsylvania but also a 25 yr resident in Egypt, they really wanted to understand where all this was coming from.

The problem was that my companion felt the same way. As she put it, how could Pakistan, for heaven sake, where people get killed in horrible sectarian violence all the time, stand with a straight face and criticise the "coup/revolution/junta"? Neither of us are happy with the situation as it stands, especially since if people start running down streets away from mobs or CSF forces, us little old ladies aren't very fast. We make terrible revolutionaries.  Over olives and bread, I had a thought and it was that as much as what Egypt is doing in terms of our social/political growth (hopefully) and change (certainly) scares us Egyptians, it is TERRIFYING most of the rest of the world.

In my search for thought-provoking articles for my Facebook page, I follow people who comment on events worldwide, and one of the remarkable things I've noticed is that the general discontent level worldwide is rising. This is accompanied by a rise in conservative-unto-fascist thinking as many people retreat in the face of their worry and confusion (which is a whole other topic but it is feeding into the general divisiveness in Egyptian society), but many governments around the world must be really worried that if crazy, chaotic Egypt can get a ton of people (and I will not get into the question of just how many but it was a hell of a lot) into the streets, what would happen if THEIR people did it! This is a very sobering thought because no matter what form of government is concerned, the fact is that no army or police can really deal with a situation if literally millions of people simply walk into the streets and refuse to leave. So far, most places have not been driven to the point of distraction that Egypt was, so it hasn't happened, but the fact that we've done it means that it can be done. I'm quite sure that this is a lesson every government is hoping that their people don't notice or learn.

I think that, while being aware of others' opinions is not a Bad Thing, being overly concerned with them is debilitating, especially when the ship of state is sailing uncharted waters. Please forgive the nautical metaphors but having spent some years helping to skipper a sailboat around the Mediterranean, the image is the best I know.  The reality is that we don't know what is going to happen here. The MB seem to be digging in their heels and refusing to accept the political world that the majority of Egyptians are currently willing to be living in, which means that the military goal of clearing Raba'a and Nahda is going to be very difficult to achieve. And the recent allowing of "emergency" powers to the military AGAIN! is troubling to many of us who remember all too well that the military have kept a subtle but firm hand on our government throughout all since 2011, much to the detriment of the people. Will Tamerod be able to pull off another coup/revolution/whatever against the military should everyone realise that we are being steered back to 1990...or will the threat be enough to keep the military somewhat in line until we have some sort of real  opposition party? We simply don't know but we can't stand still. We must move on.

Friends in the US and Canada who read alarmist headlines contact me constantly about possibly returning to the lands of sanity (in their minds, but not mine), but I'm here for the long haul. Life these days reminds me of a carnival ride I went on when I was about seven in San Diego. It was called Laugh In The Dark and you sat in a small car that went through dark tunnels where skeletons and the like would pop out at you around corners or fall almost into your lap. It was terrifying and I believe I went on it three times that day. This is all utterly mad, but I wouldn't miss it for the world.

copyright 2013 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani