A friend whom I respect and who has traveled in African countries, including Egypt, wrote to me:
I writing this email to you to express my sentiments concerning the recent events in Egypt and to hear your perspective. For some odd reason, I can not shake this overwhelming sense of pessimism concerning the “revolution” in Egypt. The leaders of the protests were calling for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and an end to the state of emergency and democratic elections. Last Friday, Mubarak resigned and there was general euphoria, not only in Egypt but throughout the world, but of course especially in the Arabic-speaking regions. However, I was thinking to myself, “self, how much power did Mubarak truly wield and was he truly in control of Egypt?” I thought this because Mubarak after all is 82-years old and how many 82 year old men have the energy and wherewithal to run a state as complex as Egypt. Robert Mugabe essentially ran Zimbabwe’s economy and international reputation into the ground and Zimbabwe’s state apparatus is not as Byzantine as that of Egypt. From what little I know of Egyptian politics, it seems that Mubarak at this stage was little more than a figure-head and the true power behind the throne probably was in the hands of four or five generals. Hence, when Mubarak resigned and the military assumed power, nothing really changed and it was just an action designed to appease the protesters. I don’t want to come across too cynical so I will say that the army has promised to relinquish power in six months, so I am anxiously awaiting these six months to see if they do indeed release their grip upon power and implement true change. Earlier today I was talking to the dean of the graduate school here at Loyola University. He is from Ghana and he told me that in his country when the army seized power and then relinquished power, nothing had really changed. I fear that this is what is in store for Egypt because those people in power are not going to be keen on giving up power. It is just human nature. Furthermore, many Egyptians have grown accustomed to having their freedoms restricted. They are used to seeing soldiers with automatic weapons on every street corner in Cairo and they are used to road blocks and they are accustomed to being questioned by the police without cause. Consequently, if real change is going to occur there needs to be change in the attitude of the majority of the people, not just three or four million of the 80 million people that live in Egypt. So, in my opinion I don’t think anything is going to change except for the names of the rulers. But, I hope I am wrong. What is your opinion?
I’m by nature somewhat pessimistic, so I had very similar thoughts. In fact, I’d given up on Egypt after the senseless stupidity surrounding the World Cup qualifying matches with Algeria. And of course, I grew up with Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I think the world economic system makes it very difficult for well-managed countries in the underdeveloped world to progress, much less countries which have a serious corruption problem. And let’s not forget the serious environmental and public health challenges facing Egypt.
Bottom line is that I can’t dismiss what has happened, but I know much work lies ahead.
مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّبْرَأَهَا إِنَّ ذَلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ لِكَيْلَا تَأْسَوْا عَلَى مَا فَاتَكُمْ وَلَا تَفْرَحُوا بِمَا آتَاكُمْ وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ سورة الحديد 57-58
وَلاَ تَيْأَسُواْ مِن رَّوْحِ اللّهِ إِنَّهُ لاَ يَيْأَسُ مِن رَّوْحِ اللّهِ إِلاَّ الْقَوْمُ الْكَافِرُونَ سورة يوسف 87