Standing in Tahrir Sq during the #Jan25 Revolution, I made a personal vow never to be pessimistic again. When Mubarak stepped down I reaffirmed that vow, believing that my generation had no excuse to pessimism. Anything can happen and, in a sense, ‘Yes we can!’ Now, however, I’m finding it necessary to qualify this vow by meditating a bit on the meaning of pessimism. There’s a difference between believing that a certain barrier or obstacle will always be there and will forever block your pursuits, on the one hand, and believing that there is a tall, tall mountain you need to climb and may not reach its peak during your lifetime. The difference being meditated upon is that between impossible and insane. Or in other words, I want to distinguish between the realm of possibility, and the realm of reason. See, what I’m trying to say is that there is possibility, probability and likelihood … and there is reasonable, sensible, rational.
The pessimism I denounce is one that pertains to the first class, the realm of possibility. I maintain a belief that ‘miracles’ could indeed happen. Miracle: the occurrence of an impossible event i.e. Egyptians taking to the streets and through non-violent determination force Mubarak to step down. (I make the comparison between Mubarak stepping down and the Red Sea parting before Moses here). Tahrir brought back my susceptibility to childish and naive moments of wonder at miraculous events.
That being said, there exists another realm, that of reason, sanity and rationality. This realm is not merely concerned with the statistical likelihood of events, because it accepts that anything is possible (not withstanding that it might require more time or resources than provided by the universe). Yet this realm analyzes pursuits as sane or rational based on whether or not its success is accessible within ones life-time, or within the duration of human life on earth. Pursuits that are technically possible, but beyond the time-scale of humanity are deemed insane or irrational, and therefore are not reasonable to pursue. With that in mind, the question is now about the validity of pursuits that are of this sort.
Such a long introduction was necessary before spelling out how I see events unfolding in Egypt. The Military Council (SCAF) is becoming more and more confident in asserting its will vis-a-vis that of protestors even if it requires loss of lives. An event that is then dealt with by the SCAF with bewilderment as to how on earth that might have happened. The parallels between what is happening now and happened in the 50s are too numerous to recite or to neglect. SCAF will remain in power, will play the different political divisions in Egypt against one another to exhaust them (as did Nasser and Sadat), and will enforce itself as relevant and the solution by improving the conditions of the 40% below poverty line. The supporters of SCAF will be those affiliated/entangled with the military and police establishments, the absurdly poor who will feel an improvement, and the Muslim Brotherhood who have been and will continue to be a strong social development enterprise. I imagine the SCAF delegating a signifcant portion of social and economic development to the MB, for three reasons. 1) Because they have experience and extensive networks, and 2) because the type of intervention needed to have a positive impact on the 40% below poverty line is within the reach of religiously motivated redistribution of wealth (i.e charity), and is therefore non-governmental. 3) because they will be the major political power, and it will help them maintain that status, and therefore, the new status-quo.
Protestors demanding a de-militarized government, domesticated police, will become a nuisance similar to that of the Communists and Leftists in Nasser’s Egypt. If there will be a sequel to #Jan25, after a democratically elected Parliament is under the dome, and a civilian president who is bound within the confines of a [mediocre] constitution [that gives too much power to the military] is in effect (because it got a resounding YES in the national referendum), then that sequel will be squashed like human flesh under tienanmen tanks (I meant titanium tanks).
Compare this scenario to my lofty vision:
The Egyptian Revolution is still to reach its peak. If anything, #Jan25 was the First Act to what must come, if this show is to escape the label of comedy, tragedy, or worse even tragic comedy. The earthquake to come is the one that will shake and quake the military establishment. The volcano to erupt is one that will extinguish the Ministry of Interior [Intimidation]. Ultimately, the power of, and more importantly, the need for these two institutions must decline; a feat that cannot be accomplished without realizing that if Tahrir is an epicenter, then each and every country in the Middle East needth an epicenter just as strong, including Israel. The peak can only be reached when the term occupation is solely used to describe that which occurs on the streets of the US. Furthermore, the mutant form of religiosity that emerged from under the toxic pressure of past decades must be rehabilitated, along with military and police. We, as Egyptians will live for decades with disabled members in our family and tumors within our own selves. It will take a generation or two to cleanse ourselves. Don’t hold your breath.
The question is … is it worth it to aspire to this unreasonable state of affairs? I look around and I see the idealists that were whupped black and blue by Nasser still around today. Age has withdrew the vigor of youth from them. Yes, some are involved in politics, many write … but … but . (sigh). There are of course the Islamists who received no less attention and a myriad other colors … they seem to be harvesting this time of the year. Their lives make more ‘sense’, because it’s materializing during their life-time (though that wasn’t always the case, but at least they believed in the harvest of the next world). But their vision is not that of mine. Not any more.
Here’s another look into the future … if, the unlikely event does occur and the peak still to come is indeed reached, and the military establishment is undermined, then there is likely to be a showdown between those who are religiously inspired (i.e. Quran & Prophet first and citizenship is a tool) and those who are nationally inspired (i.e. Egypt first and religion is understood to enforce citizenship). It only makes ‘sense’ that the religiously inspired will win. They have engrained and embedded metaphors and metaphysical foundations that are in-existent or pathetically primordial in the second camp. They got the numbers and they got the ideology to invigorate those numbers.
Again, there is no room for pessimism … the question now is about the balance between calculus and passion.
Update: This is a followup post