Failing Downward

This is a post about Egypt. However, a real-life story from America will illustrate its moral well. Just before the winter holidays in 2012 a young man walked into an elementary school in a pleasant and peaceful small town and shot more than two dozen children and teachers dead in their classrooms. America has one of the most permissive gun regulations, and people generally agreed that the horror of the tragedy will give momentum to push through more gun control laws. Surely no one who has heard of this massacre would object, and almost all Americans have heard of it. Surely those opposing gun control will be silenced by this event. But it was not so. The proponents of easy access to guns simply blamed the violence on too few guns. If teachers had been armed to the teeth, they argued, maybe the gunman would have been shot  earlier in the rampage. It is an argument that leaves anyone with an ounce of sense gasping for air. But it does illustrate that for true believers no evidence is sufficient to change their minds. In fact, any event can be altered and seen in the light of their deeply held beliefs.

This brings us back to Egypt in a round-about way. The calamitous failure of the Muslim Brotherhood to govern or advance Egypt is clear enough.  Perhaps this will decrease their popularity, or even discredit the idea of  religiously tinged governance. Perhaps the average man will conclude that sensible liberals with a secular bent should be given a chance. But that is unlikely. The immediate result of the MB failure will likely be the empowerment of even more narrowly religious groups. If the MB failed it was perhaps due to its insufficient ardor in religious matters. Or perhaps it was too easy on critics and allowed too much leeway for “destructive” opinions.  Events in of themselves do not discredit a governing elite. It is the existence of  a successful alternative that does so. If the capitalist West did not exist in freedom and prosperity next to the Communist East it is doubtful that Communism would have collapsed. There would have been nothing for people to compare their conditions to and no alternative to adopt. Failure can continue to fail in ever downward cycles. Success is not merely the failure of failure but the arduous process of building and persuading.

Islamist rule in Egypt will not truly and finally fail unless the people are shown a clear alternative and a proven success. The Islamists will not simply concede defeat and leave power. They will always insist that their program is valid and simply needs an ever stricter enforcement. This leaves us with the tantalizing thought of how to offer an alternative Egypt, what its shape and development should be and what relationship it will have to the failing Egypt.

The Egyptians will not develop a new Egypt without leaders not afraid to imagine it.

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