Stealing The Revolution

John Kerry, a sober and thoughtful scion of American governance, could not have gauged the reaction to his comment that the “Muslim Brotherhood stole the Egyptian revolution”. In reality stealing this revolution is not grand theft, or even petty larceny, but the pick-pocketing of dreams and illusions. But if we are to draw attention to one theft we might go further and mention others, even if we can not hope to make more than a partial and paltry list.

Removing President Morsi from power is a theft of an election. But before his supporters smile with smug satisfaction, let us point out that he took his razor thin majority and his historic responsibility and fenced them for a favorable position for his friends and in-laws, collectively known as the Muslim Brotherhood. The sins of the first president of the second republic are small compared with those of the second president of the first republic. Nasser pocketed the affection and grand dreams of his countrymen to build a pyramid scheme of vanity. His predecessors were not innocent either. The political leaders of the “liberal age” gambled the hopes of Egyptians for a modern nation in a losing roulette against a variety of small bore fascists, both religious and otherwise. But the list of larcenous leaders would not be complete without mention of Khedive Ismael and his Gido, Muhammad Ali.  Ismael stole the proceeds of the Suez canal, dug with the labor of Egyptians at the behest of clever Europeans, to build grand palaces with marbled floors and posh Opera houses with plush carpeting. These edifices would only be admired from afar by the vast majority of Egyptians, who could not dare to enter or despoil them with their perennially bare feet. Muhammad Ali stole the dreams of modernizing Egypt, and indeed possibly the entire region, to pay for his personal imperial project. Nor are leaders the only thieves in this history.  Most of the intellectual leaders of Egypt wasted their time in frivolous disputes rather than present a workable vision to Egyptians in their cultural vernacular. The religious and social leaders took the honor bestowed on them by their fellows and followers and lost it in decades-long cowardly retreat against forces of ignorance and reaction. Arguably all of Egypt has mortgaged its promise to pay for its fears and insecurities. Even the act of making a catalog of these thefts is itself an act of theft; stealing time from more pleasurable pursuits in a vain attempt to draw the attention of those who no longer trouble themselves to read or bother to listen.

The majority of Egyptians like to think of Egypt as their mother. It is a proposition that grows dubious with trenchant analysis. But even if the myth is to be believed, the conclusion must be that Egypt is a bad mother, secreting the inexplicably deep love of her children and offering disappointment in return, sending many of them scurrying away from her sandpaper bosom.

— Maged Atiya



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