There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that we, the Egyptian people, have been outwitted.
There are very few moments in time that decide the course of history. They come every 50 years, once a century, or even further apart. Our generation’s Moment was January 25, 2011. A critical build-up of recent events amassed the emotions of an already seething Egyptian population and our Moment was born. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets for 18 days…blah blah blah… We all know the story. And we know the ugliness that followed.
Providence gave us a moment because we were able to unite as a people when it really mattered. We saw our chance and held onto it for a full 18 days. And that’s why the story ends there. If a Moment is to truly change the course of history, its people must hold onto it and never let it go. We let go after 18 days and went back to our old ways of conniving, distrusting, and power struggling.
Egyptians are a nation of people who pride themselves on their street smarts. We are witty, we drive a hard bargain, and we have our eyes on you. That is what we’ll tell you. Don’t believe it. The reality is that we are very easily deceived. All it takes is for our “opponent” to treat us as if he believes we’re as smart as we think we are.
We insisted on deposing Mubarak. Mubarak “stepped down”. We may never know if he did this completely willingly or if the army dealt a heavy hand. The latter seems a tad more likely. There was a situation that needed to be contained. And there was an opportunity – perhaps – that was ripe for the taking.
We insisted on elections. We got them. The Brotherhood and the remnants of Mubarak’s dissolved National Democratic Party had a strong enough infrastructure and support on the ground to produce two strong candidates. All other parties and groups completely failed to unite. It was almost inevitable. And someone had the insight to know it.
In elections, the majority of voters chose the Brotherhood to take Parliament and to take the presidency. It was only a matter of time. As the days and the weeks went by; as the police, the army, and the judiciary made sure to support a state of chaos and insecurity on the ground; as the Brotherhood made one major fuck-up after another; the Egyptian people grew weary and wary. It was almost inevitable. And someone had the insight to know it.
If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call?
Why, the Egyptian military, of course.
Egyptians had reached a stage of exhaustion, frustration, and fed-upedness with the Brotherhood plus the general state of affairs that they were in need of a hero. We are a nation of people who glorify heroes. We always have. We glorify our ancestors. We glorify our parents. We glorify our presidents and leaders. We glorify our religious scholars. And almost above all else, we glorify our warriors.
And a hero we were given. Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, rose from the ashes of the Brotherhood in all his Nasser-like glory and promised the Egyptian people heaven. With the help of a propaganda machine that has a thorough understanding of the Egyptian mind-set, we groveled at Sisi’s feet with utmost sincerity.
In he dashed with his heavy artillery and rid us of our “enemy”. And we danced and sang. Anyone who made enough trouble for Al-Sisi to notice him was thrown in jail. No more troubles. The Egyptian people were fed up with trouble. Al-Sisi was here to restabilize our country. And as we rejoiced, we found ourselves convinced that we wanted him to stay.
And thus, despite growing numbers of educated and very talented Egyptians (we say of ourselves that if an Egyptian goes to work and learn abroad he reaches the highest levels of that society); despite a sort of an underlying desire of the Egyptian people to have a democracy; despite our “street smarts”; because of our still high levels of illiteracy and close-mindedness to the world; because of a lacking understanding of democratic process; because of our short sightedness; because of our impatience; and because of our naivety; we find that we removed one military leader only to grovel and bring another in his place.
We all keep asking ourselves: Where did we go wrong? What were the alternatives? What are the alternatives now?
If you ask me, I’d say that when the non-Brotherhood non-NDP parties failed to come together in a real united front, it was then that we lost our Revolution. But certainly there are many more terribly complex factors that led us to where we are now.
In the end, our biggest mistake was letting go of our Moment in our jubilation of deposing one man. For it was not merely one man most of us were revolting against. We were revolting against a regime. We were revolting against oppression. We were revolting against corruption. We let go of our Moment before any of that was even addressed. And that is when we were at our weakest as a people: in our strongest Moment.
It takes very little insight to see that our generation has lost its chance. It may take another 20, 50, or 100 years for a new history-changing moment to arrive in Egypt. All I can say is that if we’re not here when it comes, our children will be. And all I can hope is that when it does come, we will have learned our lesson and we will hold onto that moment for dear life and never ever let it go.