Egypt is the land where the authorities are engaged in business as usual, even though the country has reached another boiling point.
When contemplating the state of affairs, one might recall the days of Marie Antoinette, when the rulers were completely out of touch with the grievances of the “common people.” But this comparison isn’t a total fit – the current rulers in Egypt were witnesses to a huge popular explosion just two years ago, and even played a reluctant part in it. Now, they appear to be oblivious to the notion of popular anger, even though they benefited from it so well themselves.
The authorities in Egypt should be engaged in examining the reasons for the unrest that is shaking the country, and reconsidering the policy moves that have been made. Instead, the Muslim Brotherhood is busy looking for new ways to increase its grip over key state institutions, even though it was this very behavior that has contributed to what the world is seeing today.
People have every right to take to the streets peacefully and express their outrage, and the authorities should remember that this doesn’t come without costs. The large number of man hours that have been lost to the protests are another step on the road to bankrupting the Egyptian economy, which is already reeling under the burden of having to recover from the original wave of unrest that toppled the Mubarak regime.
It’s a country where 40 percent of the population lives on $2 a day and where painful, unpopular economic measures are being prepared. It’s a place where foreign reserves and foreign investment are under threat, and a resource-rich country faces the prospect of begging the international community for its livelihood. A “hunger revolution,” which will sweep everything from its path, is a distinct possibility.
And despite all of this, the authorities act as if they have received a blank check to carry out sweeping changes to Egyptian society. But after January 2011, the genie is out of the bottle. Irrespective of the new regime’s eventual success in placing the army, police and other bodies under full Brotherhood control, people will continue to take to the streets. Young people, women and the Copts – three key segments of Egyptian society – will continue to use every peaceful weapon at their disposal to fight back. Some voices have even been heard, demanding that the army reassert its control over the political situation, which is an indication of how much the original uprising, which was undertaken as a protest against military rule, has gone sour.
Egyptians deserve much better after all of their suffering and sacrifice, and they are now on the verge of erupting again, against a new kind of dictatorship. If the authorities continue to conduct business as usual it will only make conditions worse, and lead to the type of explosion whose consequences are truly unpredictable.