Winston Churchill once famously remarked that “dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount.” The logic being, of course, that if they were to dismount, the tiger would then eat them and pad off into the night while stifling a burp. So its no wonder dictators tend to hold onto the saddle for dear life.
Seeing a steedless Hosni Mubarak wheeled into court on a stretcher which was then placed in a cage comes as quite a shock. Far from the strongman who has ridden the proverbial tiger for decades on end, the Mubarak we saw could not have given an anaemic kitten a run for its money. Unsurprisingly, the mood in Egypt seems to be a mixture of joy and disbelief.
Indeed, the ripples from Mubarak’s humiliation extend far beyond Egypt. Dictators like Bashar al-Assad and Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, who have much more blood on their hands, must be certainly watching — although it’s anyone’s guess as to whether this display would cause them to bend or simply make them hold onto power with an even tighter grip. And I’m sure the House of Saud would have felt a jitter at seeing their long-time ally brought so low. In the globally telecast match of Mubarak vs the People, it’s clearly the people who have won. Or have they?
Mubarak may be in the dock, but the regime he built is still very much in place and in power. Take the supreme council of the armed forces of Egypt, the guys who are currently calling the shots. These are the same generals who enjoyed their share of the booty during the Mubarak years. They represent a whole cadre that was nurtured under his rule and, lest we forget, did not abandon their leader until it seemed that anarchy and civil war was imminent. Even then, they would undoubtedly have let him slip away into obscurity had the people not kept up the pressure. Currently, they’re the ones ruling the roost, despite the rhetoric about the people’s victory.
And what of the policemen who actually committed the crimes that Mubarak stands accused of sanctioning? Well, they’re all still gainfully employed and, despite the protests of those who suffered under their batons, bullets and cattle prods, no purge has taken place to cleanse the ranks.
It’s not all doom and gloom of course, the judge presiding over the case has a history of handling cases that made the Mubarak regime uncomfortable even when the pharaoh still ruled. But he is an exception in a system that is still very much operating as it used to.
Part of this is the inherent problem with revolutions. Unless the revolution is complete, as with the Chinese, Cuban or Bolshevik revolutions, the remnants of the ancient regime stay in power even if the titular head (and face) of that regime has been removed. Of course, the top to bottom purge that those types of revolutions entail carries its own dangers, leaving the country itself vulnerable in some cases. Many more times, the revolutionaries prove themselves more vicious and depraved than the regimes they overthrew. Certainly, this is not something anyone without a vested interest in chaos wanted to see in Egypt.
So while we may rejoice at seeing the mighty brought low (schadenfreude isn’t just for the Germans you know), and may join the Egyptians in their moment of catharsis, we should also realise that the revolution is far from over.
The establishment is banking on the staying power of the people to exhaust itself, hoping that the ceremonial humbling of Mubarak will satiate the masses so that they can resume business as usual. There may be cause to celebrate in the future, but for now, it seems the tiger has thrown the pharaoh to the wolves and continues to roam free. The only one I see in a cage is Mubarak.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2011.
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What does this Arab Spring portend for the people of Egypt? What are their demands?
1.) They want democracy but not equal rights for women. 2.) They more islamization and not less. 3.) They are not looking for secular government and they are not supporting separation of mosque and the state. 4.) They are looking for more anti-Americanism to be shown by their government. 5.) They want their government to be more hostile towards Israel. They want to scrap whatever agreements they have with US and Israel.
If Egypt goes the Indonesia way, then it would be better for its people. But, it seems more headed the Iran or Pakistan way.
I guess, Egyptians would be only too willing to settle for another dictator, provided the new one checks all the above boxes and also scores high in the anti-US and anti-Israel barometer..
All the trouble, all the peril, everyone suffers, everywhere in the world is of their own making. The recipe to steer clear of such troubles is there for everyone to take but hardly anyone shows by their deeds to be prepared to take the trouble of following that recipe. So who is to blame? The blame lies squarely with the people. The people everywhere in the world including the people in the USA who also see the broad daylight robbery of their hard earned tax dollars but never bother to organise to stop it. There are lessons in history to be learned for all, but do we care. The lesson to learn, from those who took up the recipe of becoming winners and went on to win, win and win. From nothing they became something and then their descendends became nothing again from being something, for abandoning the recipe of becoming winners. We love to be losers. Do we not? We certainly do. If we wanted to become winners would we not be following into the footsteps of those who became winners through their good and thoughtful deeds. Do we want change? We need to change our bad habits first. Bad habits stop us to unite and organise. Good habits take us on the path to unity, co-operation, self help and organisation. Any people coming together thus will certainly become winners. Have we not tried all other recipe and saw failures? So why not try the tried and tested recipe. A recipe of success. Who has to try? People. All people. People will remain slaves for as long as they do not get involved themselves. Leaving those matters that affect us people into the hands of Chaudhrees, leaders, political parties is the worst thing we people do. We must stop it and come together to work together. Work together to organise a party of the people, by the people, for the people, in control of the people. All people.
Things as shown in public are sometimes not real but fabricated to cool down the temperature of public. As Mr. Hosni Mubarak has ruled his country for more than thirty years and never annoyed Americans, Israilis and Saudi Arabia by any of his actions. Thus his actions/crimes against his own people do not carry any importance for Americans/Israilis, further, money looted by him should also be deposited or invested in Western countries then how shall he be punished and for what purpose. Just after leaving his office he has been declared seriously sick, further, shown on stretcher might attract some sympathies from public. The Military Generals continue to rule the country and this process might prolong for years till public is tired and busy in their affairs. Egyptians have not seen a single day of democracy in their history. Country is quite rich due to its resources but always ruled by corrupts and thus the common men remains always poor and deprived of necessities. The same story every where in Muslim countries except a few now.
Hm. But perhaps taming the tiger would be a more effective way of achieving stability in any case? Already, there is a vacuum when it comes to leadership in the country - a purge of civil and military institutions may create far too much space to fill, in far too little time.
People are the same...faces are different. The process of democracy takes decades and generations to acheive. The first step has to be taken. Egypt has a long and hard battle to fight but it must remain on the right tract. During his 30 years Mubarak made sure their was no Opposition party. As a result there are no leaders in Egypt who can take the country forward. I hope and pray the current army rulers think and act in the best interest of the country and not in their best interest. I will be watching.