As Egypt elects a new president, Eihab Boraie looks into the current zeitgeist that's redefining, blurring and downright deleting important terms from our political lexicon.
The Egyptian vernacular is laced with words that the majority of people are uncomfortable with and thus attempt not to use. Instead, they try to redefine words that have clear meaning and mix them up until they are muddier than the Nile. Words like Bread, Freedom and Social Justice have been gutted of all their beautiful worth and meaning. While words like Coup, Massacre and Fascism are repackaged into a jagged pill that the voting majority seem willing to accept and voluntarily ingest. How did we get to become a nation that chooses to accept to live with such destructive words, while ignoring all the important constructive words that could build a new country to be proud of?
Bread; the dream of ending hunger and improving life for all. However, in present day Egypt, Egyptians are coming to terms, but are yet to be shocked, by the end of subsidies. The IMF demands it, and with all the debts Egypt incurred since January 25th 2011, Egypt simply can’t afford to keep them. Which is why, the government is introducing smart cards for each subsidy, in attempt to soften the financial sudden impact. Soon we will all be allotted less bread, gas, and energy for higher prices. Somehow this reality has become acceptable for a majority of Egyptians who likely gave up the fight for bread around the same time they got used to daily power outages.
Freedom; the dream of having the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to protest. Now in Egypt, it’s hard to know what freedoms are left. I learnt firsthand yesterday that we are no longer allowed to film in Tahrir. For months, journalists have become used to the idea of self-censoring themselves in order to avoid ending up a hashtag. Revolutionary leaders that Egyptians once stood alongside silenced, imprisoned, and forgotten. Protest bans placed and the definition of terrorists broadened. Somehow this reality became acceptable for a majority Egyptians who likely sacrificed their freedoms for a false sense of security. Truth is thousands have been killed, tens of thousands imprisoned, while bombings continue to increase.
Social Justice; The dream of finally having accountability and fair justice for all. Today our justice system is slow, inconsistent, and often absurd. With a prison population that continues to grow every day, there aren’t enough judges and lawyers in all of Egypt to provide for adequate justice system. In the span of a day, a judge feels that justice is served by sentencing over 500 to death, only to set precedent for more the mass sentencings. It is understandable that there are terrorists in Egypt, and that they deserve to be dealt with to the full extent of the law, but at the same time they still deserve a basic human right for a fair trial. There is no possible way a lawyer could provide any sort of defense on the behalf of over 500 individuals in a day. The time it would take just to name all the defendants full names would last as long as a day. Morsi being found guilty and sentenced to life or death is as likely as Sisi winning the election in the 90th percentile. While Mubarak, who is equally as guilty or even more so is given three years in prison. Somehow this reality became acceptable for a majority of Egyptians who were willing to turn a blind eye to justice praying they would never have to seek or need it.
Coup d’etat; Sudden overthrow, often violent, of an existing government by a group of conspirators. Coups are most common in countries with unstable governments and in countries with little experience of successful democracy. This is the unedited definition of a coup d’etat, however in present day Egypt, any use of the word is considered an attack on the state. In an attempt to redefine the word Egyptians have taken to adding the word popular ahead of coup, as if that is enough to change its meaning. It is true that the overthrow of Morsi was a popular decision that had widespread support, but it is still a coup. Somehow this reality became acceptable for a majority of Egyptians when the Brotherhood seeked pharaonic powers and decided to follow policies that benefit their organisation and not the whole country.
Massacre; The violent killing of many people. A definition that doesn’t leave much room to redefine, but Egyptians do anyway. What happened at Port Said, Maspero, Raba'a, and El-Nahda are all massacres, but using this word in the media can lead to detention. Each of these events have polarised the nation, and instead of calling it what it is, we have been trained to forget them as road bumps on the road to democracy. Instead of massacres, we are told to believe they were necessary actions. Yes, there were a few armed people who were in these places looking to become martyrs, but a majority of the lives lost were not terrorists, but merely mobilised citizens. Somehow this reality became acceptable for a majority of Egyptians when the Brotherhood threatened the state with violence and followed through with arson, attacks, and bombings.
Fascism; A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, suppressing opposition and criticism, demphasising an aggressive nationalism. By definition we are complicit in allowing, and if Egyptians elect Sisi, way maybe well on the way to a real fascist state. Sisi has made it public that: “There will be nothing called a Muslim Brotherhood during my tenure.” When you couple these statements with the all the violent actions and mass sentences that have transpired since June 30th, one can assume that Sisi is a fascist by definition. Egyptians can try to redefine it as Sisi being a strong half-man half-lion that Egypt needs, but is still isn’t enough to change the meaning of fascism. Maybe the world would be a more peaceful place if every country eradicated religious extremists, but ultimately that would only lead to more conflict, and another unfortunate word that many would prefer to avoid…Genocide. Somehow this reality became acceptable for a majority of Egyptians when the only other option to the military was the Brotherhood. There mismanagement of the state was enough to whip everyone back in line, as a majority of Egyptians would prefer to return to the corrupt but functioning Mubarak state.
If Egyptians are serious with moving forward and stabilising the country, then they will have to get used to accepting these words for what they mean. Progress is unobtainable when we choose to ignore reality and pretend or redefine words that matter. Simply put, if we ever expect to have Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice then we will need to address Coup, Massacres, and Fascism directly.