From Maspero to Port Said.The Endless Cycle of Violence.

(AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Clashes, death, anger and tear gas. This is the endless cycle of violence that engulfs Egypt these days. The rotten regime of Mubarak has eroded the entire foundation of Egyptian society and left a country with weak fabrics fixed with cement as dodgy as that used in many of Cairo’s sore-eye tower blocks.

What the regime left behind is a base that is not easy to eradicate nor suitable for repair. Mubarak’s men are not those “Felool” who everybody talks about. As a matter of fact, we all are in one way or another Mubarak’s men and women.  We grew up inhaling his poisonous air and following his pathological mind. We learned not to take responsibility for our own actions and shout “conspiracy” every time we face troubles. It seems the entire world is conspiring against us from the kingdom of Middle Earth to the mountain of Zion, at least, that is how it feels.

The Port Said tragedy is a clear example of how Egyptians failed to abandon Mubarak’s approach towards life and politics. Rather than sharing the blame (the fans, security forces and political leadership), many opted for the easy option, pointing their fingers at an illusive entity: ‘Mubarak’s men” (the Felool).

No one wanted to admit the unpalatable fact that hooliganism is not just among football supporters (the Ultras) but a general attitude that has risen sharply within society.

It is true that the lack of accountability and credibility that marked Mubarak’s rule has continued after his fall. The trail of events from Maspero to Port Said shared many similarities, mainly the failure to bring those responsible to justice and the inclination to initiate any reforms within the security service. However, there are several other factors behind these that contributed to the repetitive pattern:

First, loss of police respect and deterrence; Fear has been replaced by a deep desire for revenge and settling old scores. Even if  the police interfered in Port Said to restore law and order (which indeed they should have done), they would probably have faced by strong resistance and even bloody confrontations.  In the current climate, the police would be doomed regardless.

Second, insults become the norm among a wide spectrum of the society. Even among the so-called Islamists. Being religious doesn’t necessarily means good manners these days. Football matches are  feasts for the insults dictionary, where opposing fans take pride in provoking each other.  But once law and order disintegrate, insults could simply be fatal.

Third, and perhaps the most important one is the Leadership failure.  Other than poetic anger, pointing fingers and assigning blame, the newly elected (and politically novice) parliamentary members have failed to provide any solution or road map out of the current crisis. These parties are no less autocratic than Mubarak’s regime and have a sacred respect for their own chain of command. No wonder they view the world only from the prism of their parties’ interests.

Other political figures’ and groups’ responses were also disappointing, from ElBaradei who is literally sulking in a corner, to the non- Islamists who failed to rise to the occasion by offering any vision or plan.

Fourth, the activists: it was alarming to see the lack of desire from within the activist groups to address the violent attitude of the demonstrators or the futility of the uncontrolled rage. The clashes stopped only when the anger was finally drained, but it can be easily reignited at any time.

The recent cycle of violence begs the question; will the end of military rule end the violence and bring back stability to Egypt or have we passed the point of no return?

There is no doubt that the badly managed transitional period has contributed immensely to the current volatile atmosphere in Egypt. The military council has lost its respected status and grace, and it is time for them to leave power and return to their barracks.

However, there is a serious risk that the end of military rule alone might not be enough to defuse the current convulsive situation. A civilian president may indeed face the same fate as Tantawi, unless:

1- Police reforms start immediately to achieve law and order but with transparency and accountability. It is not a tick box exercise, it actually may take years.

2- Egyptians should give any new government a chance- a period between 6- 12 months- before judging its performance. No government can work under the continuous pressure of sit–ins, strikes and violent disruptions.

3-  Activists need to learn that blind rage is futile, that the fight against tyranny needs a calm mind and proper planning. Reflection on practice is not a sign of weakness , but a sign of strength.

4- Islamists need to understand that they can not have their cake and eat it too. Their defensive actions while gloating about their parliamentary majority do not add up.

5- There is no place for conspiracy theories in the new Egypt. The revolution has gradually turned into a sick soap opera, in which we are trying to uncover plots and find the perpetrators.

Conspiracies are like bugs; they only invade weak bodies. It is about time to build a strong society and stop using conspiracies as a scapegoat for our troubles.

We have to stop the little Mubarak inside us and put an end to his self-righteous attitude, his desire to dominate others and his rejection of rational thinking. Only then will the revolution prevail.

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
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5 Responses to From Maspero to Port Said.The Endless Cycle of Violence.

  1. Yossif Brodsky, poet and Nobel laureate who lived in the Soviet Union and then moved to the US, wrote that nothing good will come out of Russia because Soviet man was corrupted by the regime. He was, in my mind, wrong. I hope Egyptians can overcome the chaos there. Still, unless there is there a strong government, it would be hard to see the protests ending.


  2. Joseph Khoury says:

    Reading your article made me so projecting it to our situation in Lebanon. In Egypt you are talking about a little Mubarak in every new comer probably and we have a little Hariri in every new governor in Lebanon!
    The hegemony and corporate corrupted mentality of Hariri’s era, left a system that no matter how much you try to reform is so immune to any change.
    At the end of the day and long time in Islamic history, someone said “kama takounou youwalla 3aleykoum” and recently in my country in Nov 2004 when everybody was questioning the “dream comes true” Syrian withdrawal, a leader said to the Lebanese people: “you must believe in your free country from today’s on and Syrian are leaving very soon, but also you have to be prepared for the more difficult battle, which is the liberation of yourselves”.
    Gosh how much those two sayings with centuries time difference describe accurately our Arabic world?
    Thanks for your article and
    God bless.


  3. I agree Egypt has big problems with allocating blame on hidden hands and conspiracies. I also agree that without confronting problems head on, we can’t begin to solve them. However, it is clear that the majority of blame in this case rests squarely on the shoulders of military SCAF who have failed to provide basic security and regardless if they were part of conspiracy or not, as you rightly states reform, rebuilding of Egyptian Police was a task they failed to tackle. Parliament is responsible, Ikhwan worked with SCAF to come up with strange election rules that were biased against the activists and the result is a Parliament that is weak and unrepresentative.


  4. edwebb says:

    I find much of this persuasive. I would add two more points to your list, though.

    First, education needs a major and progressive overhaul. If Egyptians are to become responsible, active citizens of a democracy they will need the mental and cultural tools to achieve this. Those who get a privileged education, often in foreign-language institutions, are equipped with the knowledge and critical thinking tools to achieve this. But they are a minority. Public education needs to change radically.

    Secondly, the mass media also needs to eliminate its ‘Mubaraks’ within, both in the minds and practices of journalists, presenters etc, and second in the bureaucratic structures that encourage conformity with the wishes of the powerful and punish independent reporting and opinion.

    If SCAF wanted to prepare the way for democracy, it should have started these projects long before now. But it is not too late for the Parliament and the coming (we hope) civilian government to engage seriously with these issues.


    • nervana111 says:

      Thank you for this insightful comment. Totally agree with you. Actualyy I raised the education in a previous piece ” Egypt revisited,” It certainly a critical issue that need many reforms.


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