Egypt: Calls for Freedom

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Calls for freedom continue to echo from the streets of Egypt. Pride in being Egyptian shine on faces of people standing on the pavement. Raise your heads! You are Egyptian.

The Tamarod Campaign (Rebel) under the Kefaya movement has collected over 22 million signatures for the referendum of President Mohamad Morsy. Egypt demonstrated that while Morsy received 15 million in votes for his presidency, the people have now collected far more for his recall. 

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Millions gathered over days in the build up to June 30th, 2013 the anniversary of the presidency of Morsy and the party of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsy’s dismal attempt to quell the rising tide of discontent demonstrated only his complete failure to lead on the night of June 27th. The long-winded speech that ran 2 and half hours was shrill with accusations of enemies within and visible paranoia. Morsy’s failure to lead has led to a near failed state in Egypt in the wake of 2011’s momentous revolution thus precipitating the call for demonstrations on the 30th

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Comments outside of Egypt question – why are they demonstrating? Why push out the democratically elected president? The answer is not easy, or rather I should say the answer is easy, because Morsy has failed to deliver Egypt into a transition satisfactory to Egyptians. History has left a legacy of deep discontent reaching a miasma of hopelessness.  

One cannot emphasize enough the lasting impact of colonization worldwide. The colonial experiment in Africa and the Middle East region came late as the European forces carved out regions after the fall of the Ottoman Empire after 1919. Colonization came to an end in various parts most notably in the 1950s with Algeria’s ‘savage war for peace’ and independence. Colonization was followed by stabilizing dictatorships but did not push the regions towards democracy and freedoms. The Arab Spring in 2011 burst forth out of frustrations stemming from economic frustrations, not necessarily political ones. A new generation of educated youth entered into flattened economies with no hopes of rising honestly in the system as deep and abiding corruption permeates every corner of life. Discontent manifested in anger and the beginning of what Alain Badiou calls an Era of Riots. 

This brings us to June 30th, 2013. The Arab Spring calls for social justice, not democracy. This might be hard for those interested to understand – How could the demonstrators not be calling for democracy? Democracy is not the issue; freedom is the issue. Graham E. Fuller writes that the burning issue is “freedom from intrusive and neo-colonial policies of the West.” What does this mean? He contends that neo-imperialism through neocolonial policies have atrophied natural transitions to democracy. Fuller explains his argument on neo-imperialism:

“Neo-imperialism remains strong in the Muslim world for two reasons: because so much of the Muslim world possesses huge geostrategic importance due to energy sources and transportation routes, and precisely because it remains the last area where weak and pliable authoritarianism is the rule. Even through direct forms of foreign rule have long since faced, modern mechanisms include large US economic subsidies – particularly in Egypt – use of loan mechanisms controlled by the United States from the World Bank, military sales, diplomatic support, the presence of military bases, regular political intervention, manipulation of regional policies as pressure points, military threats, and near silence on violations of civil liberties and human rights in these states.”

Oligarchs profited off of neo-imperialism leaving the people behind. Counterproductive tactics over the years have led to anti-American sentiment, not uncommon in history. In Latin America, the Cold War era communist and guerilla movements were manifestations of this anger towards foreign political and economic manipulation. Today, as neocolonialism morphed into neoliberal policies (hands off approach to business dealings) Latin America feels the same frustrations as the Arab Spring, but specific to their histories. We are witnessing a push against the ties of neo-imperialism and neoliberal policies worldwide. And what is the American reaction? To one-degree frustrations rose briefly during the Occupy Movement, but America has yet to fully understand what is happening globally, the commonality both as participant and instigator.

Misunderstandings of the moment plague history, especially the West’s worldview. As I write here from Cairo, American knee-jerk reactions color and miss the mark on tides of violence. Reactions to the death of an inspiring American student in Alexandria killed while filming protests are met with embarrassing comments labeling protestors as ‘savages’. The tragedy of this student’s senseless death magnifies a number of problems, both as these protests unfold and as the world’s attention hones in on Egypt. The lived discontent from the peoples who demand freedom, how the world perceives those who demand freedom and the space in which thugs enter with brutality and a party’s conviction to hold power, inciting violence all converge and confuse.

We are always living in historical moments. This is not an Arab Spring; it is a Global Spring, a “Rebirth of History”. 

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