Mass protest in Egypt is set to realize its first goal of ousting Hosni Mubarak from power after the despot of Tunisia was kicked out couple of weeks ago. A close look into the political set-up is necessary to address the constraints on individual liberty, democracy and the stifling social-economic inequity. Otherwise, this political uprising may subside without achieving any meaningful and lasting result. It would be a monumental waste if oppression and misery continue unabated.
The government failed to become the engine for progress of society. The over-bearing patriarchs lost every war they fought but displayed modernity mainly through brand new weapons of coercion acquired by pimping themselves to international feuds. Modern education did not guarantee jobs. The State, the only major employer, carefully produced and hired co-conspirators for its devious interests. State function was reduced to plunder and torture of the majority, while favor and rewards belonged to few. Corruption became the rule.
Thomas Paine, the author of the famous Common Sense, who gained a reputation in political science and had the pseudonym of ’Plain Truth’, said, “Government, in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
President Obama suggested to longtime US ally Mubarak that Egypt announce reforms and restrain from brutality against protesters. Israel expressed concern for their treaty and arrangements with the Egyptian government.
The Egyptian military was sent to the streets after the civil administration surrendered and policemen joined protesters. News suggested that Islamic terrorists broke out of prison and that the Muslim Brotherhood is set to take advantage of the political unrest. Though, the present uprising started as a result of Facebook, Twitter and SMS (Short Message Service) interactions instead of calls from the mosque or pulpit, a regression into religious-fascism is an active threat to progress in Muslim countries.
Crushed between the threat of regression, and the brutal force of status-quo marked by tanks rolling on the streets, the Egyptian uprising has the potential to break out of the hold that chokes their freedom, progress and prosperity. Presenting them as the progressive option to fallen monarchy in Egypt, army officers took over the state.
After taking over from General Naguib, Nasir got dams and the basic infrastructure built. The military-elite saved governance for themselves and elections were cautiously administered to uphold power. Sadaat and Mubarak belonged to the military. After Mubarak sacked his cabinet the other day in an effort to quell street protests, he announced his new vice-president and prime minister, who both served in the military.
A nation-state, propelled by the spirit of freedom and dignity through self-governance, remains a wonderful idea until the ruling elite acquire monopoly over power. The exploitation of national resources and amassing of wealth by the rulers intensifies poverty. Besides keeping their subjects miserable, hurting, hungry, angry and weak, spreading ignorance through disinformation is another necessary tool of oppression.
Elite rulers advance their capability to commit brutal oppression by acquiring lethal weapons from competing international suppliers. Military power is deemed important for achieving foreign policy goals, but, it has perpetuated military’s domination over state, oppressed citizens, usurped democracy and mutilated justice.
Contrary to Lenin’s assertion that imperialism is the highest form of capitalism, Joseph Schumpeter observed that imperialism is a feudal trait that survived through capitalism. The $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia is an example of greed from the Dark Ages. Equipping unrepresentative regimes with excessive weaponry without a hint of guilt or remorse is more than insensitivity. It is a crime because it provides for repression and genocide.
If these nation states were supplied with education, health care, rule of law and policing in the same measure weapons were sold to them, and a check on representative democracy and humane systems was placed, civilization might have seen some progress out of this fatal weapon-trap. The concept of power has changed from brute, absolute-force to intelligent resource-utilization but this change has yet to manifest itself in world affairs.
Pakistan had a surplus budget since its inception in 1947 until 1960. The economy took a downward slide after the government purchased hundreds of fighter jets, tanks etc. While the military, the biggest exploiter of state’s resource, is reportedly engaged in rapid production of nuclear bombs, “We’re seeing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions right now. Millions of children are greatly at risk from malnutrition. Babies are dying and mothers are at risk of dying during childbirth.” said Kristen Elsby, the Chief of Communication, UNICEF Pakistan, in news reported last week.
Connection between military-building and oppressive domination is common knowledge though importance of guarding geographic territory is a noble cause nonetheless. Besides senseless spending on building a monster that causes massive starvation, there are other models ranging from no standing army to an army of conscripts. Reducing the size and effect of the army is the soul of democratic struggle in Pakistan and it might be the case in Egypt as well.
Coming back to the events in Egypt, the bipolar play of oppression between the Military and the Islamists should not strangulate the noble aspirations for democracy, freedom and justice. Constitutional measure could be placed for protection of free speech and minorities. Spreading violent hatred must be punished. Islamists cannot contain the spread of education. Only democracy that allows contradictory points of view to co-exist peacefully and a state that upholds rule of law through adequate enforcement and easy access to justice can elevate people out of darkness. Peace can only flow outwards into the world if it resides healthily within.
“Belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man.” – Thomas Paine
(Cover Photo: Khaled Desouki, AFP / Getty Images)