Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fata Morgana

We’re late in the fourth year of the Media-named Arab Spring as it touched Egypt. The popular uprising that resulted in Hosni Mubarak’s resignation began on January 25, 2011, in Tahrir square in Cairo. Since then Mubarak resigned  (February 11, 2011), Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, won the presidency (June 30, 2012); he was ousted from office after a year (July 3, 2013), replaced by Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (June 8, 2014) who, like Mubarak, is a general. Today the Egyptian court trying Mubarak for his crimes as a ruler dropped all charges against him, members of his family, and his top associates. The demonstrations that immediately erupted appear to have been put down promptly. And we’ve still nearly two months to go before the fourth year is over.

When Arab Spring began, The Guardian, in a February 5, 2011 story, had this to say (link):

25 January is a date that will be forever remembered in Egypt. That was the day when the Egyptian people decided to end the country’s last pharaonic dynasty with a people’s revolution. 

I genuinely wonder if that date will really be remembered—considering that this revolution withered on the vine—this despite the fact that for a brief spell the Muslim Brotherhood, which is at least in part representative of Egypt’s Muslim population (94.7% of total), succeeded in gaining but not in holding on to power. The “people’s revolution,” to use The Guardian’s words, represented a small portion of the 5.3 percent, with perhaps a few percent of secular Muslims thrown in.

The Guardian’s lead is the sort of thing that caught my eyes early on and caused me to keep following the twists and turns of this story since. I am no more fond of military dictatorship than the next guy, but what interests me is our own Western faith in the inevitability of Progress. It is that faith that labeled this whole affair an Arab Spring. It has turned out to be a kind of a mirage. And living now in what looks like the slow-motion shatter of democracy here—or its transmutation into something quite alien—makes the whole notion of “exporting democracy” to other totally unsuitable realms, like Afghanistan, seem so benighted. 

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