Too many cooks spoil the brouhaha

The International Herald Tribune Daily News

May 26 2011

Philip Whitfield


Elvis crooned: Wise men say only fools rush in …some things are meant to be. Are we to believe that villainy preordained Egypt’s crepuscule, a dark place? Or may we take heart that after the miscreants are culled the virtuous will open the windows to enlightenment?

Optimists like me prefer the latter. But we have to adopt new thinking. Which is why Egyptians shouldn’t shy away from putting their thinking caps on. The problem is that thinking aloud is fuelling dissent.

The Irish writer Brendan Behan said the first item on the agenda of any political party is the split. Apart from the fisticuffs after the First Conference of Egypt announced 124 names to ‘defend and continue the revolution’ there’s been a raging Twitter argument all week regarding Friday’s May 27th Tahrir demonstration.

One tweet: Mubarak and Adly must be executed for high treason after the civil suits are done with and we can get our hands on what was stolen from Egypt. Lest we forget, Mubarak and Adly killed more people in 18 days than Israel killed Palestinians in 40 days of ceaseless bombing.

Others are weighing up the pros and cons of another mass demonstration. Some say the army might crack down ruthlessly. Another quotes Malcolm X: If you’re not ready to die for it put the word freedom out of your vocabulary.

One important point being debated: elections are still a vague issue and not set. First prepare the land then cultivate (the philosopher’s tree of life).

Let’s step back. Civilization’s originators on the banks of the Nile bequeathed humankind with a methodology to grow thinking into scientific discovery. Look skywards. The moon appears to be the same size as the sun. But science took that unproven thought and established a rational argument that we believe even to this day that the sun (1.4 million km) is 400 times bigger than the moon (3,475 km). We can’t prove it for sure. But we can believe it based on the science to hand.

This interregnum between revolution and rebirth, between January 25 and the elections in September, is the opportunity to agree the truth.

People are questioning everything they believed previously. The stick in the water that appeared crooked yesterday was straight all the while, distorted when examined under water. Our collective vision was impaired by lies and deception. Barbarous solecism has made skeptics of all.

Today, we have the encouraging spectacle of people all over the country articulating their thoughts. In Maadi we hear a group bantering the pros and cons of this and that future for Egypt. We hear similar impromptu exchanges in Giza, Dokki and Mohandessin. No doubt you hear many more.

People are relishing their freedom to express themselves, without fear of being shut up in cells for daring to question the nobs. Rightfully, they discuss pragmatic ways to undo wrongs. They suggest new laws to be debated in assemblies. They want better wages, better housing, more food and more education for the kids.

The nation will be asked to find people to set the new course, the policymakers. Hopefully they will appoint bureaucrats to execute the mission with integrity. The Interior Ministry is already sacking its scallywags. Other ministries should clean out their smelly stables. New Egypt needs new cohabiters not autocratic, corrupt minister/minders. There can’t honestly be the same people making the regulations and regulating their own departments.

The new edifices should be built after society has established what is known for sure. Existentialists proclaim existence precedes essence: we are thrown into existence without a predetermined nature and only then do we construct our state through our actions. We are free to act independently. We create our own human nature through free choices. Think carefully what’s important to prevent the rogues returning.

We’re experiencing the limitations of public protest. January 25 was successful because the aim of removing the Mubarak regime was shared across the country. Everyone in Tahrir Square could show a shoe. The aims thereafter diverged, expressing views from right to left, from young to old, from poor to wealthy, from those of different religions and those with none. Their complaints and demands are critical to determining Egypt’s future.

The core of the new era must be agreement that tolerance is the essence of the revolution’s philosophy on which all other aspects of society can flourish.

The April 6 Youth Group and the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution who’ve called for mass demonstrations on Friday as a ‘second revolution’ withdrew from the three-day National Dialogue Conference the effort to draft a new constitution and to prepare for elections. They objected to the presence of some leaders from the deposed NDP as well as prominent figures from the previous regime. Some reports said former NDP actors were ejected.

This intolerance bodes ill. Cool it. There are too many cooks spoiling the broth. On Friday the gathering in Tahrir should not descend into name-calling. Tahrir Square is not a parliament. It’s a place to come together in solidarity to show the powers that be that vox populi is a force to be reckoned with. The April 6 Youth Group and the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution should re-request the people’s support. They can’t assume to have it. They should vote for a representative council. Then they can assert their influence on those who have taken it upon themselves to defend the revolution, not flounce away from the fray as they did from the First Conference of Egypt.

Choosing a representative council in Tahrir Square and giving them a mandate to consolidate their views is the political way forward. Neither should those who are so vociferous on the Internet shun the opportunity to join the council. Put up or shut up.

The multifarious views can be consolidated into demands by which candidates for office can be benchmarked. That way the Tahrir protesters will not be ignored. Friday’s demonstration should go ahead, proceeding with a definitive action plan that advances the process of democracy, not dissent.

Philip Whitfield is a Cairo-based writer. He can be reached at pjwcairo@yahoo.com or twittered @mohendessin

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