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Democracy? Not So Fast!

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Hey, I'm about the last guy in the world to rain on Egypt's parade. I love the place -- I used to live there. Its people are kind, smart, funny, hospitable, caring. The country has enormous potential. What that non-violent army of mostly young people achieved in Tahrir Square and elsewhere was straight out of the movies. Things like this aren't supposed to happen in real life.


But happen it did. Which means that after a couple of days of whatever wild brand of euphoria they choose, the brave folks who dumped Hosni Mubarak and his entire entourage have a nation to build. And huge problems to solve.


Even seen from 30,000 feet, those problems look daunting enough. Forty per cent of Egyptians live below the poverty line. University graduates are driving taxis and many haven't ever had a job -- or even a job interview --using the skillsets they acquired at University.


Many smart young people who have the airfare have fled to Europe and the US.


Government-sponsored children's education is a travesty. Schools without books. Underpaid, under-qualified teachers. Public health care underfunded and under-staffed for years. Unemployment   officially at nine per cent and change; unofficially, closer to 50 per cent.


The concentration of wealth is mind-boggling: The wealthiest five per cent of Egyptians control an overwhelming part of the nation's wealth. Forty per cent of the rest of the country lives below the poverty line. The divide between the super-rich and the super-poor is a gaping chasm. Corruption -- both petty corruption and big ticket corruption -- is ubiquitous. It prices ordinary people out of normal living and makes Egyptian businesses embarrassingly uncompetitive with the rest of the world.


Issue by issue, Egypt's new government, when it appears, is going to have to tackle all these problems in some kind of priority order. But even before that happens, there is a problem that needs to be -- and can be -- tackled beginning right now. That is not to say it's an easy problem to solve, because solving it is going to require a change in behavior, a change in culture -- and cultural changes are the most difficult to effect and take the longest amount of time to bear fruit.


The problem is police brutality. And the State-sanctioned impunity that accompanies it. It shows its ugly face at many levels of "law enforcement." It is counter-productive. It puts Egypt's most sadistic, misanthropic, and mentally ill people in positions of power where they can exercise their life-threatening skills with total impunity.


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WILLIAM FISHER Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)
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