For those interested in how governments fall, events in Cairo are inspiring and informative. The staid, stolid and corporate/government-owned Western media were unprepared for reporting there and remain incapable of interpreting the popular uprising in Egypt.
Events over the past two weeks in Egypt have been decades in the making, and are founded on a long history of human resistance to regime thuggery, ranging from passive survival, quiet discussions, and emigration to the acutely violent. As is the way of all dictatorships, Mubarak's rule has concentrated and abused the country's wealth, grown a massive military, made unpopular entangling alliances abroad, developed an intricate and well-funded set of domestic surveillance and policing capabilities, built many prisons, imprisoned many people, obsessed over border security, and strangely, suffers creative breaches of that border security.
Oh, my. No wonder the overall picture is hard for American state media to report. The very portrait of modern Mubarak-era Egypt -- and what is happening to it -- is telling. Of course, recent global inflation in food and energy sectors has exacerbated dissatisfaction with the regime. Oops.
Egypt's public and peaceful rejection of Mubarak is said to have been sparked in part, not by self-immolations of angry and frustrated Egyptians and Tunisia's success in driving out Ben Ali, but by a short, honest, compelling video by a young Egyptian girl, Asmaa Mahfouz, who decided to assert her natural rights, in the great tradition of peaceful withdrawal of support for dictators and their gangs advocated by St. Augustine, Etienne de la Boetie, Thoreau, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King.
As Lew Rockwell points out, these protests began on National Police Day," a recently Mubarak-declared holiday "celebrated" on January 25th.
The optimistic and those who love freedom share the joy of the long-frustrated Egyptians of all religions and at all economic levels. But if we share their joy, we necessarily are rejecting -- perhaps uncomfortably -- our very own Washington, D.C. ruling elite, which has done everything it can to maintain Mubarak in power for three decades. This same elite, Republican and Democrat in lockstep for five decades, has fostered a variety of prefabricated, unnecessary and expensive wars, created a war machine that gulps the wealth of this country, promoted and benefited from central bank policies that have wasted the middle class, as they are destroying both the very old and the very young in America. Given these unfortunately undisputable facts, Egypt's example of people rising up for freedom and dignity should shame Americans in more ways than one.
There are other ways of viewing the people's rejection of the Egyptian state. While the Egyptian military has exhibited a kind of solidarity with the people thus far, Mubarak has unleashed police, provocateurs, and his U.S. (and U.S. allies) have provided weaponry designed to be used against protesters and unarmed people in the streets. Certainly, as sides are taken, the side of human dignity and freedom is not the side associated with United States and her allies. Neoconservatives perched in American media and policy corridors are screeching in full-on panic, what will happen to US interests if Muslim people are determined to have self-rule? It's not like the American governing elites haven't thought of this before in the Middle East, with an open history of attempted coups, pastel "democratic" revolutioneering, purchasing loyalty though cash and promises, and that failing, invasion and installation of our favored leaders -- all because people, in particular Muslims, simply are not trusted to do America's bidding.
Israel in particular is worried -- the undersea gas pipeline from Cairo that supplies a third of its domestic energy, already unpopular amongst energy-starved Egyptians, is one thing; inspiring Muslims to assert human rights and dignity is another arrow that may strike close to home.
Iran's Shia mullahcracy is concerned at a genuine popular uprising in the neighborhood, as are other presidents for life with U.S. backing in Africa. Thus, we see the real dividing line in politics, not left or right, religious or secular -- but state power versus the people who are -- under threat of imprisonment, state-induced war or shortages, and state terrorism -- forced to subsidize that power.
We may safely view recent events in Egypt as a living revelation that the U.S. government stands shamefully in a nasty group of "governments," that includes the unelected and unpopular religious government of Iran, the corrupt state capitalism of China, the elected warmongerers in nationalist Israel, and many less important dictators in Africa and East Asia. The Egyptian people, on many levels, have pulled away the curtain, revealing American hypocrisy and the hard-core interests of the American ruling elite.
Nearly two weeks into what is a truly historical convergence of humanity, technology and politics in Egypt, Western (and Israeli) interests have concluded that what is needed is a military dictator subject to Western leverage, and one imagines the CIA and DIA corridors are buzzing with questions of "Who do we know?" and "How can we help him?" That it will be a man, ideally a "strong man" who can "lead the country" is a given for American policy-makers, if they can get their way.
Instead of what is discussed within the stale and frightened halls of our own stultified government, Americans ought to reflect on the words of Saint Augustine, a man quite familiar with the Mediterranean and North Africa, as well as extreme state thuggery: "An unjust law is no law at all." De La Boetie observed that to reject unjust laws and the unjust state that enforces them, a people need not be exceptionally courageous, but rather to simply withdraw their consent. He wrote, over four centuries ago,
"there is no need of fighting to overcome this single tyrant, for he is automatically defeated if the country refuses consent to its own enslavement: it is not necessary to deprive him of anything, but simply to give him nothing; there is no need that the country make an effort to do anything for itself provided it does nothing against itself. It is therefore the inhabitants themselves who permit, or, rather, bring about, their own subjection, since by ceasing to submit they would put an end to their servitude.- Advertisement -
It is doubtful that Asmaa Mahfouz studied Augustine or read De La Boetie. Yet she -- and millions more -- came to the same conclusion. She reasonably calls out to Egyptians "Do not be afraid," and Egyptians are acting on her call by ceasing to submit. This is natural law, as the great resistors of the state discovered again and again, through reason and logic, inspired by faith and optimism, and powered by a love of liberty. Godspeed, Egyptians!
February 5, 2011
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, blogs occasionally at Liberty and Power and The Beacon. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here or join her Facebook page.