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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Life at Label Level



Can you tell me which party or political group would propose the following vision for the Egypt of the future?

1. A Government 
  • Where the legislative, judiciary and executive (I would add media) arms are well-separated and completely independent
  • Which views itself as a provider of services to the people and not the LORD OF THE LAND
  • Where there is accountability for actions
  • Which is representative of all Egyptians through a fair and free election process
  • Where torture and detainment without charge are certainly not encouraged and not even condoned
  • Whose objective is the country and people's prosperity and not the maintenance of a status quo
  • Whose ministries have clear objectives, strategies to achieve these objectives and their performance is measured against these achievements
2. A President
  • With significantly reduced authorities
  • Who is non-corrupt, does not espouse nepotism and does not treat the country and its citizens like his fiefdom and the farmers inhabiting it
  • Who can be held accountable
  • Who will be changed in four or eight years
  • Whose son has no political ambitions
3. An Economic Environment
  • Which promotes productivity, creativity, efficiency and competitiveness
  • Where the less successful are not marginalized
  • Where free enterprise is encouraged but regulated
  • Which is sustainable and not standing on one (tourism) or two (add Suez Canal) or three (add real estate or natural gas) rickety pillars
4. Relation between Police and Population
  • Where both parties respect the rule of law
  • Which reflects mutual respect rather than fear on one side and disdain on the other
  • Where the motto "protect and serve" is real and moves beyond the sign on the police station and into the street
  • When your son or daughter can look at a policeman and think of him as someone who can help, not someone to be afraid of
  • Which moves away from the auditor-victim dynamic to a public servant-public dynamic
5. An Army
  • Whose sole responsibilities are protecting the country from aggression and ensuring we have a qualitative and quantitative edge over potential enemies
  • Which is not involved in business, road-building, gas cooker manufacturing or other forms of profiteering
  • Which is completely neutral/neutered politically
  • Which gets its directions from the government and is just one more tool in the hands of the state, which is in the hands of the people
  • Which we can all believe is nationalist, non-corrupt and incorruptible
  • Which is loved and respected, not feared and mistrusted
6. A Social Environment
  • Where people have freedom and respect for that freedom
  • Where our values and traditions and religions are respected 
  • Where being veiled is not viewed as a sign of religious constipation and being unveiled is not a sign of moral looseness (and a million other examples here)
  • Where Christians are TRULY an identical member of society to Muslims, except they pray in a different place
  • Where at school kids are taught and raised, where values are supported not destroyed, where they have a class in civics and another in human rights
So back to the question. Can you tell me whose program this is? Which party wants Egypt to look like this?

You can't? Of course you can't, and neither could I, because this is the Egypt we ALL want!

So what's the point?

The point is that in addition to rolling alliteratively off the tongue, the title Life at Label Level, has -in Kissinger's words - the added benefit of being the truth. 

We, here in Egypt, have successfully, miraculously, now reduced intelligent conversation to the Level of Label. 

Liberal, Islamist, communist, revolutionary, Facebook kid, intellectual, the poor, political activist etc...etc....ad nauseum. Some go a tiny step forward and add a tag to the label, yielding: Islamist - will close pubs and force women to wear the veil; Liberal: will allow gay marriages and cancel Article 2 of our constitution   communist: will kill private investment and return us to the dark ages (this bit also applies to Islamists); revolutionary: is ruining the economy through endless demonstrations; Facebook kids: a bunch of spoiled pansies who would do well to get a real job; intellectuals: anyone with a PhD even if their dissertation covered the living conditions of coal-miners in Poland during the industrial revolution; the poor: anyone not dressed nicely and/or not owning two cars; political activist: your guess is as good as mine.

The problem is this moves us in the EXACT opposite direction to the one we need to be moving in. 

Towards splintering and away from unity. 

And to my mind that is the biggest danger of all. We all suddenly become experts on everything simply because we know all the labels, and whoever is labelled differently to me, is an opponent. And so liberals don't like Islamists who dislike them back; "real" revolutionaries don't think much of the Facebook kids who in turn deride them etc.

And so instead of a populace united behind a single objective we get broken up into all these tiny fragmented sub-groups each of which believes it knows everything there is to know about the rest, so much so, we don't even need to talk to each other anymore. Isn't he an Islamist? Well, it's a waste of time talking to someone who wants to force women to wear the veil! Isn't she a Facebook kid? Useless conversation, she needs some Tahreer-time before we can have a meaningful discussion. And so on and so forth.

But the reality, the truth, and you really don't need to scratch the surface all that hard to get at it, is that we all have an almost identical picture of how we want Egypt to be. The similarities between visions are so many and cover such wide ground, that the differences fade into proverbial insignificance.

Anybody with any experience in just about anything can tell you, you have a vision first (and all the lists above are vision-level stuff), BEFORE the details of implementation. We can discuss those a leisure, but we cannot afford the leisure of waiting for an agreement on vision, otherwise alternative visions, none of which will be to our liking will come forth.

So again, what's the point? 

The point is please remove the blinders and ear-plugs, look, listen, communicate, discuss, seek points of agreement and before you stick a label on a box and neatly compartmentalize our country and countrymen and women into ridiculously simplistic groups, make sure you really know what their concepts, ideas and goals are. I'll bet you ten to one, they are more similar to your own than you ever imagined.

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