The swarms of protestors across the Middle East are in error. The central debate at the heart of the Arab Spring is not one of freedom and oppression. Rather, there appears to be a growing trend apparent in most cases of Arab revolt of the deluded versus the sane. Everyone is familiar with the Mad Hatter of Libya. Similarly deluded is Syria’s Bashar Assad who this week had a constructive national dialogue with himself and concluded that he is still the legitimate ruler of Narnia. However this delusion is not limited to the Dictators and their regimes alone. The Nuclear fallout cloud of madness has been busy traveling.
Anyone who witnessed the four camel riders of the Apocalypse attempting to bring the Egyptian revolution to a halt with their trusty wooden sticks can come to no other conclusion. However the delusion strain in Egypt is becoming worryingly widespread. The Egyptian revolution has not failed but undoubtedly its progress has slowed. Since January, genuine change has been hard to come by, with demands for reform drowned out by a temporary leadership consisting of far too many familiar faces. General Tantawi and the SCAF have in a Eureka moment apparently discovered that the best way to change the system is to keep it exactly the same. Indeed just this week Tantawi appointed a new ‘information’ minister, a hugely controversial post which was abolished after Mubarak was toppled. However those within Egypt who believe enough change has occurred constantly drone on about ‘stability’ and ‘order’ which in the Middle East are synonymous with the propaganda of Dictatorship. For a country with 1.6 million underage workers, a defunct and corroded governing system and streets teeming with poverty, the naysayers are in profound error. Yet still protesters come under attack from ‘thugs’ who are either entirely delusional or the most easily impressed in the world seemingly content with a system which went from Dictatorship to military rule.
Protestors who this week blocked anyone entering the towering government building in Tahrir Sq were yelled at by workers. Admittedly they were causing some inconvenience to those who had business inside, but there needs to be some perspective here. The inconvenience of a not being allow to work for a day or two doesn’t quite compare to the inconvenience of a 30 year dictatorship.
Egypt’s Islamists have by and large not covered themselves in glory either. The Muslim Brotherhood’s insistence on September elections, for which they know they’ll be the best prepared, is characteristic of a political opportunism worthy of the Mubarak era of politics. In the new, emerging Egypt this type of cynical politics will not float and many have already begun to jump ship from the brotherhood, forming new Islamist parties. The brotherhood’s leadership is currently steering a great naval ship through a pond, unable to manoeuvre or change direction to sail with the winds of change.
Nabil Araby, the new head of the Arab League, is perhaps the most recent public figure to display the symptoms of Dictatorship Delusion. He told reporters this week that Assad assured him “Syria has entered a new era and is now moving on the road of a genuine reform.’’. Well that’s that then, problem sorted, everyone can go home. It’s as if one blind man has just told another what the colour red looks like and the latter, utterly convinced, is telling those who can see. Whereas previously the Arab League refused to condemn or even mention Syria, they’ve now taken off the muzzle and then immediately curled up in the laps of the long line of unglamorous Bond villains which Middle Eastern leadership has long consisted of.
The long spell of authoritarianism and dictatorship has isolated almost all Middle Eastern leadership from their respective populaces to such an extent that they for too long now the mad have ruled the sane. Whether in Bahrain where a national dialogue takes place amidst the life imprisonment of opposition figures or in Libya where the mental patient has begun to threaten the warden with a water pistol, it is evident too many years of unquestioning rule blocking opposition has given these dictators a false impression of themselves. For years they have killed, threatened and intimidated opposition and minorities and then taken the lack of opposition as a sign of their own popularity. The real tragedy is that these Quixotic figures tilt not at Windmills, but their own peoples whose suffering, pain and oppression form part of imaginary chivalrous quests taking place solely in the minds of their respective dictators.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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