Egypt’s democracy is gathering speed

Spring is normally followed by summer. Yet, defying this proven meteorological wisdom, the Arab Spring went back to winter, though not yet of the nuclear variety.

Of course as American neocon ventriloquists and their British dummy Dave told us at the time, flowers of democracy would blossom in Egypt.

Its people couldn’t wait to queue outside voting booths, and of course the country had a rich tradition of electoral politics.

However, before the Arab Spring of 2011 it was usually the military who had done the electing. All four Egyptian presidents since the ‘republican’ revolution of 1952 had been army officers and stooges.

For convenience’s sake, each president also acted as the supreme commander of the armed forces – just like in the USA. Unlike in the USA, this arrangement meant not that the civilian authority controlled the military but rather the other way around.

Mercifully the Arab Spring changed all that. As both American and British neocons explained, the events of 2011 reflected the inexorable march of democracy throughout the world. It may have taken the Arabs a bit longer than others to fall in step, but fall in step they finally did.

Naysayers like yours truly were screaming off the rooftops that Egyptians had neither any history of democracy nor any taste for it, but no one listened.

So they voted for their government – only to find that it wasn’t quite to their liking. Muslim fundamentalism is perfectly acceptable provided that there’s much wealth pumping out of the ground.

In countries where this isn’t the case, such as Egypt, Allah needs help from an industrious populace and an economy organised along the lines that postdate the eleventh century.

In the absence of such conditions, excessive piety equals abject poverty. This is something the Egyptians, spoilt rotten by decades of despotic but secular government, weren’t quite ready to accept.

Never mind democracy, feel the dollars, they screamed (or the Arabic words to that effect).

Rioting on an epic scale ensued, with yesterday’s democratic voters instantly turning into looters, vandals and rapists.

Actually, since the 101 women raped in Cairo’s Tahir Square were assaulted in full view of cheering multitudes, democracy was served. A landslide majority clearly supported the acts, which should make them perfectly acceptable to our democracy mongers.

Anyway, out goes the democratically elected president, in comes another military junta. But the military have done their reconnaissance, so they know the trick.

Put the word democracy into the Yanks’ shell-like, and subsidies will rain on your head faster than you can say post-colonialism. Use any other word, and what will rain down on your head won’t be dollars but drones.

The choice is straightforward: democracy and dollars or no democracy and drones. I know which one I’d choose and the Egyptians are no different (in this respect at any rate).

So Adly Mansour, the puppet of the military, reassures the West that elections, this time free and democratic (that is, guaranteeing the right result) will be held soon. Very soon. Very soon indeed. We’ll let you know.

You see, because the last elections brought to power those who “failed to meet the demands of the people”, they were flawed. Fraudulent, actually.

“This [a military coup d’état],” explained the in-coming leader, “is the only way for a brighter future, a freer future, a more democratic one.” Fair enough – anyone observing Dave in action must feel nostalgic about the Colonel Pride concept of parliamentarism.

Perhaps fearing that the Egyptians are setting a bad example, Dave demanded that a ‘democratic transition’ take place soon. You know, of the kind you chaps had back in 2011, during the Arab Spring.

Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s Foreign Minister, also bemoaned the “serious setback for democracy.” This shows that Guido can rise above his narrow personal concerns. After all, the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood would have joyously stoned him and his male wife/husband to death.

Barack Obama also said he was “deeply concerned” by the events in Egypt. The Arab Spring was just fine by him, but then the president may have a soft spot for Islam.

One can already see the scenario in the making. The military will hold their elections along the traditional Egyptian lines: how the votes will be cast will matter less than how they’ll be counted.

Dave, Barack and Guido will be mollified. Until the next rioting season when Egyptians will feel that their expectations aren’t being met. They will spill out into the streets, expressing their longing for true democracy by raping a few more women.

Press the reset button. Or else, depending on the prevalent sentiments in the USA, the button on the drone-controlling console. One way or the other democracy will be served.



Stereotypes are falling like ninepins

Brazilians are supposed to be so football-crazy they’d do anything to host a World Cup. Sure enough, the 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil.

So are the people rejoicing? Not exactly. They are, millions of them, out in the streets protesting against the billions their government is spending on the extravaganza. By the looks of it, the government isn’t long for this world.

So where does this leave our stereotype?

Or take another sport, tennis. A country is supposed to spend a lot of money to produce champions, right? So Britain spends £61 million a year and we have exactly one man in the world’s top 200.

Poland, on the other hand, spends £900,000 a year, and they have two players in Wimbledon’s last eight.

There goes another stereotype, tumbling down like the walls of Jericho.

And now for something less trivial: the Middle East is craving for democracy, isn’t it?

To satisfy that craving, the West, led by the Americans with their usual panache, has been fomenting trouble in the Middle East for over a decade.

Millions have died, stable regimes have been destabilised, armies of refugees have been set adrift, billions have been spent, a few nasty leaders have been killed and others ousted, civil wars have become either a reality or a distinct possibility.

Yet if you listen to the neocons of both American and British vintage, it has all been in a good cause: bringing democracy to the region.

You see, the pursuit of happiness enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence has to lead people to the voting booth every few years.

That’s where happiness awaits, in the booth. Once they get there they’ll be deliriously ecstatic. Perhaps not quite so happy as the Americans are, but as near as damn.

This is a stereotypical idea sold to those who either can’t or won’t think for themselves. The binary notion is beautiful in its simplicity: democracy is good, anything else is bad.

Surely everyone understands that? The whole world wants to be just like the US of A, doesn’t it? Well then, the whole world wants to be democratic.

Take Egyptians, for example. They got their democracy a year ago, and they’re all happy as a sandboy. Of course, their free elections brought to power the kind of chaps who think all infidels must die, but that’s the way the couscous crumbles.

We may not like our democratically elected leaders, but as long as they are indeed democratically elected, we must all be happy. Consent of the governed, right? When a quarter of the population votes a government in, they’ve given consent on the part of the other three quarters as well.

That’s democracy, isn’t it? That’s what the whole world wants. Can’t be happy without it.

Egyptians are like that too. That is to say they’re just like us. Now they have their democracy, they’re happy. They… hold on a moment…

What’s that on the news? Is that millions of them demonstrating in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and every other place with a population greater than the Man City squad? Is that protesters getting killed? Is that civil war about to break out?

Is that the army saying such non-democratic things as “We swear to God that we will sacrifice even our blood for Egypt and its people, to defend them against any terrorist, radical or fool”?

Now when army spokesmen in those parts say they’re ready to sacrifice ‘even their blood’ fighting their own people, what they really mean is that they’re ready to shoot said people like rabbits.

Of course terrorists, one can understand. Even radicals, if they’re too radical. But going to war against fools, that’s a bit much. Perhaps those chaps don’t quite grasp the principal idea of democracy: a fool’s vote weighs as much as yours or mine.

And since there are more fools than people like you or me, they are much more important. A democracy doesn’t shoot fools; it puts them on a pedestal, so democratic politicians don’t have to bend to kiss fools’ backsides.

Nor do the broad masses of Egyptians seem to realise that in a democracy it’s not street riots but elections that are supposed to bring governments down. You know, you make your choice, you live with it. Until the next election all you can do is grin and bear it – not take on the country’s armed forces.

Perhaps, just perhaps – and I hope the skies won’t open and the God of Democracy won’t smite me with lightning for saying this – people in the Middle East aren’t really democrats at heart.

No, perish the thought. Of course they are. The whole world is – the neocons have told us so. The Middle Easterners are desperate to become just like the Midwesterners. All it takes is a few laser-guided bombs for them to see the light (and presumably hear the bang). Flash, bang, and Bashir is your uncle, Fatima is your aunt.

If you think there’s anything wrong with this scenario, you’re rejecting one of the most cherished stereotypes of modernity. Shame on you – and shame on me for feeling the same way.

Notes from the HMG loony bin

Note 1: Eric Blair meets Tony Blair

Eric Blair, otherwise known as George Orwell, had much fun writing about totalitarians enforcing different, often diametrically opposite, meanings of words.

Tony Blair, otherwise known as Anthony, was one of those aspiring totalitarians who made Orwellian satire redundant by enforcing his own version of PC vocabulary.

Now Dave has outdone both Eric’s fantasy and Tony’s reality. His government has drawn up official legal guidance ‘clarifying’ the meaning of such highly controversial words as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’.

Actually these words were regarded as fairly straightforward for the first millennium of the English language, but they no longer are. You see, the previous 50 generations assumed, wrongly as it happens, that marriage united in holy matrimony a man and a woman.

Now that backwardness has been expunged, the use of such words has to acquire a new flexibility. 

Hence the guidance: “This means that ‘husband’ here will include a man or a woman in a same sex marriage, as well as a man married to a woman. In a similar way, ‘wife’ will include a woman married to another woman or a man married to a man.”

The lifelong champion of progress in me rejoices – that is until he, the champion of progress, is slapped in the face by a piece of blatant discrimination creeping into the guidance:

“The term ‘husband’ will in future legislation include a man who is married to another man (but not a woman in a marriage with another woman).” Two people living together as each other’s wives is rather odd, wouldn’t you say? Clearly more work is needed – Dr Johnson, ring your office.

One can only suggest that this semantic revolution ought to gather speed. The word ‘Dave’ should now also stand for ‘spiv’, but the word ‘spiv’ can have a broader meaning than just ‘Dave’, also to include ‘George’, ‘Nick’, ‘Vince’ and – for old times’ sake – ‘Tony’.

Note 2: The burgers of Westminster

Being prolier than thou is de rigueur for our leaders, especially those who were born with silver utensils in their various orifices.

Thus George Osborne, now also known as ‘spiv’, has to spend as much time on downplaying his poshness as he devotes to his day job.

Yet he must also convey the impression that his day job receives his undivided attention.

The day before he unveiled his spivocratic budget George decided to kill two birds with one meal.

To that end he tweeted a picture of himself at his desk late at night putting the finishing touches on the budget (day job) and scoffing a burger out of a polystyrene box, with a packet of greasy chips and a diet cola close at hand (man of the people).

Alas, George was to find out the hard way that those who live by spin will die by it. The papers quickly cottoned on to the fact that George’s repast came from a faux prole Waterloo burger place called Byron – not from any of the three McDonald’s shops that are closer to 11 Downing Street.

And, shock horror!, George didn’t get much change out of a tenner for his dinner – that, even though a Mickey D burger costs an impeccably populist 99p.

Now any sensible man would have responded to accusations of burger poshness by saying that, as someone on a salary of £134,565 a year, he can afford to spend £10 for dinner. And anyway, it’s none of anyone’s business what he eats.

But a man capable of such a response wouldn’t tweet a photo of himself playing prole. So George put his foot deeper in it by saying that the only reason he preferred Byron to McDonald’s (which he would otherwise dearly love, this being his favourite food) is that the latter doesn’t deliver and the former does.

Turns out George dug a hole for himself and sank into it by lying: as the tabloids have pointed out, Byron doesn’t deliver either.

In fact, George sent an aide to get his meal from Waterloo, and I bet the aide neither walked there nor went by public transport. So add another £15 for a round-trip taxi ride or even more for a limo – the hole is getting deeper and deeper.

Note 3: Dave’s marriage tax

Having done his best to destroy the institution of marriage with one hand, Dave is now going to throw a bone to married people with the other.

Soon – very soon! – married couples of any of the three or four known sexes will receive a whopping tax break equalling about £120 a year on average.

That means the husband/wife or wife/husband can treat him/her/itself to a Byron burger once a month – presumably provided they promise not to tweet pictures of themselves devouring the treat.

The move, which Dave resisted for years, is being hailed as yet another blow struck for the institution of holy matrimony that Dave holds in such high esteem that he wants to extend it to the entire animal kingdom.

Job done. Dave can now hide the bottle of Roederer Cristal, or whatever he drinks at home when no one’s looking, and take a convoy of armoured cars down the pub.

Nothing Dave likes more than a Goode Auld pint consumed in an intimate setting shared with George, their bodyguards, 100 paparazzi and half a dozen TV crews.

Oh well, I’d better stop before I do end up in a madhouse. Anyway, my husband Penelope tells me lunch is ready.