Lionel Messi has offered to auction his boots in aid of an Egyptian charity. Unfortunately, no-one has briefed the Barcelona star on Arab antipathy towards shoes and boots. Remember that Libyan mob hitting Gaddafi with the soles of their shoes? Remember that Iraqi mob hitting that pulled-down statue of Saddam with their shoes…..and what about that shoe thrown at George W Bush? Now the Egyptian people feel insulted that Messi has offered his ‘shoes’ instead of his shirt. Funny old world.
It’s a great shame that even when Cameron makes an absolutely CORRECT decision in halting flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh, people still complain. As evidence accumulates, it looks increasingly likely that the Russian Airbus 321 was brought down by a catastrophic event which occurred inside the plane. DC is taking no chances – and quite right too!
After the mess left behind in Iraq and Libya, Western leaders appear to have realised that the days of a “good shooting war” being good for political image have gone forever. Heroic speechwriter-polished phrases and Churchillian posturing are a remnant of a past when the words ” honour” and “bravery” still had currency.
Today, war is recognised as a filthy misery-spawning industry which, like an appalling Grand Prix Circuit, moves from country to country, leaving no more than a legacy of rubble and death. There is no honour in war – there is only pointlessness.
The most bizarre aspect of the whole circus is that the leader of a small cluster of damp islands in the North Sea is always the one who makes the most noise, always hiding behind his younger but much bigger American cousin’s skirts. Collectively, the West feels that its job is to dispense the universally therapeutic remedy of “democracy” – even to those who don’t really want it.
Democracy is not an emollient to be force-fed in the same way that 18th and 19th century missionaries (from exactly the same damp islands) delivered Christianity to the world’s natives.
The Arabs are not even remotely interested in our special brand of democracy. Democracy is their excuse because they know that as soon as they shout “Freedom!” or “Democracy!“, the usual suspects will come riding in, dispensing guns with notions of rescue, egalitarianism and ballot boxes.
Can you imagine revolutions in the Middle East if the family businesses masquerading as governments distributed their oil billions as they should? Would the average Arab be interested in getting shot in the name of “regime change” or “democracy” – if he had a job, enough food, decent housing, a car, TV set, free hospital care for his family and a bit left over? Of course not.
There is no such thing as absolute freedom or unbridled freedom of speech – and that is NOT the product which interests the Egyptian population.
With 77% youth unemployment, their revolution is based in economics not idealism and whatever the West’s response, it will be based on exactly the same criteria.
So what is Hosni Mubarak thinking as he sits in his private quarters and watches Al Jazeera, Fox and CNN on the flat-screen?. He’s probably packed and ready to go and all that he can probably hear apart from the TV is the gentle hum of shredders as his place in Egyptian history is consigned to 3 mm wide paper strips and burned.
There are many arrests, executions, embezzlement, property purchases, bank credits, floppy disks, laser discs, hard drives, CDs and DVDs and paper files which need to be destroyed. There’s no time for the selective wiping of a 30 year-old career. The peasants are at the gate.
Meanwhile, history needs to be destroyed and rewritten in a hurry.
If there’s one thing that we have learned from this most western of all Middle Eastern countries is that the people are patient , good-natured but most of all, resilient and sincere in their quest for a better life.
In spite of the beatings and shooting,the overwhelming feeling will soon be one of unbounded optimism. There will be a collective dream of a sunny future as the world gathers round to help rebuild this once great (the greatest) nation.
Parents will be daydreaming of glittering futures for their children and ambitious young politicians will be dreaming of benevolent power. There will be others who are already thinking dark fundamentalist thoughts but for the moment, they do not matter.
If you look the people in the eye, you do not see the demeanour of the frightened peasant. You see the confident gaze of a country which knows that it is going places – so what’s a few more days, or even a few more weeks. The irreversible arrow of time is on their side.
The “Berlin Wall” or “Solidarnosc” moment is nearly here and when it comes, it will be the brightest dawn any of them will have ever seen. They really will be will be blinded by the light. Stranger will link arms with stranger because for a short time, they will be family. For a brief time, they will share only one label. Egyptian.
As the party gets into full swing, all other sub-labels will be forgotten for a while. Arab, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Coptic, Nubian,ruler, slave, Sufi, Sunni, Shi’a, Bedawi, Siwi, Armenian or Bedouin. They will stand together as Egyptians and mass-confidence will flow as a result of their epic, well-earned achievement. They will continue to generate confidence merely by the simple act of standing together as a single people.
For many, they day when they finally realise and accept that Mubarak has left will be the greatest day of their lives. For many, their work will be done.
For many others – and we do not yet know who they are, the work will begin.
The men who damaged this country will be gone to enjoy a nervous retirement in a white villa in some soulless Middle Eastern compound. Many will never see the country of their birth again.
Let us hope that the most difficult hurdle – the last one – is approached with patience and compassion. The peoples’ discreditted masters should be allowed to leave and no energy wasted on either revenge or recrimination.
This will be a time for driving forward with the already slightly-out-of-focus past left behind in the rear-view mirror of a carelessly cruel recent history.