Reflections on Egypt’s struggle for freedom

The latest Egyptian revolution once ignites hope for genuine democratic reform. Photo: AP

SAN JOSE, July 10, 2013 — The recent ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader of Egypt, ignites hope once again for many Egyptian citizens that genuine democratic reform could form the basis of a new government.

The most operant word in the last sentence is “genuine.” The first time around, a little over a year ago, the Egyptian people held that hope when they faced a decision between two absolutist candidates: Morsi, the favorite of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, the candidate supported by the Egyptian Army. 


SEE RELATED: Muslim Brotherhood strife has decades old sordid history


At the time of the free elections, one could question whether the people had earned such a paradoxical choice after so many brave individuals took to the streets to protest Egypt’s dismal condition.

This time around, even more Egyptians took to the streets to get rid of Morsi. It seemed then, as now, the quest is for a better country. But in retrospect, the efforts to obtain freedom from Mubarak’s oppressive regime seemed to erupt quite suddenly, and was aided by the demands of the Obama administration that Mubarak “had to go.”

Unfortunately, history is strewn with examples demonstrating just how difficult it is to establish and maintain true freedom, no matter what the clever insurrectionist slogans may indicate.

In reality, the Egyptian people are not just in contention with a temporal regime; the Egyptian people are struggling against the history of oppression as the method of governing a population. Egypt’s history is primarily a story of a nation dominated by leaders who have established absolute control over the populace. Sadly, in the aftermath of the people’s struggles in the past couple of years, in the West there was the joke that went around expressing the observation that the Egyptians had finally had their first free elections in 6,000 years.      

Nonetheless, the idea of people sincerely fighting for freedom is not a laughing matter. When people are willing to die for what they believe, it is no joke. For those who are paying attention, the struggle for what seems like the majority of the people in Egypt, is a sincere movement towards genuine freedom. Whether this can be fully realized may be uncertain at this point in time, even to those who are advocating their genuine aspirations for a better form of government.

What is true is that, until recently, Egypt has never tasted genuine freedom.

Unfortunately, from the perspective of history, not all revolutions have established a proper foundation to secure and maintain the fundamental freedoms, or rights, so desired by those who were willing to fight for such ideals. Despite the sincere intentions of those who want a better life for their families and for their nation’s future, there often seems to be a dilemma which must be surmounted in order to establish an acceptable government ensuring freedom.

This also seems to be the case for the Egyptian people. The choices presented to the people of Egypt in 2012, showed up as another manifestation of manipulation to perpetuate control over the people.


SEE RELATED: Egyptians exhibit a Spirit of ‘76


Whether it was the Muslim Brotherhood, an historically sinister organization which represents a movement of Islamic fundamentalists who insist on the absolute authority of Islamic law, or a well-groomed, hand-picked candidate of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the Egyptian people may not have had a legitimate choice that could assure them of liberty or true freedom thus far. It would also seem that they do not need an outsider to help them in perceiving the difference, as they have ousted Morsi, and are currently demanding that the military secure their hopes for freedom. Within their defiant stand, the people who are sincere in their efforts to obtain freedom, must be able to taste it.

In light of recent developments, it would be a shame if the army would betray such good faith that has been entrusted to them.

Unfortunately, it would not be the first time such a betrayal unraveled a popular revolution. The French Revolution is a prime example of a people’s revolution, ostensibly intent on liberty and equality, that devolved into confusion, chaos, widespread suspicion and accusation, and eventually that morphed into the reign of a tyrant named Napoleon Bonaparte, who rose to power through the French Army and ultimately seized absolute power.

On the other hand, there is substantial hope the Egyptian Revolution would have a more fruitful outcome.

In 1789, eight years after the American struggle for independence, and the year the French Revolution began, George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States under the new Constitution. Ironically, had Washington been someone like Napoleon Bonaparte, the American general could have found the temptations of power too great, and could have seized absolute control over the people had he sought it. To the dismay of many who expected Washington to declare himself King, he did not. In spite of the weakness of Congress, Washington did not use his popularity and potential power via the army, to proclaim himself the first monarch of the U.S.A. To the contrary, the man enthusiastically supported a government of the people.

It is very possible that there is a Washington, a Simon Bolivar, or a Mohandas Ghandi, or a band of such individuals, within the mass of protestors in the streets of Cairo, or within the entire realm of the nation of Egypt. Such times within the course of a nation’s history do not appear frequently. This may be the moment in time for the birth of freedom in Egypt, however that is uniquely established. Many years ago in January of 1776, Thomas Paine published his radical pamphlet, Common Sense, that fueled the flames for establishing freedom in North America. Paine wrote:

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birth-day of a new world is at hand, and a race of   men perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the event of a few months.

Should we neglect the present favorable and inviting period, and an independence be hereafter effected by any other means, we must charge the consequence to ourselves, or to those rather, whose narrow and prejudiced souls, are habitually opposing the measure.

Perhaps it is such a time for the people of Egypt, but it will not only depend upon the people of Egypt. It is a far more complicated world that exists today, than the world of Washington and Bonaparte. Key players within the stirrings of political movement within a nation prove often to be pawns or puppets of a larger entity or force in the shadows. It can be hard to discern the genuine character of a candidate, or the truth of a politician’s promise.

This usually comes from experience, and as Americans can testify, from learning the hard way that a slick-talking politician knew what to say, or how to say it, to win an election, but had no intention of living up to the words after winning an election.

It is very possible that for those paying attention, this time in Egypt’s long history, is the time in which freedom is seen as a possibility and enough good people no longer want to return to the ways of the past. It may seem a desperate time for the nation, but this overall process has proven to be educational in the very least.

The Egyptians do not want an autocratic dictatorship from the Muslim fundamentalists, nor from the military. The Egyptians are a unique people and deserve their unique brand of freedom, but the cost of genuine freedom often comes with great cost. Hopefully, the people o Egypt will secure what they truly value, as perhaps it is the time for these people to secure the blessings of liberty.


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Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member  at West Valley College in California.  He also currently writes a column on history and one on American freedom for the Communities at the Washington Times.

 

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