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One Year After Tahrir: Eyewitness Cairo January 25, 2011 by Daniel Bruno

Posted on Wednesday, 25th January 2012 @ 09:44 PM by Text Size A | A | A

 

 

January 28, 2011

 

I noticed the small throngs of young people at 6 October bridge at

dusk on December 26, 2010, as I inched across the Nile after my solo

jaunt to the fabled Egyptian museum.   Nobody was paying any attention

to them or to Egypt as the media was fixated on the protests in

Tunisia.   The ocean of stalled traffic and noxious fumes seemed as

vast as the Sahara and contrasted sharply to the dreamy nether world

of ancient emperors Akhenaton and Ramses, and the glorious history of

Egyptians long past.  “25 million people in Cairo,” the taxi driver

blurted out.  In the coming days I marvelled that motorists didn’t

jump out of their cars and shoot each other in road rage.  Cairo is an

utterly unliveable city.  In all my travels I had never seen such

anarchy, congestion, lack of planning and maladroit city government,

and this before the insurrection.

 

 

I felt smothered by the dust and over the coming weeks the

breathless financial asphyxiation of every Egyptian I encountered

reminded me of a drowning man.  I imbibed the grandeur of the Pyramids

of Giza and visited Memphis before I resolved to flee the Hades of

Cairo and head to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, before returning

once again to Cairo after a stint in Sharm el-Sheik and my risible

expulsion back to Egypt after a ludicrous six-hour interrogation by

Israeli border guards filled with astringent paranoia .  Indeed, all

the Egyptians address me in Arabic as my African-American heritage

spawns illusions that I am their Native Son and likely source of

sympathy along with badly needed cash.   The dearth of economic

opportunity warps personalities and makes human beings disingenuous

and sleazy.   I remarked, and Egyptians I met concurred, that the only

thing keeping a lid on the situation in Cairo is Islam, which is

omnipresent and reaches the lower depths of the subconscious of

everybody here.   It’s the anti-freeze that keeps boiling hot water

from boiling. The same can be said of the country as a whole. Dour

catechism puts a brake on Egyptians’ instincts and urges to lash

out…until now.  For all the feckless hand-wringing and shibboleths

rolling of the tongues of half-bright talkingheads about the dangers

of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic influence, it is Islam that

greases the wheels of the untenable status-quo they yearn for    I

also suspect that Egyptian males feel stifled in this very

conservative and sexually repressed society.

 

 

 

Women outside of the

tourist industry remain covered in head scarves and dwell in the

shadows.  In Egypt, a man without a job might as well be a eunuch

because he ain’t gettin’ any.  In the 1930s psychologist Wilhelm Reich

explored the link between sexual denial in German culture and the rise

of Fascism.  Today in Egypt involuntary asceticism fans the flames of

revolution and if the revolution is denied, Islamic extremism will

find fertile ground.

 

 

 

The Praetorian Guard

 

Dapper soon to be ex-president for life Hosni Mubarak is actually

an Air Force general old enough to have gotten his wings on propeller

aircraft in the wake of World War II, but artful cosmetic surgery

makes him appear to be in his 50s.   He is larger than life in a dark

suite and sunglasses leading troops in to battle on government murals,

MiGs overhead.  To his left are images and reliefs of pharaohs firing

arrows from bigas.  As a warrior and a survivor he should know that

winners leave the scene on a high note.  Why he wants to hang on to

power at his age, I don’t know, but his intransigence  has given me

the opportunity to watch all kinds of military hardware I haven’t seen

since I was a kid at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.  I feel

like bird watcher: Here comes a column of desert tan M-19 armored

personnel carriers strutting their stuff.  A relic of the Korean

War,the M-47 tank , does duty at the Kasr bridge.    M-48s and a

Soviet T-62 joined the melee yesterday.  Even a mighty M-1 Abrams, the

current main battle tank of the United States was on hand, and while

at first the mobs were intimidated and ducked for cover, the soldiers

held their fire. Nor did they fire warning shots.  The NCOs and

enlisted men are ambivalent and the crowds regained their nerve. The

youth beseech the soldiers to join them.  What will pharaoh do now?

I am reminded of the iconic photo of a protestor putting long stemmed

flowers into the barrels of National Guard rifles at an anti-Vietnam

War demonstration in the 60s.  This afternoon F-16s, gifts from my

country, screamed at 1000 feet.  What is the point?  Will the Egyptian

Air Force drop bombs on Cairo the way Mayor Goode’s police department

used helicopters to bomb and burn sixty blocks of Philly back in 1985?

 

 

 

What is to be Done?

 

What this revolution needs now is leadership, personality and a

programme beyond ending the reign of Pharaoh  Mubarak.  Its easy to

unite people around a negative because the myriad possible outcomes

are not in contention now, but will come into relief after the

euphoria of his flight to that toxic waste dump for deposed despots,

Saudi Arabia.  The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 must establish a

democratic,  intellectual and labor leadership and plan for economic

and political overhaul of the country in consultation with the

Egyptian business community.  A new constitution and bill of rights

must be passed and foreign investment has to increase on a massive

scale or unemployment and poverty will fester under the new democratic

government.

 

 

 

 

The Egyptian economy has to produce 600,000 new jobs a

year just to keep up with population growth.  No matter how earnest

the new leadership, eighty million people can not live off of tourism,

carpets and Suez Canal fees.  Egypt is 96% desert; its competitive

advantage is to be a solar energy superpower that exports cheap

electricity to Europe.  Egyptians learn to speak multiple foreign

languages with ease and the country has great potential as a

call-centre powerhouse.  This is only the beginning.

 

 

 

 

The Revolution Will be Televised

 

The Revolution will be captured on cell phones and uploaded to the

BBC.   The Revolution will be on line, on Youtube and on your mind.

The Revolution will be brought to you in real time by Amy Goodman and

Juan Gonzalez.  The Revolution will not be parsed by Wolf  Blitzer in

the Situation Room or explained by former Secretary of State Madelyn

Halfbright.   The Revolution will be recycled over and over on the 24

hour news cycle.  The Revolution update you on Twitter and like you

back on Facebook.  The Revolution will be decried by pundits who are

highly qualified fools.

 

 

The Revolution will be misconstrued by Sunday

morning talking-heads and condemned by bombastic demagogues on Fox

News.  The Revolution will speak through Hugo Chavez.  The Revolution

will foil the plans of pathological K Street interest groups that long

ago hijacked my country’s foreign policy.  The Revolution will lead

you to ask why the U.S. government allows a certain client state to

detain Americans for six months without charge and force them to sign

confessions in a language they don’t understand.  The Revolution will

expose the hypocrisy of power brokers who say violence is not the

answer while escalating violence in Afghanistan.  The Revolution will

ask why your government spies on you, concocts phony terrorist plots

and touches your junk at the airport. The Revolution will leave the

Marseille and the 1812 Overture ringing in your ears and Public Enemy

on your iPod.  The Revolution will set you free, brother.  Long Live

the Revolution in Cairo and beyond.

 

Daniel Bruno

Cairo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos by Daniel Bruno

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