Egyptians are passive. Yes, it’s true. Peter Mansfield, in his Nasser’s Egypt, calls them a ‘humorous and docile people.’ Egyptians do not get involved unless something is really, conspicuously wrong, and even then there’s a reluctance, a sluggishness to it. We would much rather carry on, in silence, even in pain.
Peace matters to Egyptians. They’ve been invaded, successively, by the Ottomans, the French and the British, and they’ve taken it all on the chin. Interestingly, they have remained ‘Egyptian’ (not Turkish, French or British) The Tahrir Square protests of January 2011, then, mark an important contrast, as all Egyptian protests have. It draws attention to major problems in the homeland. Tahrir provides substance to the claim that something really was drastically wrong in Egypt: but it’s a claim that Hilary Clinton and others preferred to deny when it was politically expedient. Remember when one of Bush’s staffers said “I wouldn’t call him a dictator,” of Mubarak?
David B. Ottaway, former Bureau Chief of the Washington Post office in Cairo, describes this, this sub-par crappiness, the mess and negligence and corruption, so clearly, that I’m sharing it here. What’s more, he foresaw the stagnation of Mubarak’s regime, a government ‘without a rudder,’ right at its start, in 1985.
“In a four-part Washington Post series written as I was departing in early 1985, I noted the new Egyptian leader was still pretty much a total enigma to his own people, offering no vision and commanding what seemed a rudderless ship of state. The socialist economy inherited from the era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1952 to 1970) was a mess. The currency, the pound, was operating on eight different exchange rates; its state-run factories were unproductive, uncompetitive and deep in debt; and the government was heading for bankruptcy partly because subsidies for food, electricity and gasoline were consuming one-third ($7 billion) of its budget. Cairo had sunk into a hopeless morass of gridlocked traffic and teeming humanity—12 million people squeezed into a narrow band of land bordering the Nile River, most living cheek by jowl in ramshackle tenements in the city’s ever-expanding slums.” Read his paper in its entirety here….