Monday, 3 March 2014

Letter to Egypt

Dear Egypt, 

I have never had the pleasure of visiting your country, although I would very much like to. You are the cradle of civilisation, architects of The Pyramids, enjoyers of 3,000 almost uninterrupted years of empire (still a record), and endless sources of wonder for Victorians and schoolchildren alike. Having said all that, since the end of the Ptolemys things seem to have gone somewhat downhill. From being a Roman toy, through various Arabic and Turkish empires (which admittedly were pretty impressive), up to British rule, you haven't done those demi-immortal pharoahs of yore very proud. Then the post war period happened, and you were caught up in a bigger power play same as everyone else, so that wasn't really your fault, then General Nasser seemed a good egg so authoritarian rule wasn't so bad, but the dictators started getting grabby and suddenly!...suddenly the boot was on the right foot, for the first time in 2,000 years the Egyptian people had a semblance of control over their own destiny! There was still the army to dislodge, never an easy feat, but subsequent events proved it was possible. So all that was needed was cohesion, a group ability to step away from your petty squabbles and do what was right for the country. 

We Westerners would have loved it if you'd gathered around someone like Mr El-Baradei, but even if you had resoundingly chosen Mr Morsi or that Captain from the old regime, at least it would have been democracy. Democracy is a beautiful thing, and that is for one major reason - it heals itself. Bad rulers are a fact of life, just as stupid people haunt every village and town, but democracy allows the selection of the perfect successor to heal the wounds inflicted by the previous government. So Mr Morsi was a bad leader, that happens, just look at George W Bush, but he would have gone, and if he'd done a truly terrible job then the next time you would have voted in his opposite, who would have no doubt taken things too far back the other way. All the while, however, you would have all been learning - what you liked about Mr Morsi, what you liked about his opposite, and gradually things would have started shifting towards the centre and a modern government. And a modern government has the people's best interests at heart, as they must to preserve their power and with the glint of personal gain diminished. It would have been a tough time, tourism would have fallen in the short term (though grown greatly in the long term), but if there is one thing history has taught us it is that the Nile can keep a large population fed, so you would not have starved. 

But you didn't, you were impatient, you saw the incompetence and remembered the power you had felt in Tahrir Sq and you wanted it again. The army, who had been anxiously monitoring events, played you like a fish, telling you everything you needed to hear to return to its muscular grasp, like Daisy to Tom Buchanan, and you now find yourself falling back into a new loveless relationship with an authoritarian state, with nobody knowing when the next opportunity for freedom will come. Maybe you can comfort yourselves that it was not all in vain if another people can learn from your tale, if the Turks can rid themselves of Mr Erdogan or Syria of Assad, they will look to your example and maybe, just maybe, logic will trounce human nature and they will stay together long enough for a lasting democratic platform to be established. Perhaps that might happen but I fear that for you the chance has passed

Your servant, 
Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

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