Thoughts on Egypt
I’ve been watching the growing chaos in Egypt of late. Although the media like to make much of the resemblance to Tunisia’s revolution, there are few true similarities.
1) It’s always the economy. People will put up with any level of tyranny as long as they’re materially comfortable, and their discontent is inextricably linked to their perceived economic requirements. There are countless Egyptian young men who can’t find work – or more precisely, whose jobs don’t pay well enough that they can afford to carry out the traditional gestures of courtship, and as a result find themselves unable to marry, or are unwilling to endure the shame that they perceive from sidestepping or ignoring the customary requirements.
The French Revolution was similar: no matter how much high-minded rhetorical people offered as justification, everyone was willing to tolerate absolute dictatorship as long as they had enough to eat.
2) Democracy does not require concern for or implementation of ‘universal human rights’. It does not require amiability towards the West generally or us specifically. It does not require eschewing theocracy. It does not imply economic well-being for anyone. And it is not in and of itself going to solve anyone’s problems.
3) Quite a few of the protesters are conflating economic improvement with political revolution. This can only end in heartbreak.