Depending on one’s perspective, Egypt is either in a political limbo or an extended purgatory, with the devils long contained in its national Pandora’s box having been loosened from their chains. People are murdered like sheep now, obscurely and without fanfare, in the country’s protests, and women are gang-raped viciously by crowds of men who seek to mete out their darkest desires, violently, in public. It is as if everything in Egypt must now be performed by the mob, for the mob, in full view of everyone.
It should have been a warning to everyone when, on February 11, 2011, in its first coup, the Egyptian military announced that Hosni Mubarak was stepping down from power, and being replaced by a junta, and the crowds that had filled Tahrir Square for the previous seventeen days cheered and began to go home. At that moment, of course, what happened was that The Revolution That Would became The Revolution That Hadn’t Quite. Although it was now shared with the mob, true power remained firmly in the hands of the military, which runs the country quite openly today.
What is the name of the man who was named President yesterday? Adly Mansour? It doesn’t really matter, because, in the push-me-pull-you public spectacle that has taken place since 2011 over who possesses Egypt’s heart and soul—is it the Islamists? Is it the secular Google executives, the tweeting, jeans-clad modernists?—it has been, throughout, the military that has allowed it all to happen.
Until now, the greatest achievement of the Egyptian “revolution” was to reinforce their collective fears that they are ungovernable and need a big daddy to keep them under control. This is not a new Egypt, full of Egyptians that have embraced collective change and are marching forward hand in hand together to a new future, but an Egypt in the grip of its demons, ripping itself apart with unleashed hatreds and lusts. And to the generals, at least, it is a country in the process of being rescued from a descent into hell by the all-seeing, all-wise, protective men in uniform.
Photograph by Hassan Ammar/AP.