OPED: This morning in “Anywhere, Egypt”.
(Anywhere, Egypt) – This morning in “Anywhere, Egypt” a family shared a quiet, simple breakfast after performing their Fajr (morning) prayers. The father will soon trudge off to work in the same factory he has toiled in for two decades and make the same meager wage and work in the same deplorable conditions.
He knows he will never be a wealthy man, but feels he has earned a small bump in pay, maybe an additional two pounds per shift. Maybe. He’d also like a small amount of dignity and respect to go with his meager pay. Maybe something as simple as a semi-clean, dignified area to pray.
He worries about his oldest son. He is a smart boy, has his degree, but can’t find a job. With no prospect of employment, comes scant prospect for marriage and fleeting hope for starting his own family.
He worries about his young daughter. He knows there will be few police on the streets as she walks to school and those police will be more concerned with earning a pound or two helping someone park, than actually protecting her from the harassers who plague his community.
And he worries about food. His wife struggles daily to afford food for his family and now he reads that the government is going to raise the costs of electricity and water and petrol.
Despite his worries and his struggles, nothing stifles his one simple prayer: He wants his children to lead a better life than him. But his prayers need more than divine intervention, and that dream is slowly slipping away.
He did not vote in the referendum. What was the point? First, he could not afford to lose a day’s wage standing in line. Secondly, he did not understand it. And what he did hear in the past two chaotic weeks didn’t answer his prayers or advance his dream. So he trudged off to work.
A year or so ago, he had some hope. While he didn’t participate in the Revolution, he wasn’t sad to see Mubarak fall. Maybe a new government would improve his hopes and dreams.
He voted in the parliamentary round for the Freedom & Justice Party. While he was wary of the Muslim Brothers, they were the only ones in his community campaigning. They talked of a better future, better wages and more security and stability. And they gave his family some tomatoes and cooking oil. But all they did in parliament was fight and argue over who insulted whom… and there were nose-jobs and scandals and bickering. Now he is out of cooking oil too.
When the presidential campaign came around, he secretly ignored his local sheikh’s call to “please God” and voted for someone named Hamdeen Sabbahi. At least one of the candidates was speaking up for factory workers like him. But Sabbahi lost. So in round two he got another can of cooking oil and gave the Muslim Brothers one more chance.
His oldest son protested two years ago for “bread, freedom and social justice.” It is clear to him now that this was just a dream. Just talk. And not worth losing a day’s wage voting for or against a constitution he doesn’t understand.
Tonight, when he returns from his 12-hour shift, weary and defeated, he may watch the news on TV or read a newspaper and catch a few headlines…
- Fragile economy overshadows Morsy’s referendum win
- Electricity price hikes a necessity, says official; but will hit poor the hardest
- Egypt consumer confidence falls 4.1 pct in November: Report
- Farouq El-Oqda, who has led Egypt’s Central Bank for almost nine years, denies resignation reports Sunday
- The EGX30 — Egypt’s main market index — declined 1.5 per cent, with uncertainty ahead this week
- Egypt’s budget deficit reaches $13 bln: Finance Ministry
- Govt slows diesel price increase in response to strike threats
- Draft constitution fails to protect economic rights, experts say
- Tourism losing thousands of dollars every minute: An unstable Egypt is costing the country a fortune in missing tourism funds
While he may not understand falling markets or consumer confidence indexes, he knows this is all bad. He will not see dignity and respect in his lifetime. His son is doomed to probably work beside him in that same factory (should he be lucky enough to get hired). And he knows that next week his family may be eating less… or worse, struggling to pay the light bill.
And just when he resigns himself to the hopelessness of his situation, he sees news from something called the National Salvation Front… maybe they will talk about jobs and wages and the economy… He watches them begin by talking about how they learned “useful lessons”…
“The Front is very cohesive and the Front is in agreement that it will lead all battles together… Not only that, but the parties inside the Front have taken advanced steps to form a big party inside the Front…” – Mohamed Abul Ghar, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.
“We have a majority that isn’t big, and a minority that isn’t small. This means there is an evident division in society… We feel we’ve made a major achievement.” – Amr Hamzawy, a political scientist and liberal political leader.
In his final despair for the day, he switches off the TV or crumples the paper. Useful lessons, cohesiveness, blah, blah, blah… He must get his rest now… because tomorrow, he must go earn his ten pounds and hope he figures out how to pay his bills. And he certainly won’t give this Amr Hamzawy’s babble about a “major achievement” another thought.
He is alone in “Anywhere, Egypt”… and nobody will help him. Not the Muslim Brothers, not this National Salvation Front… They talk and talk, but not to him. So tomorrow he will devote his day to one thing: saving his family. Alone. May God help him.
Must-reads for the National Salvation Front:
Morsi’s Pyrrhic Victory, by Nervana Mahmoud:
“… The next parliamentary election is crucial for non-Islamists, especially if they really want to survive in Egypt’s ruthless political environment. Their performance in the constitutional referendum is simply one misstep in a long trail of less than perfect decisions, and they are often reactive rather than proactive in their performance in post-revolution elections and referenda. This should serve as a wake–up call and highlight the importance of unity. The results also reflect their poor performance in rural areas, a far cry from their forefathers’ performance in the 1919 revolution, which enjoyed strong rural support. Galvanizing farmer and worker votes against the draft constitution could have, in fact, proved to be a more successful strategy for the opposition…”
Uncle Morsi, by Sarah Carr
“… The MB itself are a glorified soup kitchen with excellent logistical skills that end at distributing food to the poor and organising large rallies. They are a charity organisation with a militia that finds itself in charge of a country and which seems to think that its decisions do not need to be backed up by reason or say, the rule or law, but can rely entirely on the Egyptian people trusting Uncle Morsi…”