OPED: National Salvation Front: Become a working class hero.
National Salvation Front leader Mohamed ElBaradei’s recent interview with PBS was a messaging disaster.
Framing the debate as being between the “educated middle class” against the “so-called Islamists and the majority of the illiterate part of the country” is not only insulting to millions of hard-working Egyptians, but a recipe for a permanent electoral minority.
Consider this: The “illiterate part of the country” is actually the working class. They are the unemployed and the underemployed. They are factory workers… farmers… street vendors (or entrepreneurs, in truth)… taxi drivers… garment workers… construction workers… garbage men… bus drivers… auto mechanics… and millions are mothers.
They are the hardest working people in Egypt and their miserably low wages and deplorable working conditions are helping to hold this fragile economy together for the “educated middle class.” Respect them.
Are millions illiterate? Yes. Millions of Egyptians cannot read. But they can most certainly hear you. They do not appreciate hearing they are somehow inferior citizens due to an inability to read. And they are in no way at fault for Egypt’s current mess. They struggle and labor to grow our food and haul away our garbage and raise our children for a pitiful handful of pounds each day. They do not deserve scorn, they deserve respect. They deserve a champion.
Millions voted “yes” on the constitution because the National Salvation Front failed to give them a reason to vote otherwise. Tens of thousands protesting in the streets of Cairo has zero impact on the daily life of a factory worker in the Delta. And millions did not vote because a yes/no outcome will not change their life, or most likely, they simply could not afford to lose the ten or eleven pounds they would earn (maybe) selling roasted sweet potatoes on a corner in Anywhere, Egypt.
Earlier, I wrote about “This morning in ‘Anywhere, Egypt’.” It argues the simple truth that most families have one simple dream: Hope for a better life for their children. Hosni Mubarak spit on that dream for 30 years. And now, in six short months, President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are aggressively following suit. So much so, they now lose a million or so votes every election.
Blogger & writer Nervana Mahmoud shared this statistic on Twitter earlier today:
@Nervana_1: #pt 47% of Egyptians live below poverty, earn less than $2/day, and according to parity exchange rate $1 = 1.35 Egypt pound.
The math: 40-45 million Egyptians living on 12 or so pounds per day. How many millions more struggle to survive on the “wealth” of 18 pounds per day? Who fights for them?
So, National Salvation Front, there are parliamentary elections coming in 60 days… what is your strategy? Endless meetings in your villas contemplating an election boycott? More tweets about international treaties canceling out constitutional clauses as if Morsi and the Brotherhood care? More news conferences lauding your unity and “major achievement”? If so, then please stop calling yourselves “liberals” and drop the word “national” from your name.
Reality: Constitution. Lost. Want to change it? Then you need a new strategy: winning. You have to win the parliament. And the path to victory is the economy. Morsi and the Brotherhood have destroyed any hope for economic stability and growth in the past six months. Austerity measures, tax increases and prices hikes on food, utilities and petrol are coming soon and they will devastate the poor, working class. For a genuine, unified liberal coalition that engages and fights for the working class, this looming economic catastrophe should make winning a 51%+ majority pretty easy.
But you have to develop a strong economic message today. The “illiterate part of the country”… the factory workers and farmers… the 47% of Egyptians who struggle daily trying to feed their families on 12 pounds or less need a champion. They may not know it yet, but they desperately want someone to fight for their dignity, to respect their labor and restore their dream for a better life for their children.
That champion could be the National Salvation Front. But you have to dare yourselves to win. You have hit the streets and engage the workers and the farmers and the mothers of Egypt. Stop with talk of liberalism and secularism and Islamism and all the -isms and make this about fighting for the hopes and dreams of hard-working Egyptians. Make it about jobs and wages and an economy that lifts people up and promises a better future.
In the words of John Lennon: “A working-class hero is something to be.” Be a working-class hero. Dare yourselves to win.
Educate. Advocate. Organize.