On power

Assalam Alaikom,

In Egypt, there has been a steadfast belief in the power of demonstrations and protests. Millions take to the street on one issue or another. They sit in for days or weeks, believing that their will and fortitude will advance their cause, playing the numbers game and spreading awareness among the people of their purpose. But here is the thing: it’s a sit-in. You, by definition, aren’t advancing your cause; you are waiting for it to be advanced for you. You’ll argue that, no, it places pressure on decision makers to solve your issue, but you don’t notice you just said “decision makers solve your issue”. Not you; you want them to do it. And you aren’t wrong. Without any real power in your hand, you have to rely on others with that power to intervene.

This is what this post is about. Power. The power to make change can come from inside your country or outside of it. The outside power is determined by how much your country relies on others. The countries that help you the most, have the strongest hold on your decision making process. The logic in its simplest form is: “Do this or that, or I’ll stop the aid”. But they have to appear objective to their people, so it takes a lot more time and needs bigger incentives. Meaning, bigger words. Not demonstrations, revolution; not oppression, massacres; not ousting, Coup. You may remember how the American administration was reluctant, and eventually refused, to use that description.

The other source of power, is an internal one. This is what demonstrators actually look for all the time, since requesting foreign interference is considered a betrayal of ones country, even though its existence and effects are well known. The most significant force in any civilized country is in the hands of its army, as well it should be, and it’s controlled, in its most abstract form, by elected persons; a parliament and a president. In a country not having a parliament, the duty falls to its president. When he no longer is around, the only real power that could enact a change is its striking force. Even with a parliament and a president, once the brute, physical force of a nation decides to intervene, no amount of emergency sessions or condoning by individuals in suits can oppose it, however powerful they may be (collectively) by law.

Looking at the situation in Egypt, you, as a demonstrator, however right you maybe, are looking at a very grim picture. Your army, your only power, is in fact in power, and all other institutions are following its lead with outside powers siding with it. Your sitting in, waiting for ‘someone’ to take action, is a tautology. Asking the people you oppose to help you is like asking the enemy invading your country to help you defend it.

What is the solution then? Let me first, briefly, alert you to something. Even if the recent massacres didn’t happen and the army’s hands are as clean as it claims, you have to be aware that you are still the target of a forceful attack. Brute force, not political pressure, is being used against you to dictate how your country is governed. A force that will enact punishment on you if you refuse to acknowledge it, and will tell you it’s by law when it does so. You acknowledge a government formally by the simple act of hiring it; you hire it by paying your dues. Your taxes. Don’t and you’ll be imprisoned. Force will be used against you unless you pay; unless you acknowledge.

Taxes are a great source of power. Indeed, the only one you actually have as an individual that doesn’t involve using force back. Too bad you already paid a few months ago. If you stay true to your cause, you may be able to use that in 8 months.

What is it that I think a viable solution then? Armed protests that lead to civil war? I won’t deny I have contemplated this several times. Before lashing at me for casually inciting violence and killings of fellow human beings, let alone of the same country, remember the Bolshevik and French revolutions, which I fiercely recommend reading about if you haven’t. There is nothing wrong, nay, there is every right, in standing for what’s Right. I despise the phrase “I’m willing to die for my ideals and values”. I’m not. I’m willing to live for my ideals and values. You may think they are the same in the sense that I will not bow down to an oppressor. They are. But your readiness to die will end in your death, while my readiness to live will allow me to fight back and win.

Still, as I said, I cannot call or adopt armed protest. What stands between me and enacting my convictions with my own hands, is my religion. For one, I cannot encourage or agree with killing another Muslim; I’m ordered not to by that religion. Despite their injustice, they are Muslims. I’m not going to indulge my pride on account of my faith. Another reason, that’s no less important, is the international haste of everyone to associate Islam with terrorism. Sadly, the biggest and loudest opposer of this regime, are the Muslim Brotherhood. Any action from their camp is considered an action by Islam itself, despite their continuous opposition to everything actually mandated by Islamic law when they were in power. They trade in religion as others trade in revolutionists’ deaths. A means to an end.

We are at a standstill. Unless another coup from within the military takes place and restores the elected president to his place, which some are speculating, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

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A great man once said...

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