By Mohamed Elmenshawy Al Ahram
Theorists of the past defend efforts to build a new tyranny in a modern form by misusing established fundamentals under the pretext of “guarding the state” and the need to respect “the prestige of the state.”
Some of these theorists of the past – that the Egyptian masses rose up against on 25 January 2011 – still justify continued deprivation from basic human rights such as bread, freedom and social justice at the hands of state agencies.
These theorists are essentially defending continued oppression of the Egyptian people by the Cairo elite. The elite in the capital control the top tier bureaucracy in Egypt and have thus effectively ruled Egypt by avidly supporting despotic regimes since Egypt became a republic in 1952.
The Cairo clique lives in a handful of neighbourhoods and owns most of the real estate from West Alexandria to the border with Libya, known as the North Coast. They also own real estate and resorts on the Red Sea, and control the Tunis region on the banks of Lake Qaroun in the impoverished governorate of Al-Fayyoum.
The Cairo elite, through their influence and corruption, are able to provide potable water, electricity and sewage disposal to their resorts which they visit frequently, while ignoring the fact that several million Egyptians suffer from a lack of potable water, electricity and sewage in their villages and hamlets.
The Cairo elite are not an intellectual clique by traditional standards, but a parasitic consumer elite who has no intention or ability to lead society forward.
The relationship between the Cairo elite and the West is both repulsive and pitiful. It is disgraceful that the Cairo clique is unlike the European and US elite. They look to the West in awe and revere its lifestyle, art and technology, but ignore the social values that paved the way for a strong and developed West, such as equality, freedom and de-centralisation.
This clique built alternative schools, hospitals and transportation to what the state provides for the rest of Egyptians. They compete to wear the latest in Italian fashion, but the most dangerous and deplorable consumerism is what they are doing about the education of their children. There is a heated race to admit their children to British, French and American schools, without realising the dangers of education at foreign schools for the future of these people, their identity and cultural values.
Although these elites adore the state, they do not send their children to its schools or go to its hospitals, and their offspring know nothing about the condition of public transportation because they simply never use it.
According to various classifications Egypt is considered a “backward state” since its universities, schools and hospitals are at the tail end of international rankings. Its rank has dropped so far that non-oil producing countries such as Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco have overtaken it in quality of education and public health.
The Global Competitiveness Report issued last month at the World Economic Forum placed Egypt last out of 148 countries on the quality of primary education. It ranked very high, 135 out of 148, on “wastefulness of government spending.”
Although the natural evolution of managing a modern state leans towards de-centralisation, whereby the role of government in the capital is limited to issues of sovereignty such as defence, foreign policy and managing the economy, the Cairo elite insists on directly dominating all the affairs of Egypt. The central state becomes its tool for hegemony and the capital controls the destiny of Egypt’s governorates.
Naturally, this clique rejects any bold suggestions to transfer the capital to a city in Upper Egypt. It also detests any ideas about de-centralisation that are inherently positive because they dilute the concentration of power, and distribute it administratively and geographically across the country away from the narrow circle of influence in Cairo.
The Cairo elite uphold policies that create and maintain poverty through education, health and labour policies. It is a ruling class that does not need mass support and endorsement because it reaches power through a corrupt web of relationships that is opaque and unaccountable.
They accept tyranny as a means to protect their gains and privileges, which is exactly why they are fighting for tyranny to remain, since it cannot exist as an “elite” except under despotic rule.
The elite in developed countries are the engines pulling a long train, leading it so their advancement and progress is directly linked to pulling and pushing the rest of society forward. But the position of the Cairo elite on the free elections that took place was not about guarding the identity of the state as they claim, or preventing a monopoly by one single political camp. Instead, it was to defend their professional and functional role and protect their gains and interests.
The Cairo elite served the former regime and were given senior executive, judicial and legislative positions in the government based on their degree of loyalty to the head of the regime. Egypt’s incurable malaise was not of real concern for them – they ignored the fact that 23 million Egyptians are illiterate, 12 million Egyptians suffer from hepatitis and 14 million from diabetes.
The January 25 Revolution did not rise up only to overthrow former president Hosni Mubarak. Its goal was to change the way of thinking and the behaviour of society in general. The more important change, however, is replacing the Cairo elite with an elite from outside the capital. There is no hope for a free and progressive Egypt as long as the parasitic Cairo elite continue to suffocate the potential of Egyptians elsewhere in the country