The night is bathed in red light. Al-Jazeera's camera shows people milling around brandishing sticks, stones, and whatever blunt objects they can find, “drunk with fatigue” as Wilfred Owen might put it. The iconic bust of KFC's mascot, the good'ol boy colonel, looms ominously in the background of Tahrir Square. The fast-food place must have been abandoned days ago.
A rabid Jackal in a black tie refuses to lift his fat ass out of his pharaoh's thrown. Egyptians flood their streets while hoodlums, some in uniform, others indicating their allegiance to the law with id cards tucked in the pockets of their civilian costume, intimidate them and take advantage of the absence of authority to discredit the uprising by looting. The eyes of the world are on you Egypt, your demands echo in the hearts of all oppressed people.
Only a fat deranged jackal in a black tie does not see you, does not hear you. He hears only the reverberations of your chants against his walls, walls of torture prisons, of the blockade on Gaza he's been bribed to support, the walls on which his presidential palace is built. On the tv (not state tv, of course), insulated in his tomb, he sees only your faces, not your hearts. Mubarak the crown jewel of US empire in the Middle East.
Perhaps the Canis aureus doesn't even watch tv. Perhaps his vice president/intelligence chief, and evil twin of Jacques Clouseau whispers in his ear, “there's over a million in Tahrir square, chanting “Down Mubarak.” But I doubt Omar Suleiman can decipher what Obama meant by the ambiguous dribble about orderly transition that came out of his mouth this week. For that Mubarak would have to turn to Noam Chomsky who put it bluntly, “Obama, very carefully, said nothing.”
Possibly Obama was more direct in his private phone chat with the autocrat, but we'll have to wait on Wikileaks to tell us that, that is unless Assange isn't in an electric bathtub or on his way to Guantanamo as I write this.
For all the US rhetoric about democracy, what has the US government done? Looking at two fledgling states America's hands have been molding, any self respecting Afghan or Iraqi must have to resist the urge to vomit every time a US official mentions the word democracy. Without widespread corruption, brutality and US backing neither Nuri al-Malik or Hamid Karzai would last a week in power. The word Karzai all over the Islamic world has become interchangeable with corruption. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reported this week Iraqi 'security' forces were actually torturing detainees within the US's blessed sanctuary in the hell hole that is Baghdad, the green-zone.
The gag reflex must also percolate in Yemenite, Jordanian, Saudi and Algerian throats and the guts of all true seekers of democracy at the stark contrast between the US's democratic babble and what its war and oil politics have wrought on the world. The US wasn't so hyper -concerned for democracy as it gave Mubarak that sixty billion in military aid over the years. The argument that the US was using Mubarak to combat extremism in the region is obscene when you look at Mubarak's human rights record. If that’s not extreme I don't know what is. Autocracy or democracy what matters to the US is that foreign governments are managed by elites with US business and military interests at heart.
Obama might be beating round the Bush, but the Egyptian people couldn't be making themselves clearer. After thirty years of dictatorship, they want democracy. A democracy that addresses the wide spread economic inequality that has crippled the nation. They want Mubarak out now. Never mind your orderly transition. There is no turning back. As one demonstrator put it, either Mubarak steps down or “I disappear behind the sun.”
Switching channels from Al-Jazeera to an aged Harry Potter on meth, named Glenn Beck is like watching the tv set go from Jekyll to Hyde. Beck's been sent into a tizzy over the 'riots' in Egypt. He is not alone. Despite the networks sycophantic coverage of the Bush agenda which claimed to want to spread democracy throughout the world, the second Egyptians stood up and demanded their rights Fox News wet themselves. One Fox commentator warns what is happening in Egypt could one day happen in the US of... of...(pardon me, while I wipe a sugary tear from my eye) of A. Well, is it possible? Are we, as Beck would have it, clasping for normalcy, while the end of the republic looms?
America is marked by poverty, at least fifty million people struggle with it, high unemployment particularly among the youth, and is ruled by millionaires who have plunged this country into a recession with the laws they drafted. Sound familiar? These factors sparked the uprising in Egypt, the revolt that toppled Tunisia's dictator, and are threatening regimes across the mid-east and north Africa. But things aren't just going down over there, you better believe trade union militants in countries hit by the economic crisis (which is the entire world) are watching the uprising in Egypt like Ray Charles’ back up singers going “uh-huh, uh-huh, the right stuff.”
On a nearly daily basis, while standing outside INN on my cigarette break, I give directions to people looking for the welfare office. I can see them coming, they wear a look of bewilderment on their faces, and usually clutch a piece of paper, glancing from the sheet in their hands to the addresses hung on the buildings down Walker street. The doorknob of our building has been stolen twice since Christmas time. Presumably to resell it to new customers hoping to keep thieves out. Only someone impoverished would commit such a petty crime.
In January's Harpers, Thomas Frank asserts that despite all America's talk of liberty, we are a nation of servants who have bent over backwards for the rich. He writes, we have?spent the past thirty years doing everything?we could to transfer the wealth of the nation into the bank accounts of the affluent, to send them?victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us.”
Frank recommends a twenty-four hour refusal to fawn. “Let doormen do their jobs without smiling. Let waiters at suburban restaurants leave their flare at home....” A well meaning but petty call for protest, indicating the impoverishment of the American left. Based on the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, I think we in the land of liberty can do a little better.
Thinking peoples dedicated to social change in the US ought to avoid the stance third-worldist academics in the West took during the 1980's that went something like, the revolution is happening over there in Latin America, here everything is normal. The notion that people in the US are bought off with i-phones doesn't hold up when you look at the way Egyptians have used technology to mobilize their revolution. Nobody helps anybody by allowing themselves to be reigned over, whether it is by a jackel in a black tie or by a coterie of well connected businessmen who call themselves lawmakers. What better way to show solidarity with the people of Egypt than to organize in our communities against unemployment, austerity and militarism. While it might provoke urine to spew from bladders at Fox, the Egyptian uprising illustrates to the world that there is power in the people. We are far swifter agents for change than those in the government would like us to believe.
Mass demonstrations and a general strike, when the day comes that the populace is sufficiently galvanized, could go a long way in creating a democracy that addresses the needs and demands of the people, instead of sending them behind the sun to the welfare office.