Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Egyptian State Enigma

Mr. Monkey's insightful article The weak state  about the "state" is actually a good overview of the Egyptian governance and explains quite a lot. However; all the like minded analysts fail to explain the fundamental reasons behind this enigma of "Egyptian State" and tend to deal with it according to the legal definition of "State", hence the the belief that we actually have one.
The explanation of the Enigma lies in long Egyptian history. Since the days of the Pharaohs, there has always been the duality of the rulers and the people. The rulers included the King and the high ranking generals, Ministers/ High ranking Bureaucrats and Priests, these tribes were always rich. The People were always relatively poor and were divided into two parts, a minority of low ranking bureaucrats/government employees and the rest were soldiers, peasants and labour, middle class has always been marginal and ineffective.
Since Egypt became and stayed occupied for over two thousand years, The Rulers and Generals and even the soldiers were foreign, but they can't rule a densely populated country without the local expertise in the form of Bureaucrats and Priests, over the years, a silent pact was made between them and the rest of the people. The people will farm the lands and pay taxes that pays for their salaries -and they were welcome to milk the "State" as much as they can - and in return (since they were both The People and on the same side as fellow Egyptians) make the ruler believe that he actually rules, they will do their best to sabotage his rule and limit his control on the rest of the people so that they can go on their lives and "do their thing". 
When Mohamed Ali came to rule Egypt, he understood this setup and broke it up completely and started a new "State". He marginalized "Priests" redistributed wealth, And after several failed attempts to create a foreign army, he used the natives. Started an educated middle class for a new disciplined bureaucracy (Whom he tended to punish severely when they started their usual grafting and usurping the state authority). His successors varied in their degree of strength and political savvy, but the rules were set and actually things improved over the years, Europeans came to Egypt to live, work and start businesses. 
No matter how you view the British occupation of Egypt, no one can deny that they were the final step in making the country a Modern State and everything had standards and became organized. Post office, Police station, fire brigade and hydrants everywhere, streets and sidewalks, license and permits for any public or business activity and most importantly Official Education and a controlled bureaucracy. Naturally; middle class grew and became prosperous, "The people" were becoming more secular and "Civilized". It sure backfired in their faces later. No matter what the political conditions were, Egypt The State and more Egyptians were becoming Educated and doing quite well, with quasi liberal democracy, the path was set for better days. But....alas.
Nasser came and reinstated the old setup of the Ruler (Ministers and key political positions)/Generals (Army officers in all important jobs) /Priest (Confiscated awqaf and nationalized Azhar. Mosques were run by government and religious figures became government employees) + the usual High Ranking Bureaucrats. The rich had to come from one of these tribes; In the meantime, he annihilated the established middle class by nationalizing private businesses and making bureaucrats out of all the educated. Egypt was on the skidrow.
The Sadat experience was not completed, he was a secretive sneaky person and nobody actually predicted his next move, the country was in shambles but there was hope that things will get better and change was coming. The people were motivated, there was a budding private business, a new bourgeois class and private education for the well to do's new generation since the official education was totally useless and ineffective. A new tribe was becoming rich outside the usual setup. It seems that near the end, he realized that he had mishandled his political dual game of Extreme Religious Right pitted against the old "Leftist/Big Government" setup. I can only conclude that when it became apparent to the old regime that he planned to dismantle the old setup, the old tribes conspired for his assassination. 
Mubarak -dim witted as he is- ruled under the old terms and with the approval of the "establishment", a quick overview of his era shows that the country was back to the old habbits of when it was occupied, a ruling class that has all the privileges and nobody outside the (usual tribes) is to become rich without the establishment's approval. The People were back to being small government employees that carried on with their usual grafting and milking the "State" for maximum gain while making the Ruler believe that he actually runs the country! the rest of the people went on doing "their thing" of solving their own problems their own way, building homes wherever they pleased, driving as they saw damn fit, paying for private lessons, creating fantastic new ways to make money like street vendors and "Parking Assistants", private cars that work as public transport, all under the eyes government, and the government doesn't mind as long as the people pay graft and help to cover the government's failure to provide the minimum of statehood.
Again, Mubarak was overthrown by the very same "establishment" that assassinated Sadat and for exactly the same reasons. Gamal and his cronies were going to disturb the old setup. Police was becoming more important than the army. Important religious figures were not the Grand Imam Shiekh Azhar & The Mofty, but other parasite Evangelists, mostly, controlled by the State Security. Graft was not distributed properly. 
The Muslim Brotherhood were stupid enough to believe that since they have infiltrated the "establishment" they can rearrange matters and actually control the government and redistribute privileges. Predictably, they were overthrown and major corrections are being made with the "Amended constitution" to ensure the survival of the establishment.
I will not elaborate on the past three years here, as this post is way longer than intended. Perhaps i will do so in a follow up post to munch over these hilarious acts in the play we have been witnessing, but rest assured that concessions will have to be made, or nothing will be left to nobody and "The Establishment" will be the biggest loser.