North Africa, West Asia

Conquering Egypt: a never ending process

No one knows the solutions to Egypt’s problems better than those living there on a daily basis. But as the saying goes, “better late than never”.

Ahmed Fayed
31 October 2016
Thomas Hartwell AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.

Thomas Hartwell/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Egyptians grew up learning at school that King Mena/Menes unified Lower and Upper Egypt to form a sole centralized kingdom. Although he died several millennia ago, his legacy hasn’t. His ideas, tools and ruling methods have been useful for Egypt’s rulers since.

History doesn’t seem to do anything else but repeat itself. In Egypt, authoritarian rulers have proven time and again that they share the same tactics, values and ideals as this pharaonic king. In my opinion, Mena’s drive to unify the country was to create an aura of personal glory. It was not necessarily motivated by the wellbeing of citizens in the newly unified Egypt. This made him a conqueror; he used power, arms and force to achieve personal ambitions.

Like most authoritarian rulers, he did not only look down on average citizens, but treated them as slaves, subjeted to his authority. Although this attitude produced a great deal of injustice, interestingly enough, the masses barely questioned the status quo. 

It could be because the majority of people believed he knew better. Mena himself believed this lie. He certainly did not know better and after all, no one knows what the people really need more than the people themselves.

Twenty first century conquerors are acting in the same manner, though their ruling methods has evolved to fit the current times. Power these days is rarely in the hands of one individual, but rather in those of a group of people (ruling regime/coalition) whose major role is to serve their own interests. They would only serve the interests of the people, if these do not conflict with their own. 

citizens of any country can simply be conquered by their own

Today's conquerors still use power and force to reach their end goals, as they believe they know better, and most regrettably still look down on their own people. A conqueror does not need to be a foreigner, by definition a conqueror is someone who gains control by force. Which means that citizens of any country can simply be conquered by their own.

While it is a controversial matter, this notion of conquerors can be adopted in different contexts as well. For instance, the Saudi royal family conquered the Hejaz region including two Egyptian islands by force. In a different context, the French elite conquered France in order to serve their own interests while ignoring the growing suffering of people which eventually was the catalyst for the French Revolution.

Throughout history, Egyptians were ruled by several yet similar regimes: Pharos, Hyksos, Persians, Romans, Byzantine, Islamic Caliphate, Fatimids, Ayyubid, Mamluk, Ottoman, French, Mohamed Ali’s Family, British and finally the Egyptian Military. All of them share the characteristic of conquerors in one way or another.

Egyptians simply replaced foreign conquerors with local ones.

During the 1952 bloodless coup by the Free Officers, people believed that a group of young nationalist Egyptian heroes were bringing salvation from a long-lasting occupation. The people of Egypt were filled with hope. They would chant “Brother, hold your head up high” to express how happy and proud they were. However, what started as a dream, unfortunately ended up being a nightmare. Egyptians simply replaced foreign conquerors with local ones. 

It is safe to say that nothing actually changed except Egypt’s formal name: the Kingdom of Egypt & Sudan became the Arab Republic of Egypt. Local or national conquerors used more or less similar tactics when dealing with their own people as foriegn ones.

The regime often only cared about serving its own interests in complete disregard of people's wellbeing. We can see this clearly during the rule of Sadat, Mubarak and the current regime. Inequality is on the rise: The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, Morsi, and Sisi all used force and weapons to supress opposition and consolidate their reign. The behavious of the state has clearly not changed as it continues to reagrd people as mere objects of state power.

It is worth noting that while the political leadership hardly, if ever, reacts when an individual incident takes place, they act swiftly when masses are involved, perhaps to minimize the transaction costs. This was clear in the regime’s reaction to the slaughtering of Coptic Egyptian workers by ISIS. Although every individual is valuable in their own right, unfortunately, this value is tied to the regime's interests!

Education is used to brainwash the minds of the new generations in an attempt to create blind followers

Education is a crucial tool to engrain ideas, it can be used to brainwash the minds of the new generations in an attempt to create blind followers who can barely read and write, and only know how to follow orders without questioning authority, building on the logic that “the regime knows better”.

Unluckily for the past millennia, at least since the time of Mena, Egyptians never had the privilege to practice any form of political freedom. They have long been manipulated, intimidated, and even brain washed by various conquerors. Almost all regimes have despised their own people, seeing them as an obstacle to development, rather than capitalising on their unique momentum to inspire development and constructive change.

In the past, a conqueror solely served their own interests while people’s needs were always disregarded. The difference between a twenty-first century non-conquering "ruler" and a conqueror is in the extent to which their agenda serves the interests of the people. 

Most conquerors use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to stabilize their reign. They break up concentrated power into smaller parts. Smaller groups lose the power they once had as a unified entity. Eventually the power of every group amounts to much less than the power of the conqueror. This is achieved through differentiation; dividing people into factions based on artificially created boundaries such as race, ethnicity, colour, religion, class, and geographical location (north vs. south, urban vs. rural, formal vs. informal).

Building on this premise, the people of Egypt need to claim their independence by refusing these divisions. The eighteen days in 2011 were clearly not enough, people still need to take full control over their future as one unified entity.

No one knows the solutions to Egypt’s problems better than those living there on a daily basis. As the saying goes, “better late than never”.

‘Democracy Reloaded: Inside Spain's Political Laboratory from 15-M to Podemos’

Can leaderless networks thrive? What did Spain’s radical Left movement owe to social media? And what was the legacy of the protest camps that occupied Spain’s city squares in 2011?

Join us on Thursday 3 December, 5pm UK time/12pm EST to hear Grace Blakeley talk to Cristina Flesher Fominaya about her new book.

Grace Blakeley Staff writer at Tribune magazine and author of ‘Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation’ and ‘The Corona Crash: How the Pandemic Will Change Capitalism’

Cristina Flesher Fominaya Editor-in-chief of Social Movement Studies Journal; her previous books include ‘Social Movements in a Globalized World’ and ‘The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary European Social Movements’

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData