Egypt’s future: Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Joker

The scene in Egypt is nothing less than a complicated mess: there are several forces, shifting alliances, political stagnation, mass frustration, a failing economy and conspiracy theories. The country is simply a boiling pot. What is the way out? To find a solution, one must first identify the players and the main problem.

The King

The king is the old regime with all its pillars. It is an old man with every sickness and with every reason to die. It is a failed state with a corrupt party (the National Democratic Party) and a group of business tycoons who did nothing but loot every resource in every possible way.

To the surprise of many people, the Muslim Brothers were one of the pillars of the regime as well. With their huge social welfare network that provided food, education and health care, the Muslim Brothers helped the Mubarak regime survive longer. By providing the bare minimum that people could live on, they gained popularity, but also helped sustain the failed state. The Brothers were also the essential threat that the regime needed to justify its repression. Although they were against the regime, the Brothers were essentially part of the system.

The Queen

The queen is the upper and middle-to-upper class, which was not, strictly speaking, corrupt. Nevertheless, its members benefited directly from the king’s dictatorship. They could live a life of quality in their own bubble of compounds, private schools, private clubs, private beaches, private gyms, pubs and clubs. They cared little, if at all, about the poverty, illiteracy and hunger that most of the public suffered from.

The king constantly rigged elections, and the votes of the poor and illiterate did not matter, as their votes did not affect the queen’s lifestyle. And so the queen paid no attention. Most of the middle and middle-to-upper class deliberately ignored the problems of the failing state and continued to enjoy their lives like a careless queen from the Middle Ages.

The Jack

The Jack is another word for knave, or a butler who does what the king says, a viciously corrupt and brutal armed force with a license to commit human rights abuses. The police force (under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior) has unquestionably served the corrupt king. For too long the police have repressed those they are supposed to protect, and continue to do so and are unwilling to change.

The Ace

Despite losing some popular support after stepping forward on January 25, 2011, the military — the Ace — is still the most popular entity in Egypt’s political scene, and will continue to be. The only other popular party was the Muslim Brotherhood. Since its failure, the military is the only one still standing. Many may not like it, and many will disagree, but that is the naked truth.

The Joker

The Joker is the winning card: a young, vibrant generation with a determination to win its freedom and build a new Egypt where dignity, rights, freedoms and social justice are the norm. For the young generation from the middle and low-to-middle class, the communication revolution has shown a glimpse of what it can be like to live in a country where they are respected by the regime.

The generation’s high hopes and dreams were crushed by the king’s repression and the failure of the state. This created such an unbearable frustration that the youth began to revolt. They came out and said it loudly: “The king has no clothes,” and the song goes:

“While the king was looking down

The jester stole his thorny crown

The courtroom was adjourned

No verdict was returned.”

Soon, the Ace — the military — will have to make a choice: either the “King and Jack duet” or the “Joker solo.” Will the Ace pull Egypt forward with a young, vibrant generation full of hope, or allow it to fall back into the hands of a group of corrupt beneficiaries? Will the military overcome its most basic conviction of “command chain order and obey,” lay the foundations for building a democratic state and tame the Jack, or will they continue to use the Jack to try to reign “a la Mubarak”?

Has the Joker — the young generation — learned from three years of hardship created by an ongoing revolution? Will the youth pressure and convince the Ace to side with them, or will they continue to revolt with no tangible gains?

The country is shattered and everyone is trying to pull it his own way, denying the existence of everyone else. Moreover, the two who need to work together to make the winning move are still playing against each other. One keeps wondering, will there ever be fruitful cooperation between those who can and those who know how?

Alfred Raouf 

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