A storm is looming; in the meantime, Egypt has been put on hold.
After the referendum debate confrontations and the results that produced a 62% approval, Egyptians went into quiet-but-saddened mode. To them, the results solidified the futility of their attempts to change the course: their efforts had all gone to waste. The revolution had produced an even more flagrantly tyrannical system, an incompetent president who sides with his clan, and a stagnant impasse amongst Egyptians.
Though saddened, Cairenes are going about their businesses in a normal fashion. Mid-year exams are in full swing. Feasts—Xmas, (December 25 and January 7) and New Year are being celebrated. And the struggle to get from one place to another—the daily commute—remains a consuming feat.
Cairenes are taking all this—the normal, the festive, and the congested—in stride, but other more worrisome issues flag an upcoming storm.
The first sign is in the record-high prices on all basic foodstuffs. And the anticipated tax hike on gas and other commodities, including electricity, wreaks ominous volatility. This while the dollar is slowly inching up against its dwarfed Egyptian counterpart. The bottom line is most Egyptians can’t make ends meet and with the new taxes, life will become extremely difficult.
In 1977, the “Bread Riots” hit Sadat’s Egypt. These riots remained one of lowest moment in Sadat’s presidency. Egyptians today anticipate a similar scenario: the “Revolution of the hungry,” where poor Egyptians will come out in droves to say enough is enough. This is a definite fear because this kind of uprising would not be clean and noble akin to January 25; it would be messy and violent. This President Morsi has to beware.
As a consequence, changes at the executive/governmental level are happening. President Morsi has been busy reshuffling the cabinet—ten new ministers were sworn in. He hopes the changes will ignite energy into the economy. This remains to be seen.
And as Morsi’s ill-equipped cabinet remains slow in effecting change, Egyptians resort to the only way they can to overcome the mess: they laugh it off, with Morsi getting the brunt of the jokes. Egyptians, usually, respect the elderly, leading figures, and the powerful, but Morsi has lost their respect, and I don’t think he will be able to regain it back easily. This is why Morsi is trying to halt the mockery but is unsuccessful. Many talk show hosts were summoned for questioning and have court cases pressed against them—the guilt: making fun of the Egyptian president. This approach is creating even further laughable moments.
But remorse is by far the worst sensation Egyptians are feeling today. In hindsight, many Egyptians are lamenting the good old days gone by. They know that Mubarak’s era was not good, but they are in a worst state, so much so that they are devastated. “How could we have possibly gotten ourselves into such a bind?” is today’s most ominous reflection.
Then January 25, 2013 is at our doorstep, but many Egyptians feel there is nothing to rejoice about. Two years after one of the most revered and respected revolutions, the dream is shattered.
January 25, 2013, will bring thousands to Tahrir Square once more, this time demanding the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi. Most Cairenes are worried about that day. Though clashes will occur, and another storm will materialize, the path remains unchanged—the course Islamists have put Egypt on will continue, another reason for regret.
Yet in spite of the fear Islamists instill in Egyptians, in spite of the Islamic supremacy sought, at face value, nothing has changed. Moderate Egyptians party, wear tight clothes, drink, and show off their hair—if they so wish. They walk the club tracks in yoga pants and uncovered hair. They go shopping in ordinary clothes heeding no one. A Xmas tree adorned Tahrir Square for the first time ever. Muslims celebrated Xmas with their Christians friends and wished them well—this in spite of, or because of, the Salafi fatwa that discouraged Muslims from doing just that. In all fairness, nothing has changed and moderate Egyptians remain themselves.
This lull promises to be short lived though; January 25 will bring another wave of animosity and anger.
This is a mere lull. Egyptians await January 25, the second anniversary of the revolution with anticipation.