Brunch Wrap: Egypt’s Shakespearean Tragedy

In Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus, the feared Roman General struggles to convince the citizens of Rome to vote for him and promote him to the powerful position of Consul.

He is loathe to mix with the masses whose votes he need in order to secure the office. When the public refuses to support him, Coriolanus’s anger prompts a revolution that culminates in his expulsion from Rome.

In rage, he spits:

“What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues,

Rubbing the poor itch of your opinion.

Go, get you home, you fragments!”

He reduces the people to mere broken particles, but they fight back and expel him from their home.

In Egypt, several individuals and groups have taken this position.  The former leader Hosni Mubarak encompassed the Roman General through neglect – by dismissing the masses he showed he did not care. Then Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the de facto head of state who ruled with an iron fist.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose hierarchical structure has been likened to the mafia, has also fit this position disowning its own members when they did not comply with the group’s stringent rules and telling the people what they should think and feel.

On the opposite camp, liberals like Alaa Al Aswany have morphed into the role at some point.  The writer suggested yesterday that illiterate Egyptians be prevented from voting in the referendum.

Mohammed Morsi is the latest to fall victim of the dictatorship-complex. He might as well be the Roman General, even as he cancelled a decree that gave him sweeping powers and sparked huge protests.  Too little too late, many may say. Especially as he didn’t delay a referendum on the constitution as his opponents had demanded.

The president has instead convinced the public that he has “striven to amass Hitlerian powers” but “can boast of no achievements of note in rescuing his country from a crippled economy and unemployment”, writes Ahmed Al-Sayed Al-Naggar, a researcher at the Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Al Ahram Weekly.

In fact, more than anything, Morsi’s biggest failure (and the tragedy for Egypt now) is that he has brought nothing new to the table.  His aggressive campaigning for the Renaissance project has all but disappeared from the headlines and yielded no answers to the country’s economy, which has suffered as a result.

Even Hitler, in the midst of the crippling depression of the 1930s, succeeded in building up his dictatorship through creating major military and civilian industries, creating jobs for the unemployed, raising standards of living and fighting poverty, Al-Naggar writes.

Mubarak, for all his subsequent negligence, initially thought up plans that materialised into towns, cities and infrastructure.  Ideas existed, even though they often culminated in more problems for the people that needed the most help.

But Morsi, ignoring the Egyptian economy and instead focused on leading the Muslim Brotherhood rather than the country, has lacked an ounce of charisma and charging like a bull backed by a group of nobodies, he has clumsily rescinded on decision after decision.

Where’s the credibility?

No.  Morsi isn’t quite the Roman General. But he still spits on the people, suggesting the opposition were mere fragments amid the country’s 83 million, and that will cost him eventually.




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