lindsay lohan tweets 311.
(photo credit: screenshot)
Bothersome and bewildering as our existence often is, there is always a steady
anchor of shallow wisdom to which we can cling for comfort and reassurance.
During the confounding Egyptian commotion, it was soothing to behold the light
and truth emblazoned so superficially across cyberspace by the astute likes of
And so twittered the starlet, inter alia embroiled in a
whole slew of new legal entanglements: “Congratulations to the people of Egypt.
Your voices were heard and you proved that peaceful demonstrations are possible
and effective... I pray Egypt maintains it’s [sic] treaty with Israel and sets
the trend for its neighbors to create peace with Israel and the entire
Totally! Doesn’t that just prove that there’s more to airhead
icons than meets the eye? Duh! No way all those Muslim Brothers who proliferate
in the land of long-bygone pharaohs can fail to follow the irresistible
teachings from la-la land.
But why pick on ditsy Lindsay? It’s not like
her incisive slogans were any less incisive than those regurgitated ad nauseam
by statesmen/women, self-professed experts and frivolous talking heads who
couldn’t keep their mouths shut during the evolving Tahrir Square mayhem. Like
Lindsay, not all of them quite knew where on the planet Egypt is, a negligible
fact which prevented hardly anyone-who’s-anyone from expressing an
Even those who know Egypt’s geographical location perfectly well
– like our own in-house Mideast crackerjacks – didn’t get it too right. Few now
care to focus on their own fiascos, but as Cairo lost its composure right after
the Tunisian turmoil, we were persuaded by clairvoyant pundits aplenty that
“Egypt isn’t Tunisia” and that “Mubarak won’t fall like Ben Ali.”
they downhearted? Not in the least, despite having failed miserably to read the
situation even as it unfolded before their very eyes. With their indomitable
ardor not dampened, they admirably overlook their copious imperfections and
spring right back to dispense more knowing predictions.
Hosni Mubarak with a surfeit of hindsight judgmentalisms, they now concentrate
their prescient aptitudes on the Egyptian military, on its innate civic
commitment, peaceful proclivities, technocrat impartiality, business-like
Their conclusions may be every bit as unfounded as
Lindsay’s, but unlike her, they at least did hear of the Turkish army – not that
the comparison between the Ankara generals and their Cairo counterparts holds
any water and not that the long Turkish experiment ended as a sterling success
story when weighed by the scales of Western pluralist values.
grounds are there for hoping for much better from the land of the Nile? Frankly
To begin with, nobody knows much about the sort of honchos who
comprise Egypt’s military top brass and what their political inclinations are.
Moreover, if they harbor any inclinations today, these may mutate unrecognizably
next week. Some of them may chant the refrain we long to hear about peace with
Israel being an intrinsic Egyptian interest to be safeguarded at all cost. But
“intrinsic interests” are ever malleable in the Egyptian context.
only constant in the Egyptian mix is its supersnarled red tape which effectively
obstructs all governmental executive decisions. Even topmost policy edicts are
unrecognizably ground down as they’re subjected to arbitrary whims imposed along
the way by inflated cadres of sluggish administrators. The military caretakers
may order reforms aplenty, but Egypt being Egypt, their commands are unlikely to
be dependably implemented.
The bottom of the bureaucratic pyramid is the
most troubling of all. Who are Egypt’s functionaries, apparatchiks, officers and
soldiers? Putting them behind desks or in uniform is an expedient way of keeping
them nominally employed and drawing salaries, but on the whole they’re too
numerous and woefully underpaid.
Hence they’re eminently bribable. For a
handful of dollars, Egyptian officials will turn a blind eye to whatever suits
It was so under Mubarak and will continue to be so long after him.
The ills of Egyptian society weren’t Mubarak’s doing and won’t be undone by his
Regardless of what Lindsay twitters and what more
presumptuous analysts babble, the Egyptian masses – like their brethren
throughout the Islamic realm – haven’t even a vague clue about
Whatever passes for elections in their midst are populist
charades of thinly masked promotions for nepotism under the guise of opposing
someone else’s corruption, all alluringly packaged as “the people’s choice.” Yet
in effect this isn’t democracy as we know it.
In essence it’s rallying
around substitute autocrats. The outdoor theater and the outward trappings may
deceptively mimic democracy, but social justice or economic equality won’t be
THE IDEALISTIC notion in political science departments
throughout American and European halls of academe presupposes the inborn
attractiveness of democracy and the natural evolution toward it in all human
societies. If the disadvantaged populations of the earth were only guided by
relatively beneficent custodians, they’d ultimately see the light. That was the
expected guardian role of Mubarak, the late King Hussein (and his heir King
Abdullah), Yasser Arafat (and his heir Mahmoud Abbas), the assorted potentates
of the Arabian Peninsula, the Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani American protégés and
But they never could deliver the goods. They were just more
sophisticated than the Assads of Syria or the Gaddafis of Libya or the Saudi
royals (before whom the leader of the free world bowed obsequiously soon after
This is where forces like the Muslim Brotherhood garner
their clout. These outfits, among them Hamas and Hezbollah on our doorstep, fill
the vacuum and entice the needy. They offer bread and brainwashing to masses who
don’t quarrel with the notion of being dominated by bosses, so long as these
bosses are generous with their handouts. And thus the bellicose clerics are
popularly perceived as honest and munificent, whereas their adversaries are
despised as tyrants.
Democracy is intrinsically optimistic. At its base
is an abiding humanist hope, a trust in the forces of the common good. We are
naturally moved by scenes of mass defiance, by freedom mantras piercing the
airwaves, by promises of new dawns arising. Dispiriting distinctions between the
real and the ersatz may be over the heads of assorted Lindsays and unprofitable
for rating-grabbers, who a priori set trends for the Lindsays.
those of us not fooled by facades, it was always clear, even before the latest
regional upheaval. More than two years ago I cautioned in Another Tack against
putting “our trust in Egypt (the ‘staff of hollow reed,’ as per Isaiah 36:6),
which had already let us down more than once. Besides such factors as Hosni
Mubarak’s illhealth and advancing age, the formidable strength of the Muslim
Brotherhood and rampant Der Stürmer-style Jew-slandering, Egypt in the best of
circumstances is never as good as its word, its sincerity or lack thereof
notwithstanding. Even if Cairo’s powers-that-be were unreservedly determined to
do their best – which is questionable – odds are that nothing would