Ancient Egyptians established a lingering centralized government with the king dominating and ruling like God over a highly organized society.
By Dr. Ashraf Ezzat
The Great Pyramids
Whenever Egypt is mentioned the great pyramids are likely to be referred to in the discourse. The pyramids of Khufu, Khefre and Menkaure stand witness to the power and splendor of the ancient Egyptian old kingdom (2686-2181BC) but what a lot of people are not aware of is the fact that the fall of this once mighty kingdom had been due to a relentless political turmoil during which ancient Egyptians protested over social and economic grievances in what most Egyptologists now view as one of the first political upheavals in history.
The eclipse of the royal power came shortly after the reign of King Pepy II (Neferkare) who ruled for over 90 years, but his long reign was not the reason behind the collapse of the old kingdom but rather his policy that lacked compassion and care for the dispossessed and those in need.
Egypt goes back in history thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians didn’t only build enduring wonders like the obelisks and temples but they also established a lingering centralized government with the king dominating and ruling like God over a highly organized society.
That political system was perfect and appropriate for those times in the remote past but not today. As a matter of fact when the centralized and strong government of ancient Egypt was fully engaged in the megaprojects of building the pyramids societies around the world were still struggling out of their prehistoric ages.
Relief from Karnak temple showing Egyptian farmers harvesting -Ancient Egypt, New Kingdom(1550-1069 BC)
People in Egypt always adapted to the tyranny of the ruler and in a way thought that it was somehow predestined. The loyalty and reverence to the pharaoh had transformed over thousands of years to be replaced by total submission to the ruler. And what people were allowed to do was to show patience and wait for heaven or destiny to intervene.
Modern Egyptians are not unfamiliar with uprising, they protested gallantly during the era of the British colonialism. They couldn’t carry on under the rule of foreign power which ended in 1936.
It took Egyptians almost 60 years to figure out that the national leaders of the republic who followed the ousting of the Egyptian monarchy and the British mandate had not been any different if not worse.
The rule of the late two presidents over Egypt had its flashy moments of glory and people’s satisfaction likeNasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956 and the glorious war against Israel in 1973 during Sadat’s rule unlike the reign of Mubarak which lasted for thirty years now and which brought nothing except more corruption that seemed to propagate and spread into all aspects of the Egyptian socio-political life.
Mubarak’s regime is one of the final models of a lingering post- Cold war authoritarian rule. A rule that lost contact with the people and did nothing to improve their living conditions politically and economically. But are the Egyptians protesting only over political and economic grievances or there is more to it than just that?
The hope generation
During the last 2 decades a new generation has emerged, a generation of the information age, the internet age which gave the young people a never felt before sense of individualism and independence but which at the same time didn’t prevent them from belonging to a globalized world with universal and equal standards of shared human rights and values.
The new generation saw things differently than before, they couldn’t tolerate living in the information age while they were still getting caught and thrown into prison for expressing their opinions about the politics of their country. They couldn’t tolerate not to protest in a country where only the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, where politics is all about being a puppet government for foreign powers and playing friend with the enemy.
They couldn’t see living in a country where criminals are on the loose running the government whiles the police is intimidating and humiliating the ordinary people and especially the younger generation of activists and bloggers who dared criticize the regime. Some of those bloggers have been repeatedly imprisoned and subjected to physical violence and even sexual harassment.
One can adapt to poor living conditions, unemployment and lack of freedom of speech but who can adapt to humiliation and hurt dignity.
One can go to bed on an empty stomach but I doubt any one falling into sleep with wounded pride.
Egyptian street protests
… that`s why this new generation of the Egyptian youth took to the streets to not only protest to decades of dictatorship but to mark a new page in the modern history of Egypt. Those young people long for a new Egypt where they could feel their dignity restored, where they could actually discern a change of attitude on behalf of their government. They long for a new Egypt where they are treated as equal and free citizens and not as dispensable and muted subjects.
Those thousands of sincere young men and women and in their aspiration to change the political scene of Egypt have never thought that their uprising would turn to be a global phenomenon especially that this was supposed to be a one day event and not the non stopping nationwide protests it turned out to be.
This new movement of January 25th and over a few days has become the main political power in Egypt. They have managed to bring down a whole cabinet of ministers and to force the president to concede to many of their demands of legislative and constitutional reforms and even bring 30 years of police state to an end. They have been doing all that in the most spontaneous way and in the ultimate grassroots picture with no apparent leadership what so ever. One could see the thousands of them gathered at tahrir square chanting out their slogans as if they were singing “Power to the people”
This lotus revolution which has been sparked by the aspirations and sacrifices of thousands of dedicated revolutionary young people is unfortunately bound to end up with their disappointment and agony over handing it over to a bunch of hawkish and professional politicians.
Now that President Mubarak has conceded to a lot of the protesters demands but at the same time refused to step down before the end of his term, this grassroots uprising has come to a critical crossroad.
But whether Mubarak steps down now or later and whether those courageous young men and women stop marching for Tahrir Square today or next week, one thing is certain, Egypt is not going to be the same ever again and this proud generation of Egyptians will be remembered in history as the free souls and rebels who have brought this era of authoritarianism in the Middle East to an end.