This seems to be the bane of our times. The Government is frustrated, the Committee of Fifty for the Constitution is frustrated, and the people in general are frustrated. This is the result of each wanting something that cannot be done except through compromise, and compromise is a very dangerous game to play when you are trying to establish a new country, after a revolution that was supposed to fulfill the dreams of the majority. How far to compromise, and what is up for compromise and what is non-negotiable, these are the matters causing all the frustration.
The Government :
The pressures under which the Government is operating are tremendous, not only internal pressure but external pressure as well. The internal pressure is in trying to accommodate the needs of the population. The first factor being a sense of security and safety on the streets. Running a close second is the economy and the millions below the poverty line who are barely subsisting now. A very close third is the lack of an all encompassing vision that appeals to the general imagination and which could be a unifying factor.
The first of the three frustrating factors is the safety and security of the country which are compromised by an enemy within and one without. We have the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and their supporters within, and then we have Hamas and their Mujahedeen without. These are the physical threats to our safety and security. However, there are even bigger threats in the form of pressure by the United States and the European Union. The way public opinion has been mobilized against what is taking place in Egypt is very, very frustrating, especially when facts are twisted and given a totally fictitious spin to suit the point of view of the writer or the Administration. Those first few weeks after the revolution of June 30, 2013 were extremely frustrating. We are the ones living here. We are the ones who went through the hell of Morsi’s rule. We should know how we all felt – that Egypt no longer belonged to us, that it was kidnapped by a terrorist cult that was systematically and ruthlessly dismantling all foundations of the nation and demolishing all social and cultural icons. Our only hope was the one entity that had not been affected yet, and which was armed, to enable it face the terrorists imported from Gaza. That entity is the army headed by General Abdel Fattah El Sisy.
The second factor, the economy, is a very complicated and difficult problem to solve. More than 40% of the population is under the poverty line. Not only can they not earn a decent living, they don’t even have the services supposed to be rendered to them for survival. This has caused unprecedented anger, desperation and frustration to the people; but just as much frustration to the Government in trying to help these people who are nearly half the population. Lack of monetary resources, and even the cadre of managers needed, is what is frustrating the Government in trying to alleviate such poverty and deprivation. Loans are not the answer, work is. But again, this is a vicious circle. To start a project that would generate jobs needs financing, and this is lacking. There are a few rays of hope where financing is concerned, but nothing earthshaking or fundamentally helpful.
The third factor contributing to all the frustration is the lack of a coherent, universal dream which should be interpreted into a concrete goal with measurable achievements. Although whenever aspirations are discussed, there is no lack of demands, yet none of those to-date have been very clearly set out in a practical, doable fashion that would catch the general imagination and get the public all behind it. The lack of such a concrete goal gives the impression that this government is indecisive and scared to take any radical decisions. This might not be quite fair considering that it is an interim Government, but there are so many decisions that have to be taken and taken immediately, for survival, that hesitancy at this crucial juncture amounts to failure in the eyes of the people.
The Committee of Fifty :
The second entity that is frustrated and causing a great deal of frustration to the people in general, is the Committee of Fifty which is undertaking the amendment of the highly unpopular constitution written by the MB Committee in 2012. The Committee is being frustrated into its efforts to write a good Constitution by the Nour Party, a Salafi party that had been an ally to the MB during the previous year, but who were, as well as everybody else, betrayed by the MB when they came in power. The Nour Party has taken up the mantle of the Defender of the Faith and that they, and they alone are the ones who know the righteous path to religion proper and how it should be applied. They are even more restrictive and exclusive than the MB. Salafi means someone who is a throwback to the ancestors. To them life should be modeled on that which was practiced 1400 years ago. Thus the short white galabeya for men, growth of untrimmed beards, and the application of all penalties as they deem were applied then, like dismemberment of limbs and stoning. The women should go back into the home and be used only as vessels for procreation and for the pleasure of men. They should not be seen or heard and could be easily given corporal punishment by the dominant male of the household at his whim. This party, with these ideas, wants to impose their views as part of the constitution. This is causing the members of the Committee of Fifty a great deal of frustration in trying to persuade them to agree to a compromise that would be acceptable to the majority of the people, and which they could live with. The compromise is to put all controversial items in a chapter considered as articles of transition. This means that these are temporary till the country settles down and starts on the road of recovery. This, of course, means postponing the problem not solving it, which might be a right decision for the time being when feelings are so intense that reaching an acceptable compromise might be impossible. Although we have just had a resignation of one member of this Committee because of an attempted compromise with the Nour a Party, yet the actual approval of this alleged compromise has not taken place, nor the actual acceptance of the resignation has happened. So tension is very high, but so are the stakes.
On the positive side, discussions of the progress being made in the amendment of the Constitution are taking place everywhere by the people amongst themselves, on Facebook, in the media, and even in the evening gatherings in the little villages in the countryside. This was never the case before. People were never so aware of the importance of actually being involved in the setting up of the constitution that will rule our lives for the foreseeable future. Acknowledgement and thanks have to go to a few media people who have taken it upon themselves to clearly educate the masses by presenting problems in understandable details and bringing in experts to give alternate solutions.
The People :00
The frustrations people are feeling is mainly for lack of perceived progress. Security and safety on the streets are not back one hundred percent, although they definitely are better. But this is a case where even a small percentage of insecurity is still unacceptable. Prices of basic goods and commodities are still on the rise, but at least a decision to put into effect minimum wage for civil servants has been taken, to be implemented January 2014. This gives a ray of hope. Another ray is the investments by the Emirates in development enterprises in Egypt, not loans anymore, but actual development which means employment and a slight movement in the stagnant economy. Tourism is tenuous but beginning to come back, especially to the Red Sea. These are all indicators of optimism, but are not enough for people who are starving for drastic measure to improve their lot in life. The reason behind this frustration is that hopes were so high after the 2011 revolution, that consequent delays in achieving such hopeful goals for two years of the most difficult rule, first apparently by SCAF, but actually by the MB, and then by the MB in full force, have left the people disillusioned and frustrated.
Frustration is still the predominant feeling among the people, as well as a fast disappearing patience and tolerance of any hesitation or delay on the part of those in authority. It is a still fluid, and rather volatile situation where the MB are concerned, especially with Morsi’s trial coming up in less than a week. The number of violent acts, especially against the police and the army personnel is escalating. Not a day goes by without the assassination of three or four soldiers in either drive by shootings or through explosives. If these are not terrorist acts, I would like to know what is.
Frustration is still the name of the game.