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Over the past three years the Egyptian people have become addicted to quite a few traits that never seemed to register before the revolution of 25 January 2012. Before that date Egyptians were thought of as being placid, fatalistic people, reconciled to their fate, accepting every adversity as part of Gods will. The change in the Egyptian character after January 2011 is really significant. The peace loving, rather laid back traits of the patient people who work in agriculture, what are called, the valley people, suddenly evaporated. Like an easy going half asleep giant suddenly opening his eyes and waking up.
The first addiction was that of demonstrating. Before that only a very, very few used to demonstrate in protest against the government or against anything. The only time that happened was when the Mahala workers rioted against conditions in the spinning and weaving industry, a few years before. But generally all was quiet, but for a new fledgling movement, Kefaya. Still the demonstrators were usually just a few dozen. After January 2011 that changed completely. It looked like the people got infected by a very fast moving virus. The virus of dissent. Of revolt. Of getting together as one man and taking to the streets and shouting their anger and rejection of certain conditions at the top of their voices. Going on marches, getting together with other like-minded people that they didn’t know and going to squares and sitting-in seemed to take over the Egyptian imagination and a fire was lit in the Egyptian soul.
This was seen as a very effective means to reach the goals set by those demonstrating. So this continued into the rule by SCAF then with better reasons during the rule by Morsi and the Brotherhood, and is now continuing as an unbreakable habit. One of those early demonstrators wrote something on his account on twitter just yesterday, that was very indicative. He is now all for demonstrating against the law regulating demonstrations. He wrote, in essence,that even if the best President was elected, if the most fantastic Constitution was written, if the most efficient government took office, he would still demonstrate against the law regulating demonstrations. The young man is manifesting a trait that has now become prevalent among the youth, that of the addiction to demonstrating.
Another addiction suffered by Egyptians is, the high derived from a swift pace of changing and drastic events taking place all the time. Most people have set up one system or another of being immediately notified by SMS or e-mail of any breaking news. This addiction is even more difficult to break, and its withdrawal symptoms are quite violent. A nervous tension, accompanied by impatience and sometimes violent outbursts of temper. Addiction to the high of excitement has taken hold of the once placid, easy going people, who had the patience of Job. Now, if there is a lull in events, or a quiet period, we are nervous and become suspicious and angry that things are happening but no one is telling us about them!
A third addiction is one of political analysis. Now when you have two people arguing, you have three political experts. Every person in Egypt now has his own theories, his own assessments and his own predictions. Needless to say, not a lot of those agree. So arguments and a great deal of pontification takes place on talk shows and in any social gathering.
A fourth and rather sad addiction is one that had been totally alien to the Egyptian character. Violence. Some of the young people, and even some of the not so young, have now found a great satisfaction in violence. Those who do not act out the violence, usually speak it out. The extent of vitriolic speeches is horrendous. The number of court cases for liable are legion. But worse still is the acts of violence. Stone throwing has become practically a must with every demonstration or march. But more than that, and especially with those who belong to the MB, their supporters and those hired by them, the use of arson and weapons has become the norm. If it is not a club, it is a knife or even a sword, and then escalating to all types of guns and rifles, up to automatic weapons, finally reaching hand grenades and even rocket propelled grenades. This addiction to violence is really very frightening, because violence breeds violence. Although up till now the official forces have not retaliated in kind, I don’t know how long that will continue. Worse still is the fact that it is the people now who are retaliating in kind against the MB and their supporters.
A final kind of addiction, and maybe as a result of all the previous ones, is an addiction to jokes and having fun. Even if the jokes have a somewhat cruel edge to them and the ensuing laughter a note of hysteria, yet this is another addiction that we are holding to very tightly, like a saving raft in a stormy sea.
All these addictions are making life rather difficult in Egypt now, but I am hoping that with a little bit of firmness on the part of the executive branch in the application of the law, people will start getting licked into shape and taking care not to break the law. It will take some time, and probably a few stiff sentences, then people will sit up and take notice that now they will be accountable for their actions. Starting today a much stricter application of traffic laws is going to take place, hopefully this will lick us all into abiding by the rules. Once traffic is under control, the habit of abiding by the law will slowly start seeping back into our daily lives, and hopefully we’ll get back to a normal rhythm with mostly law abiding citizens. We have some tough times ahead, but at least we are starting on the right path to detox our Egyptian spirit and cure it from its debilitating addictions.