The speech that eclipsed the people

Hania Sholkamy , Sunday 30 Jun 2013

Today’s protesters are those who failed to find a place in the middle class world created by President Morsi and reflected in his exclusionary speech filled with threats and bribes

Dr. Pakinam El-Sharkawy, the president’s only remaining assistant and his political advisor, touted the speech made by Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday 26 June as a landmark in transparent leadership and democratic practices.

Much has since been made of the speech both by Morsi’s detractors and defenders. Opponents noted his disregard for truth, common sense and legal propriety. The cavalier name-dropping, for example, intended to reveal enemies was devoid of evidence and was closer to defamation than confrontation or revelation.

His supporters found the lack of substance and the aggression both soothing and reassuring. Here is a man who is not afraid to call a spade a spade even if the facts are not quite right! Others were perplexed by the images, assumptions and ambitions of the speech-giver.

The speech was sparse in substance although replete with details. The names of obscure persons who hire thugs, for example, replaced any mention of the agents of chaos and violence at play in Sinai. Despite the cold blooded murder of 16 soldiers in August 2012, numerous assassinations and kidnappings, and the latest incident in April whereby military security persons were kidnapped and set free thanks to an elaborate operation that involved army and police, there was not a word mentioned nor a name offered.

Moreover, Dr. Morsi forgot to mention why he was giving the speech in the first place! The Tamarod movement and petitions that were thought to be a storm in a regressive teacup and who invited Egyptians to protest on 30 June got not a single mention, hand gesture, or angry glare.

The speech has been critiqued, lauded and ridiculed for the above reasons but less has been made of its implicit class biases. The petty criminals, according to Morsi, who play with the electricity supply, leak subsidised gas into the black market or otherwise scramble to make an ignoble living received much of his attention. These people fall outside the grace of the regime and are as if the handmaidens of the counter-revolution!

The social narrative of the speech was middle class, moralistic and exclusionary and this is precisely the failing of the current regime. Like its predecessors, this regime is comprised of a moral middle class minority that can mobilize small pockets of people to support its world-view and interests.

The speech betrayed this cynical stance vis-à-vis the majority who are engaged in endless competitions and contests to make life tolerable and to align themselves with those they see as powerful. Can you really despise your own people because they are not pure, obedient or subservient enough?

The regime likes its people to be patient, grateful, moral and devout! Workers should not defend their interest, petty criminals should starve not steal and audiences should disbelieve bad news and ferret around for glad tidings. Worst of all was the cynicism towards young persons who were projected as innocent, full of energy and high expectations but dejected because they have been excluded from the distributions of power and resources. These young persons will shortly get powerful positions as deputies to ministers and governors as candy for their candid expressions of revolt.

The writers of this speech seem to come from a world that has no colour, diversity or conflicts. The social order they are addressing is a narrow and bland one. Hence their inability to enable Dr. Morsi to substantiate his oft made claim to be a president for all Egyptians. “All” to them, and to him, just simply means ‘some’!! That is why the defenders saw everything they wanted to see in this speech and why others saw and heard nothing but threats, bribes, incoherence and pretensions.

Today is 30 June and the ‘Fitna’ that has been fuelled and nurtured by this regime may seriously threaten the Egyptian social order. This regime welcomes the moral, Sunni, middle class into its fold and will also patronise others for their votes but will not accommodate anyone else. Polemics aside, this order has been talking to its own oppositions; the Islamic non Brotherhood parties and their own clients; and has been watching its own media and reading its own press, believing its own stories and following its own analysts; and when it comes to politics consulting only its supportive advisors.

That is why the regime sees conspiracies and not protest, expects violence from others while fuelling the flames of its own violent supporters and suspects treachery while failing to understand the sincerity of millions. Of course, there are thugs, counter-revolutionaries and dangers lurking in every square and street in Egypt and many taking to the streets know that they are treading a fine line; but still they tread and still they protest! They do so because the regime has clung to a threadbare legitimacy in which the votes of voters are now being used to claim an unconditioned legitimacy. Today’s protestors are neither stupid nor reckless. They are people who have not found a place in the narrow middle class world of Dr. Morsi.

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