It’s hard to know what’s going on in Egypt unless you’ve been keeping track….
Here’s a quick recap:
The man in the military uniform is El-Sisi, he’s the boss. The bearded guys, at least most of them, are with Morsi, he was president for a year, he’s in prison now, people hated his guts. See those guys? The big bunch? El-Sisi promised them a handover to democracy, with a new constitution, etc. Oh, the man with the gun? He’s Mohamed Ibrahim, he’s the cop. He does the dirty work. Oh, those guys? They’re getting beaten up. Well, those ones had balloons, and the other bunch were protesting military trials. Oh, students got killed. The police guy said their heads spontaneously exploded, but the other students say the cops killed them. They were protesting, either against the regime, or against the regime’s outlawing of their right to protest, it’s that kind of thing.
We’re set up for a referendum now, over a constitution that’s been written by a constitutional committee, 50 guys. All walks of life, etc – from syndicates, unions, big institutions, professors, artists, etc.
These folks gave us a constitution that’s essentially a large rubber band. It purports to fit all sizes, it pleases the Salafi’s and the Liberals, otherwise always at odds. It allows the ‘Revolutionaries’ and the ‘Police State’ to embrace and touch each other in various dirty ways. It’s a love-fest, it’s perfect.
It allows all Egyptians absolute freedom of belief, BUT – you can only practice the Big Three religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Go figure. It promises an impartial and independent authority to handle media issues and media infractions, BUT it then has that authority appointed by parliament, effectively decimating whatever objectivity it was supposed to have had. It promises complete accountability on all levels, BUT has the president appoint those who are supposed to hold him accountable. It promises all kinds of rights and freedoms, BUT somehow provides the security apparatus with powers that render your rights meaningless. It promises civilian rule, BUT then has the military decide both the size of their own budget (and therefore, they effectively decide on the budget of ‘Egypt’) and their leadership, and then, on top of all that – it renders into the constitution the ‘right’ of the military to try civilians in military courts.
If those sort of things aren’t deal breakers for you, then fair enough, maybe you think there’s enough good in this constitution to outweigh the bad, but the problem is that people aren’t being asked to vote on it based on any of the merits it’s supposed to have, but rather as though a vote for it is a blow to, in general, Terrorism, and more specifically, the so-called Muslim Brotherhood.
Of the choices on offer in the referendum, a simple yes or no, the media has been almost incredibly lopsided. First, all adverts are designed to tell you that a YES vote is a vote for the future, and a vote for Egypt, and MEANS ‘No to Terrorism’, and ‘No to Sabotage’. There is almost no (zero to my knowledge) attempt to tell people what exactly they would be voting for if, god forbid, they chose to vote ‘No’. Would it automatically mean they are terrorists? Does a ‘No’ vote mean ‘Yes to Terrorism’? If you vote no, are you, in your heart of hearts, a terribly evil plaything of a nefarious Satan who has manipulated you in his overarching conspiracy to destroy Egypt?
It’s hard to tell.
The question that arises, then, naturally is this; why are we having a referendum in which ‘Complete & Utter Destruction’ is a choice? Is this an elaborate, nation-wide, version of the Voight-Kampff test portrayed in Blade Runner? Is the referendum there just to catch whoever dares express his or her rejection of this constitution?
This is a spoof of the referendum paper that I made to illustrate the fragmentation involved; the choices presented here are “I’m with the Coup”, “I Approve”, “I Disapprove”, “I’m Tired of This”, and “I’m with Terrorism”.
Unless people are making a choice between two known quantities, the choice itself is baseless, and the very notion that they are making a choice is simply deceitful. What happens if we vote no? Does a new constitution get written? Does this draft get edited…again? Does the same 50-Man Committee handle this process? Is a new committee chosen? How is it chosen? How much time do they have to finish it in? What happens if they take too long? What happens if they can’t agree on a constitution? How many roads must a man walk down?
We need to know these things, otherwise, the referendum is a very expensive, very risk-prone, and very, very, very useless ‘display’ meant not to give us a constitution but to put on a ‘show’ of democracy. To shine a thick gloss of democracy to the world, in the hope that it will be forceful enough to indicate to the rest of the world that we do not care how bad the constitution is, we do not care what kind of human rights violations are taking place on a daily basis, we do not even care that our reasoning so far has led to a regularity of bombings, and of corpses. In short, that our greatest concern now is to crush the Violent Islamists and, as the words go, ruat caelum – may the heavens fall.
And so it does…