The news lately has been full of Egypt–the Arab Spring, the Egyptian Revolution, the fall of Mubarak, the election of Marsi and the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood(MB), the military coup and the fall of Marsi, the military regime’s massacre of MB members and others, and Obama’s bumbling in all of the above.
All of the news I have seen on my TV, heard on my radio, and read on the Internet has never mentioned a central, fundamental truth about Egypt, without which it is impossible to even begin to understand the Egyptians, and that is that Egypt is one of the oldest continually existing civilizations on the planet.
The Egyptians, you see, go WAAAAY back. At least 5000 years, to be imprecise.
They’ve seen it all. The inventions of agriculture, irrigation, bureaucracy, theocracy, masonry, architecture, money, weapons, you name it. Not to mention the rise and fall of their own empires and conquest by others, which all fell in their own turn. And religion. From the god-kings of the Pharoahs’ day to Zoraoastrianism, Christianity and its many schisms in that part of the world, and Islam and its multiplicity of variants. Different forms of government, different ideals, you name it, it’s probably been tried or imposed in Egypt at one time or the other.
And, in spite of all of that, Egyptian civilization has endured. That’s really quite an impressive accomplishment when you think about it. Of all the other civilizations in human history, and by “civilization” I mean the old definition of the “art of living in cities,” only the Chinese and the Indians can make the same claim for as long a period of time.
Now, like the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, French, and British before them, the American Empire seeks to control events in Egypt and the Egyptian people themselves to its own geopolitical advantage. Like their predecessors, the Americans have had some success for a time, but also like them, such control is slipping from the imperial American grip. Either you stay in Egypt and eventually get Egyptianized, or you leave because it’s just not worth the trouble anymore, or you simply get thrown out on your ass.
All the meddling and dominance games of previous foreign powers have eventually failed in Egypt. All of the foreign conquerors and influence-peddlers I mentioned above failed to shape Egypt in their own image, and America is no exception to the rule. Interestingly enough, there is only one regional power that has recognized that fact from the beginning of its existence, and which doesn’t even try to control the Egyptians, and that is Israel. The Israelis know better. Oh, they know they have to deal with Egypt, and have to reach some modus vivendi with the Egyptians in order to survive themselves, and they may try to meddle around the fringes, but they’ve never tried to actually control Egyptian civilization. Defeat them in war, yes. Conquer them? Perish the thought. The Israelis can’t do it, and they know it.
We Americans should be at least as intelligent as the Israelis on the matter of Egypt. We should show a little respect for one of the most venerable and accomplished societies our species has seen, and let the Egyptians determine their own destiny. In other words, leave them the hell alone. Lay off. They’ll figure it out. Have a little faith. Besides, the Egyptians have no history of being hellbent on world conquest or imposing their will on the entire planet. They’re basically good people who just want to be left alone and to lead decent lives. I know that not just from studying their long, rich history, but by getting to know a few Egyptians.
It’s a pity our government and corporate concerns don’t, or won’t, understand any of this. They are blinded by their own greed and ambition. But, like Napoleon and many more, they’ll get their comeuppance in Egypt if they persist in messing with those people.
Photo by Joe Pitha released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.