An Important Post on Egypt from Nagla Rizk

At a time of global economic crisis, the renewed centrality of two origin points of modern civilization (Greece and Egypt) is uncanny. Nagla Rizk, a professor and dean at the American University in Cairo, has courageously offered a nuanced and critical perspective on tomorrow’s elections there and the past 10 months of political turmoil. I was privileged to meet Prof. Rizk while at Yale’s Access to Knowledge Global Academy, and I highly recommend following her work and twitter feed. A few insights from her:

When we stormed the streets last January, we chanted “Aish, Horreya, Adala Egtema’eya” (“Bread, Freedom, Social Justice”). . . . Ten months down the road, yesterday we chanted in Tahrir, “Aish, Horreya, Adala Egtema’eya” (“Bread, Freedom, Social Justice”). Why? . . .

Rather than tackling the root of the problem or starting a dialogue with the protesters, [the post-Mubarak SCAF regime] chose to order them to go home. To add insult to injury, SCAF and its government portrayed them as the cause of instability, turning the rest of Egypt against them.

Meanwhile, the economy has suffered gravely. Tourism and foreign investments have been the obvious casualties. Egypt’s net foreign reserves have fallen from $36 billion in 2010 to $22 billion, its credit rating has been downgraded, prices continue to rise and the budget deficit to swell. . . .

Aggravating the situation has been the perception of the business class as allies of the old regime. This has put all members of the business community in one pot: the corrupt. The anti capitalist rhetoric (global really) has fed into calls for tighter regulation of the private sector within a general anti business environment. In addition to scaring away potential investors, the sad news is that several entrepreneurs and small business owners have closed down and workers have been laid off, compounding unemployment.

I tend to agree with Matthew Stoller that what is going on in Egypt is part of a much larger global movement. We need more voices like Rizk’s to inform the US media’s portrayal of a painful transition from oligarchy to a more just distribution of political and material power.

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