Sunday, February 13, 2011 | Categories: Episodes
On Cross Country Checkup: A new beginning
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been driven from power by peaceful protest ...but what comes next?
What's your reaction ...and your hopes and fears for the future of Egypt and the region?
With host Rex Murphy.
Over the past few weeks, people around the world have keenly watched the events in Egypt. After Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Friday, there were rallies around the world, including Canada, celebrating his ouster.
Three weeks ago the whole idea was considered remote, but it has happened, and now many are trying to make sense of where it is headed.
Is this the beginning of the flowering of democracy in the Arab world, as some say? Now the military is in control of Egypt, and it is rare to see a military takeover so widely celebrated. Why is this situation different?
How smooth will be the transition to a new era in Egyptian politics, if in fact it is a new era? What will the rest of the Arab world draw from Egypt? What does it mean for the future of Israel and the US in the Middle East?
Today we want to know your reaction ...and your hopes and fears for Egypt and the region.
Our question today: "What's your reaction to the victory of the Egyptian protesters?"
I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
You can feel revolution in the air with the Tunisians, then the Egyptians overthrowing their dictatorships through democratic, non-violent revolutions while demanding a better distribution of wealth and free and fair elections. That they were peaceful is remarkable. That they were initiated and sustained largely by the youth, using the internet and social media to rally people to demonstrate in the streets is also revolutionary and, importantly, entirely duplicable.
We may question, is there something for Canadians in their success? Unlike Egypt, we have a democracy but it is badly broken. We have an unelected Senate that most often acts in the interests of the establishment and corporate elites on substantive issues. We have a prime minister acting like a dictator, twice proroguing parliament to avoid defeat and then using his stacked, unelected Senate to subvert the will of the peoples' elected parliament to summarily defeat an NDP-sponsored climate change bill. This bill, passed in parliament, was meant to address the greatest peril facing mankind. We have an electoral system that can deliver a majority government with a minority of votes. We have an electoral system wherein the party most supported by the corporate sector is delivered the funds to vastly outspend the party that speaks for the poor. We have a prime minster who wants to set back the clock on electoral financing to ensure that it, and wealth, will continue to prevail. We also have a mainstream media that decidedly supports the status-quo and opposes real change.
We already have free elections, but they are not fair. Hopefully our youth, like the Egyptian youth, will energize using their conversance with the internet and social media to lead a democratic revolution at the ballot box for free and fair elections.
St. Catharines, Ontario
Mubarak's fall is great news. It is the fall of autocracy and the victory of a peacefull revolucion. Mubarak's resignation demonstrates that freedom in the Middle East can be introducted without wars and without weapons. But now, the concrete help of the United States and other Western coutries is a priority. Without real help from Western democracies, Egypt could become the new Iran, and extremist groups could impose a new Islamist regime. This is a real risk now for Egypt, for the region and for world peace. Yes, the new Egypt is born, but now we have to help it to be a great and peacefull democracy.
With many compliments to your intelligent, splendid show (I listen every week on the web here in Jerusalem).
This is the third week that Egypt has been picked as the topic. Good for the people there, but if this keeps up, you may want to change the name of the show to "Cross Country Egypt". ( I am being sarcastic, of course.) Love the show.
Mubarak himself has not said he is stepping down. We were told by, I think, his vice president that he was stepping down. The helicopters leaving the palace may have been part of an elaborite ruse and may have been empty. We need to see Mubarak's written and signed resignation. We all want it to be true so badly that we are ignoring the facts.
Hello. I was speaking to a friend of mine from Swaziland and he made the comment that the people of Swaziland could learn from the Egypt situation. Until now, I have not heard of the Tunisian and Egyptian situations as being African situations, but more as Arab situations. My hope is that the people of Southern Africa, especially Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Malawi, the Sudan and all the other countries where Oligarchy has been the status quo, will take the power back. If Egypt and Tunisia can do it, why not the rest of Africa?
Bella Bella, British Columbia
Indeed, it's amazing to see a relatively peaceful protest succeed. It's also easy to forget that Hosni Mubarak came to power after his predecessor was assassinated. The fact that he's still alive thirty years later to actually step down is no small feat.
In his lifetime he's seen his neighbour in Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, and in Israel, Menachem Begin, be murdered by what appears to be the marginalised religious right. In countries where the religious right holds the majority, like Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad manages to stay alive but at the expense of free speech.
My fear for Egypt is that a religious-right party will take advantage of the vacuum to seize power.
I am postively impressed that the Egyptians carried out this revolution without violence and much bloodshed, horror, kidnappings, torture and general terror. My belief in humanity is strengthened in the fact that this revolution occurred the way it did. I am amazed with the power of the will of the people. This revolution had no outstanding leadership, no threats to the current ruler - just a statement of will and the determination that there needed to be change and that there would be change. I am also thrilled that, although it took a long time, Mubarek and those who advised him came to understand the will of the people and have agreed that this kind of change can happen peacefully in Egypt. In the end Egypt and the world will be a better place.
For us in the Western world, I am thrilled that powerful world leaders were able to witness the success of the revolution to this point. In a country which has such a variety of strong religious influences, such a strong history tied to the entire world, it was in the end, not the religions which demanded change, not a political leadership which demanded change but the collective will of the people which has come this far. Good on you, Egyptians.
I wish for Egypt, peaceful change toward a more democratic and sustainable government.
Richmond Corner, New Brunswick
My take on this is that it is not so record-breaking as all that. Egypt at the moment reminds me a great deal of modern Pakistan, or of revolutionary times in France. I hope that conditions in Egypt will improve, but I rather suspect that they will get worse before they get better.
Presque Isle, Maine, U.S.A.
Here in Ottawa, I can stand in the Byward market and shout at the top of my voice, 'I love Gille Duceppe! vive le Quebec libre!' and the reaction will be minimal. Many passersby will probably just shake their heads and move on. We will know that democracy will have finally come to Egypt, when I can stand on any street in Cairo and scream at the top of my lungs, 'I love Netanyahu - long live Israel!' without the fear of being pounced on and hacked to death within two minutes.
It struck me as interesting that while the revolution in Egypt was gaining momentum the moon was waxing, as it still is. It will be full only on February 18. The crescent moon is generally (but not exclusively) associated with Islam and features on the flags of countries which have muslim majorities.
The crecent moon does not feature on the Egyptian flag but it most certainly does on the flags of Algeria, Azerbaijan, Comoros, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It even appears on the Flag of Western Sahara (i.e. the Flag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic).
I cannot say what the crescent in the sky might have meant to the people of Egypt who sought to remove Hosni Mubarek from power. Undoubtedly, they will have lifted their eyes to the heavens above them - perhaps to invoke the help of Allah.
I am optimistic for Egypt and the people who have dared to grab back some power over their destiny. Good for them and I wish them well. But the best thing to come out of this real-time, slow-motion happening is the arrival of Aljazeera on Canadian cable and satellite. I am very impressed with their coverage, which I think rivals BBC. (Sorry, Mr. Levant!). And the ladies of CBC Radio have also been excellent.
Thanks very much.
Fredericton, New Brunswick
I have been so incredibly impressed with the courage and determination of the people of Egypt, especially the young people, and of women as well as men, in bringing about the resignation of Mubarak. What happens next? Now the challenge is to build a community agenda and a political process to get there.
One factor that has not been mentioned yet today is the influence of U.S. money on Egyptian policies. In order to keep $1.2 billion coming from the U.S., it will be hard for Egypt to have freedom to establish its own policies, such as on the siege of Gaza. I don't think that the blockade is supported by the people of Egypt, but can they end it? The question of justice in regard to Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation and suffering from the blockade of Gaza does need to be addressed. So there are bigger questions about how much freedom a new Egyptian government will have.
Thirty years of despotic rule will take at least a generation to undue. Too many in Egypt are tethered to or dependent on its corruption. CBC comentaries have revealed internal secret police employ 300,000, the Army owns and profits from 30 per cent of the economy, bribery by officials as a means of earning a decent income is endemic, the tolerance for those you consider to be your political or religious adversaries takes many generations and many tragedies to learn.
In the end, have we in the West really done so well with our demorcacy? Consider our growing disparity between rich and poor, our inability to control our financial system, the declining rate of participation in elections, our confirmed inability to confront and correct our disasterous impact on the natural environment on which our future depends and the fact that our democratically elected governments do not represent the diversity of opionion expressed by those who do vote.
I rest my case.
My prediction is that Egypt will become similar to Turkey with a democracy and a strong military as it seems that the military hasn't been interested in direct rule itself for most of Egypt's history.
I was disappointed, however, with Israel's reaction throughout these events. Democracies, unless they are under occupation or threat of occupation, generally don't go to war with other democracies because people don't easily send their own children to war. Dictators, however, don't mind sending other people's sons to war. So, in fact, democracy around the Middle East is actually in Israel's interest.
Israel has always claimed to be the only democracy in the Middle East. It seems from these events that they, in fact, wanted to remain as the only democracy in the Middle East. Is it fair that Israel wants to monopolize democracy for itself while other people live under dictatorship?
Perhaps Mubarak can go live in Israel if the Israelis like him so much.
All the best,
There is great hope for Egypt. I hope the people take this opportunity for a political renewal that will further a clear integration of their culture and many different faiths or religions. I believe it would be a tragedy to witness a push for a Western-style democracy that guts faith from the public square. it would also be a tragedy to witness the birth of an Islamic state instead of a state that makes room for and honours Islam and all other religions.
At the dawning emancipation of Czechoslovakia, Vaclev Havel penned a piece entitled Forgetting we Are not God. In this piece he expressed the hope that eastern bloc countries would not fall prey to a half-baked American-style democracy that has lost its transcendental moorings, so democracy is just another word for the will of the wealthy and the powerful.
I believe we need to pray for and encourage the people of Egypt and their leaders as they labour to find their own way.
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
The best hope for the emerging democratic state of Egypt is to have the duplicitous "West" keep their collective nose out of the process. Just as a tiger won't change his stripes, the U.S.A. won't change its foreign policy. Successive governments in the U.S.A. have been quite happy to have the people kept under the thumb of a dictator just as long as business as usual was not interrupted. I take my hat off to the brave people of Egypt and I hope the energy shown spreads throughout the region and beyond!
I'm surprised no one is giving Barak Obama any credit. Just maybe the speech he gave in Egypt in 2009 was more than empty rhetoric.
Those who put forward that democracy will not come easily after 30 years of dictatorship in Egypt make a valid point. We in Canada are still learning what constitutes democracy, however, and I would argue that democracy does not come easily to many, if not most cultures. The people of Egypt have demonstrated a will, a spirit, a joy in the concept of government by the people, that puts most Western democracies to shame. Think of our declining voter turnout, and lack of citizen involvement in other ways. If citizen engagement is the key to healthy democracies, then one might posit that in the coming months and years Egypt will be our teacher.
Democracy is a complex and multi-faceted concept, and the idea that free elections will cure all ills is simplistic. Even so, the Egyptions are far ahead of many Canadians who think that voting once every few years is democracy in action.
Vivian Lea Doubt
Courtenay, British Columbia
An acquaintance of ours who is from Sudan and who has studied in Egypt for a number of years and knows Arabic, tells me that she could read the banners people were waving and they were also Isalmist and anti-Israel. She felt the media may be downplaying that part of the uprising.
I hear a scary trend in many of your callers who are afraid of true domocracy in Egypt because it might lead to the Muslim Brotherhood taking control and hurting the West's intrest and Isreal's of course. But nobody cares that this is about Egypt and the Egyptians now. If they choose the Muslim Brotherhood ( even though I don't think they would) so be it, it's their choice. I think it's time to stop micro-manipulating other countries' internal affairs just for our own interest.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
What Egyptians should do now is seek out real and true democracy in the world and copy the best of it. Excuse my cynicism, it's bound to be a fruitless search. True democracy is such a great idea. Too bad, nobody's tried it.
Mubarak committed the ultimate, the last huge insult to his people: he made Egypt a military dictatorship instead. The latter instantly dissolved the parliament, suspended the so-called constitution, did not end the state of emergency and did not declare a general amnesty for all political prisoners or merely those folks who were arrested recently. A victorious revolution? Maybe one should interview the other 83.4 million Egyptians who were not to be seen in Liberty Square.
Henning Graf von Platen-Hallermund
108 Mile Ranch, British Columbia
The secular opposition parties have none of the structures and organization of Hammas or the Muslim Brotherhood. Unless a strong populist chord is struck by secular opposition, it is fait accompli that a fundamentalist Islamic flavour will be felt inside Egyptian governence. That said, the Muslim Brotherhood is not a cleric-driven, Iran-style group. They do believe faith and religion have a place in government, but look fairly moderate in their views.
Do any of your listeners who consider Middle Eastern people (the Israelis excluded, of course) not mature enough for democracy prefer them to live under dictators? We howl and scream if we think one of our leaders is behaving in the slightest way undemocratic, but we see nothing wrong with a man staying in power for 30 years, and see nothing wrong with him imposing "Emergency law" when they can arrest anyone at anytime. Shame on those who want everything good for themselves but less for other people. A listener just said the sign of democracy for him is shouting "I love Nathanyaho" in downtown Cairo. Can someone shout "I love Mahmoud Abbas" in any downtown in Israel? Give me a break.