Egypt Independent

Dining and dancing in Egyptian politics

Egyptian politics are somewhat like a dining and dancing establishment. Egyptians attend to eat a filling meal, while being entertained by numerous programs that enable them to dance as they eat. Apparently, what really matters to the audience is the copiousness of the meal, not the entertainment program, overcrowded with musicians and singers.

One of the key factors of success of the Egyptian revolution was the integration of all political forces against Mubarak and his regime, including some of his allies who, once they realized that the end of Mubarak was imminent, decided to swap sides and join the revolution.

Tahrir Square was much like a pleasant dining and dancing club; people worked together, enjoying the revolutionary spirit in a very organized manner. Immediately after Mubarak fell, however, a rift occurred between the two major partners of the revolution; a group who had been responsible for dining and another who used to take care of the dancing by playing the music and choosing the various songs and tunes.

Each of the partners proceeded on their own, doing what they do best in their political careers and ignoring any contribution their former revolutionary mate might have to offer. Realizing that they are not good at entertaining Egyptians by playing dance music, the Muslim Brotherhood, which, with long decades of practice, has become an expert at feeding people, returned to its main business of mobilizing Egyptian voters by providing them with basic necessities (mainly food) before election day.

On the other hand, liberal and leftist groups, who have a talent for addressing society by playing various tunes that Egyptians often enjoy, have remained in their music corner, not really bothering to provide any meals.

During the Mubarak era, politicians were mostly prevented from playing any music other than Mubarak’s solo rhythm. As long as his opponents stayed away from the stage, Mubarak had nothing against their feeding the people; the regime saw this as a means for reducing its economic burden.

Under the Mubarak regime, the Muslim Brotherhood had thus gained a certain advantage due to the efforts of its underground organization and the regular aid it offered, which brought it very close to the heart of Egyptians.

While the revolution managed to produce thousands of musicians, regardless of their quality, it did not add anyone keen to enter the dark kitchen. In the past two years, liberals and leftists have organized a number of entertainment events (both solo performances and collective ones) that managed to gather hundreds of thousands of Egyptians.

The groups’ performances were harmonious a few times, but out of tune often more often than not. The concept of the hero who uses words to attract people restricted these groups, making them more concerned with talking than doing. As long as they enjoy the roles they play and receive good media coverage, they don’t worry about the quality of their performances or their added value.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brothers were working in their old-fashioned kitchen, using rusty utensils, cooking the unhealthy and non-nourishing meals that they so often serve to their customers, who never complain and who appreciate the generosity and kindness of the organization.

The Muslim Brotherhood had managed to reach the hearts of the people, which eventually influenced their brains and, subsequently, their voting ballots.

Liberals and leftists have an ‘open stage’ policy. They invite anyone to join and perform, and capitalize on a single tactic: louder is better. Make enough noise and eventually the Muslim Brotherhood won’t be able to stand it and will leave the government.

Well, it worked with Mubarak, so they are trying to apply the same tactics with Morsy. Their ideas, energy and money are most often invested in purchasing new musical instruments and upgrading their stage with better lighting and fancier props, but they never bother to enter the busy kitchen to try to cook a meal. They have always assumed that citizens will vote for them after having been well entertained.

The Muslim Brotherhood stayed away from staging entertainment performances, in which they are always inferior to their opponents. They believe in a single phenomenon: feeding people will keep them loyal. Consequently, they put all their energy and money into serving meals in which quantity comes before quality.

The Brotherhood has a single successful philosophy that has worked well for decades — hire youngsters, brainwash them, assign them various responsibilities in the kitchen and then ensure loyalty and discipline by imposing principles and policies of the organization at an early age.

Realizing that forming a musical band will make them more popular and increase their audience, liberals and leftists set up a band called the National Salvation Front, which welcomes any singer or musician as long as he/she brings an instrument or has a loud voice (either will do).

It shares a common strategic perspective with the Muslim Brothers: quantity over quality. The more the singers, the better the performance. Tune, melody and beat are not important elements in the composition of this band. Nor does the band have a maestro, or leader, to orchestrate the group or a composer to compose an attractive melody. It doesn’t even have a decent marketing manager to promote the group.

Since the media cover each tiny beat produced by the band, it doesn't believe it needs this type of structure, nor does it believe that any planning is necessary. That the band was successful in drawing more dancers to the floor is due to the revolution that has put thousands of Egyptians in a dancing mood, not the band’s performance.

Even so, having set up the band, some of its key musicians feel the urge to perform solos, and although these shows could conflict with the band’s performance, their eagerness to perform is stronger than their dedication to the purpose of sustaining the band.

Evidently, they have not yet realized that the recent presidential election brought to power the least charismatic candidate, with almost no music ability. However, President Mohamed Morsy was backed by a solid organization.

In fact, the NSF band has provided Morsy, his government and his illegal organization with a good excuse for his poor performance in running Egypt. The president and his backers were able to claim that the band’s music is forbidden (haram) and that it destroys Islamic principles.

Furthermore, the noise made by the band drew citizens’ attention away from the poor and non-nourishing food that the president is serving, to the damage this band is wrecking on the Egyptian society.

The main job of any orchestra leader is to lead a large number of talented musicians and produce a harmonious tune. Leading these musicians requires leadership skills, knowing each musician’s ability and capitalizing on musicians’ talents to produce a song that will impress the audience.

However, Egyptian orchestra leaders often turn their backs to their musicians, lecturing their audiences about their musical knowledge instead, and thus produce a symphony that is out of tune.

In addition, most of the good musicians tend to leave this kind of band, preferring to set up elsewhere where they can play the role of the orchestra leader. Although the purpose of establishing a political party is to mobilize citizens in a certain political direction in support of a given program, Egyptians apparently have a greater appreciation for politicians who work closely with them, on the ground, than for those who spend their time in the media, presenting themselves as idealistic politicians.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis and the other Islamic parties digested this concept quite early and they have put their efforts where Egyptians can appreciate them. This is also where their efforts will be rewarded with all-important votes.

Meanwhile, the other political parties continue to be busy singing away, unable to grasp while their polling numbers remain so low.