This is a piece I wrote in April
Having been to Egypt recently and
watching recent developments I thought to myself, ‘What would I do if I were
the President of Egypt?’ Sadly as I write this, there has been a coup in Egypt
and the democratically elected government has been removed by the military.
While the opposition is chortling about it they may like to recall the saying,
‘Throwing the baby out with the bath water.’ A democracy by definition is a
government where civilian authority is supreme, not military. Soldiers who call
the shots are like wolves shepherding sheep and the results are predictable.
What the opposition needs to realise is that a faulty democracy is a million times
preferable to a perfect military dictatorship and by sabotaging and not
supporting a democratically elected government, no matter their weaknesses,
they have opened the door to their own destruction and have written slavery for
themselves. What they don’t realise is that by their actions all that they have
done is to strengthen and legitimize anti-democracy forces. That dog always
Very similar to our (Muslim) lack of foresight when the Ottoman Empire was dismembered and the Khilafa was abolished by the British-French combine. What those who gladly accepted little kingdoms for themselves failed (or refused) to recognize was that they were party to the death of the Institution of Khilafa, the Khilafatul Muslimeen. Even if one of them had declared himself Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen instead of King; King Abdul Aziz ibn Al Saud was clearly the best candidate for this as he was the ruler of Hijaz with the Haramain Shareefain in it; the Institution of Khilafa which had come down through the centuries would still have been alive. Great efforts were made in India led by Mohnammed Ali Jauhar, Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi and others and supported by Mahatma Gandhi but to no avail. Self-interest dominated thinking and so Arab leaders accepted bits and pieces of the Ottoman Empire as their fiefdoms and the rest is history. Same logic to what the Opposition is doing in Egypt which shows that people who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. The sheep who asks the wolf to help him against another sheep is bound to perish. Wolves eat sheep. Sheep can only forget or ignore that at their peril.
So what would I do if I were the
president? Here are some thoughts.
The first thing that I would
remind myself is that in politics facts mean nothing. Statistics less than
nothing. Spectacle, impression, symbolism and communication mean everything.
Symbolism, visibility and public eye are the platform on which politics runs.
In politics being truthful is less important than being believable. That
is the basis of all mythology. Politics is at the root of mythology and most
mythology arises from political realities. Morsi’s dilemma proves that
the economy supersedes ideology. Food before ideas. Hungry people are angry
people, so feed them first. People who have nothing to lose are the most brave
and reckless, so give them something to lose. Get people involved in
development and they will see the benefit of government. Otherwise they will
blame the same government no matter how unfair it seems. They may realise it is
unfair but who else can they blame?
Nobody can cure Egypt’s economic
problems in one year – except by magic. But I don’t think Egyptian magicians
have it in them anymore. Maybe that is why the Pharaoh had so many of them in
his time. The fact remains however that economic development must be seen to be
happening. So Morsi needs (needed?) to concentrate on projects that will employ
people. Large numbers of them. Infrastructure is a key area for this and Allah
knows, Egypt needs it like a fish needs water. I was there in April and saw
lots of men sitting in the tea shops. Very bad sign for the economy as well as
for the government. They need to get those men off the streets. So employ them.
There are any number of infrastructure companies in the world who will come
with the money if you have the right scheme. That is what the government should
do – create the schemes and invite investors.
Second major avenue of employment
and high visibility is garbage collection – there are mountains waiting to be
collected in the streets of Cairo. There are companies who collect garbage,
recycle it, make compost and manure and fuel briquettes and generate
electricity. All these are commercial activities and will employ people and
clean the cities at the same time. High visibility and everyone will be
Third is housing – not the fancy
villas of Rehab but housing for the poor. Again a commercially viable
alternative especially when combined with easy credit. Any number of ME
countries will gladly fund something like that. Once again this will generate
employment locally and solve a major problem.
Fourth is to encourage
agriculture by handing out parcels of land to those who will farm them. Make a
scheme where they will become the owners of the land if they can show that they
can successfully farm it. Canada is a major success story in this respect. They
did it by inviting Sikh farmers from Punjab. Egypt can do it with their own
people. Seed and fertilizer companies will gladly partner with the government
for this and so will various lending agencies.
Fifth is to concentrate on
elementary and secondary schools – invite local companies to fund them and get
philanthropic organizations like Qatar Foundation to help. In India,
Bharati-Airtel has schools which have cumulatively more than 200,000 children.
I am sure Egypt needs more than that but that alone is enough to create a buzz
where it counts. Make funding of schools and housing a mandatory requirement
for local and foreign companies operating in Egypt and give them tax breaks to
do this. Get women involved in education and all developmental activities. They
are more than 50% of the population with huge influence. No government can
survive, much less sustain if it doesn’t engage its female population. So get
women involved wherever they have the competence to contribute. In today’s
world don’t underestimate the power of the woman in public. She will be there
whether you like it or not. Your only choice is to decide if you want her with
you or against you. So talk to them, involve them and leverage their presence
for the good.
Market the handicrafts of Egypt. They make some really great stuff there but nobody knows about it. Having them sitting in Khan Al Khalili is not enough. They need to do exhibitions in the major cities of the West and take orders. Once again there are entrepreneurs who will do all this, provided the government provides a user friendly climate. The bureaucracy needs to go. So does the corruption.
Finally leverage tourism. Egypt
has some unique monuments which like the Taj Mahal in India attract loads of
foreign tourists. However Egyptian monuments are badly maintained (if at all),
very difficult to get to because of extremely bad roads and riddled with touts
and conmen. I was conned into sitting in a horse carriage to visit the pyramids
and then the man demanded 500 Egyptian Pounds for the trip of a few hundred
meters. I managed to escape from his clutches only by threatening violence.
Then he followed me all the way as I walked bringing down his price until he
begged me for 10 Egyptian Pounds – ‘only because you are my brother’. So clean
up the act. Maintain the places, improve access and get rid of those who fleece
tourists and give Egypt a bad name.
Then publicly invite the opposition to join the government and when they refuse, publicize that also. Let everyone know what you are doing, loudly and frequently. That way they can’t talk about non-inclusion. Keep the ideological agenda separate from the economic agenda. Sell the ideological agenda by communicating with people and giving them good information and allaying their fears. If not, the real and imaginary fears about the ideology will sabotage everything else. Ideology is a matter of belief; a matter of the heart. Hearts take time to change. If you link your success to that change, you will invariably fail. People must see the benefit of the ideology in action before they will believe that it is worth supporting and adopting. Talking about the ideology is pointless. Enforcing it is suicide.
Do all this very publicly so that people know what is going on. Remember that everyone has a stake in development and will support it. So involve them. Involvement means to delegate power, listen to their story, accept discord and learn to use it to build relationships. Involvement also means to accept that some things will need to be done in ways that are not necessarily what you would choose to do, but that is the real litmus test of delegation and empowerment; will you let them do it their way?
I hope lessons are learnt and
democracy gets a genuine chance. Egypt is too important a country to be written
off and forgotten. Or to allow once again to go back into dictatorship.
“The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.” Edward Dowling
We’re seeing a sudden surge of dictatorial fascistic leaders around the globe. Here’s something I wrote several years ago, trying to explain what’s happening especially when people give the example of good governance as Singapore, or Malaysia under Mahatir, or Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, or India under Indira Gandhi by saying that the national leader was a CEO.
My point is that yes, they were great CEO’s and that’s precisely what was wrong with them and their style.
The fault of the rest of us was that we accepted this situation without understanding what was behind it and were happy that the trains ran on time in exchange for our freedoms which were quietly taken away. I think that in today’s political scenario where totalitarianism is sought to be passed off as the price for efficiency, it is particularly important to reflect on what we are giving up for what and ask ourselves whether it is worth it? Remember that social change is more or less permanent. Once it is done, it is almost impossible to undo. A change of government will only change the bottoms in the chairs; not the chairs or the mentality that comes with them. Let us choose wisely because our choice is about ourselves, not anyone else.
Every time anyone protested the State-Corporation reacted like its business model; put down revolts mercilessly; interpreting dissent as treason and punishing it accordingly. That’s why I don’t see Occupy Wall Street, Arab Sprung (not a typo) and the latest Women’s Protest in Washington after the Inauguration of President Trump and similar things as winds of change but as incipient rebellions which will be crushed. Sorry for the jaundiced opinion but I don’t like to fool myself or anyone else. The Arab Spring is a case in point.
Those who want change will have to do a lot more than marching in the streets.
Today the biggest crime is not what The Empire commits daily, openly and blatantly but to criticize the Empire. The saddest/funniest thing is to see this new morality being enforced; not by agents of the Empire but by stupid little slave leaders who don’t even realize what they’re doing. The victims are enforcing their own victimization. How convenient for the oppressors…you get what you want without the bad name that should go with oppression.
Of late we have been seeing many articles lamenting the role of the Press and Media in today’s society and complaining how it is no longer objective and principled but seems to be more a propaganda machine than anything else. I thought it therefore necessary to try to put things in perspective so that we can recognize what is really happening to our world. That way we will either take the trouble to change matters or at least see how entirely expected and appropriate the role of the media and press is, under the circumstances.
The play Mouse Trap is the longest running play in history. It has been going on since 1947. But strangely the ending is always the same. Now isn’t that very peculiar? Or is it really quite understandable because though the actors have changed since 1947, the script is the same and so no matter which actor comes, he or she is forced to speak the same lines and so the play begins in the same way and the ending is the same.
I would like you to remember this analogy while I recall a quick history lesson. Once upon a time there was a multi-national company, run from a warehouse in London where its Board sat. It sent out its managers at first to trade with Indian kings. They took permission to build trading posts, then permission to recruit a small force to secure their goods. Gradually these trading posts metamorphosed into forts, the security guards into a private army and the country managers into Governors. The enslavement of India was well on its way, before the Indian leadership such as there was, even woke up to the fact. That India was more a geography than a political reality at the time was no doubt helpful to those who had a more global view. Robert Clive, Country Manager, British East India Company, became the Governor General (notice the title and its implication) of India, annexed independent states and assassinated their legitimate heads and installed his own Agents to administer what had been in effect independent countries in their own right. All with the knowledge and tacit approval of the British Crown.
It was the so-called ‘Mutiny’ of 1857, which only the last of the Great Mughals, Bahadur Shah Zafar had the courage to call by its real name, ‘The Indian War of Independence’, that forced the British Crown to take a more active role. The slavery of India did not end however; we just changed our owners. Bahadur Shah Zafar was accused of treason and banished from the land of his forefathers. His three sons were shot dead in cold blood and their bodies stripped naked and left in the street with orders not to be buried for three days. So much for the great justice of the British Raj. Bahadur Shah Zafar defended his position and pointed out that it was he, who was the king of the land, not the British East India Company and so he couldn’t possibly have committed treason against himself. It was the Company Sahib (note the address of respect, enforced on India) which was the intruder into a land where they came to trade and stayed to rule. Of course, the plea fell on the deaf ears of the British East India Company’s judge and Bahadur Shah Zafar was banished from the home of his forefathers forever. That is when he wrote his famous couplet:
kitnaa hai bad_naseeb “Zafar” dafn key liye
do gaz zamin bhi na mili kuu-e-yaar mein
(How unfortunate is Zafar that even to be buried, He couldn’t get two yards of earth in the land of his love)
He was banished to Burma and died in Rangoon; even his grave there today is all but forgotten.
Cut to 2017; a century and a half later and what do we see? The names have changed. The actors have changed but the script is the same and so the play continues. The objectives are the same and so are the methods; grabbing raw material, fuel, land, labor, power and markets in any way possible using any means at one’s disposal and treating any attempt by the rightful owners at self-defense as rebellion, to be crushed mercilessly with overwhelming force. The foundation of this method is of course even more ancient. The industrial-military complex and its methodology for global domination is first recorded more than 2000 years ago, in the annals of the history of the Roman Empire. The Empire is long gone, but ideology outlasts its proponents and so the lessons have been learned and are being practiced. The centurion replaced by the present-day soldier performing the same role; following orders from on high, crushing all attempts at exercising local freedom.
The world however has changed in some ways, in that public opinion does have a bigger say in things, than used to be the case with the Romans or the British Empire. So, thought-steering evolved to a fine art. That and the art of influencing others by means of repeating a lie over and over. Lessons once again learnt from a master, the head of Hitler’s Propaganda Ministry, Goebbels. Only, we are not silly enough to actually call it Propaganda Ministry. Instead we call it the Free Press. So, the lie becomes the truth. The victim deserves to die and the law is a handmaiden of the tyrant, designed to give his every action the veneer of legitimacy.
The New World Order is well on its way to achieving its aim of global domination, called by yet another harmless, even benevolent sounding name, Globalization.
Just reflect a bit on this: what differentiates a Corporation from a Democracy?
- Hereditary or nominated head
- Absolute authority of leadership
- If people don’t like the leader, they must leave
- Attempts at asserting equality, freedom or questioning decisions are seen as Opposition = Rebellion = Treason = Punishment = ‘Death’: Firing from the job
- Master plan for everyone. Others must align to it
- Freedom is anathema except for the top leadership. Everyone else is free only to follow orders, couched in nice language.
- Test of success = alignment to values
- Mark of a leader = Can break unions
- Mark of a trouble maker = represents the people = Union leader
- Inequality is accepted even expected
- Corporations seek to influence consumers
- Media/Press = the PR Agency. It sings the official tune, its success lies in its ability to influence minds by interpreting (not reporting) facts, it invents language to ensure that all official actions appear good and all opposition to them appears bad
- Freedom fighter = insurgent/terrorist; dead civilians = collateral damage; genocide = ethnic cleansing; murder = encounter. Its job is to ensure that the establishment always appears to be noble, good, pious and kind; no matter what it does. It can never be objective
- Elected head
- Participatory authority
- If people don’t like the leader the leader must leave
- Collective bargaining and decision making is encouraged. Citizens participate in leadership. Questioning and Opposition: Signs of a healthy democracy
- Participatory master planning open to change as necessary
- Equality and freedom are sacred; supported and defended by the constitution
- Constituents are citizens, equal participants in the future of the collective
- Citizens are equal free and encouraged to influence the government
- Democracies seek to consult citizens
- Media/Press is the agent of the people. It gives them a voice, it encourages debate, it provides a space for national debate/dialogue, it encourages divergent ideas and ideologies, it reports facts and it questions authority and official decisions. It is the interface between the government and citizens and by its role it tells the government what the people really want or what they think of one policy or another. It keeps authoritative tendencies in check by its ability to expose them and redresses the wrongs committed by those in power.
Corporations see people as consumers. Democracies have citizens
I can go on but I won’t. I will leave you to add to this list as you wish. Those of you who have read Collins and Porras’, Built to Last will read with interest the reasons for greatness that they cite for what they call ‘Visionary Companies’. Among them; Total Alignment to a Core Ideology and Cult-like Cultures are most critical. The single most critical need for a Cult-like Culture is a profusion of mindless followers, who will do what they are told, without question. That is what alignment is all about. And incidentally that is what the fascist state also needs. The success of the corporation is measured by how it can increase shareholder value. This is a direct result of high profits through good margins or high volumes or both. Everything else is subordinate to that goal.
That is the reason why in British India, the British rulers forced the farmers of North India to grow indigo instead of food and precipitated a famine that resulted in more than one million deaths, but of course, not one of them British. But the commercial success of the venture justified the cost in human lives. Especially when they were not British lives but those of some nameless poor black people in ‘that colony of ours’. Similarly, to create a market for the produce of the cloth mills of Yorkshire, the vibrant textile industry of Northern and Central India was deliberately destroyed including the smashing of looms. Millions of small weavers were reduced to penury overnight. And the inferior cloth from Yorkshire had a free entry into the huge Indian market. After all, one must wear clothes, no matter their origin. It is not an accident that Gandhiji took Swadeshi as his slogan, burnt his British clothes and donned the dhoti. He used the spinning wheel as his symbol and spun thread and made khadi cotton cloth. Unlike many today, he knew his history very well and was a master at putting his finger on the nerve that hurt the most.
Corporatizing of Democracy: The Totalitarian State
The ideal situation for the corporation is when the state becomes a corporation. Then the head of state is proudly called a ‘CEO’. Productivity is at the peak, trains run on time, there is no disruption of work, students study, workers work, teachers teach their subject exclusively, parents condition the next generation properly and all government is left to those who walk the corridors of power. Indeed, this is as it should be and all is right with the ant colony. It is not accidental that countries like China, Israel and even Pakistan have long had most favored nation status with the US/Europe but India (when we were part of the Non-Aligned Movement: what an appropriate name it was!) did not. Those were the days when the trade union movement was vibrant though for those who worked for corporations this was something of a problem. Then came the criminalization (totalitarian control) of trade unions by political parties who floated their own unions and eventually trade union activity became a memory.
The Corporation is interested in one thing only as I mentioned; maximizing profit. Social, religious or political ideologies are of no interest to it in any way except in terms of how they support its goal.
Above all the corporation needs order. It calls it by many names; peace, harmony, goodness for all mankind, but what it really needs is order. The fastest and surest way to create order is by the use of overwhelming force. Zero tolerance. All protest, debate, demonstrations, criticism and ‘confusion’ must be eliminated to get silence and order.
Corporations and corporate language finds immediate resonance in the military because many if not most of modern corporate thinking has roots in military command theory. That is the reason why if you read the history of the development of any fascist totalitarian rule, you will find that the first collaborators of fascist rulers are always industrialists, businessmen; in short those who run corporations. For it is they who understand and empathize with the fascist leader the best.
Corporations are the most undemocratic structures in the world and stand for the exact opposite of all democratic values. However now we have a problem. And that is, what do we do with public opinion if we express the truth as I have done? The solution is language. Say the same thing but differently.
So, the Voice of the Corporation (their Media/Press companies) talks of freedom (they mean freedom to obey), equality (you are exactly equal to the next man on the assembly line), meeting aspirations (provided you keep your head to the corporate grinding wheel for 30 years first), progress (corporate goals are being met) and welfare (good living conditions for the enforcers). Crime and patriotism are both redefined. Any action that seeks to slow down or change the corporate goal is a crime. Any opposition to official ideology is treason. Patriotism is not love of and loyalty to the country but loyalty to the government of the day. Criticism is defined as disloyalty. Curtailing of freedom and human rights are justified in the interest of security.
In order to get people to not just agree to their freedoms being curtailed and human rights being reduced and violated, terror is used by the state or its agencies so that fear crazed people will come running into the open arms of the police asking for protection and gladly ratify the most draconian laws which imprison their minds, tongues and actions. Security is inversely proportional to functionality. People are taught this valuable lesson so that they tamely accept hours of waiting for flights, strange security guards delving into their most personal belongings and their probing hands and eyes rampaging all over their bodies, ostensibly searching for hidden arms.
People who have learnt these lessons also learn to keep their mouths shut even if they don’t actively support legislation legalizing torture, murder, detention without cause and disappearances in the night. And those who don’t learn this lesson become examples whose fate enables others to learn.
Freedom of speech is a very well-rehearsed charade. The Corporate State allows you to say whatever you want and to hold demonstrations of as many people as you want. This serves two very important ends: it supports the illusion of freedom of speech and allows people a way of letting off steam so that there isn’t enough buildup to bring about fundamental change. This also allows the Corporate State the opportunity to identify potential threats to itself and to take care of them later once the noise has subsided and all the demonstrators have gone back to their TV screens and popcorn. Then the Corporate State does what it intended to do anyway. The Iraq war, the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Tiananmen Square massacre in China are all good examples.
There are many others but I will leave you to think of them. The same is the case of Judicial Enquiries where compliant judges sign on dotted lines and the case is always closed in favor of the Corporate State. Ask, when was the last time that the State was indicted in a Judicial Enquiry and its agents went to jail?
The last thing that a Corporate State needs is a thinking, questioning, middle class that has options. So, it seeks to remove them and to change their situation where the people are completely dependent on the state which then becomes the best way of controlling them. Financial meltdowns, whether they are deliberately engineered or the result of excessive greed are a very useful tool to bring the middle class down to earth. It is the middle class which loses the shirt on its collective back and has its homes repossessed and suddenly higher goals like freedom, liberty and human rights have to be subordinated to the immediate goal of putting food on the table or ensuring a roof overhead. After the meltdown, the Corporate State steps in with its bail-out plans, all neatly packaged with a veritable spaghetti of strings attached. All sensible people fall in line. Those who protest or worse, seek to show others the reality are struck down, often by their own badly frightened compatriots. If they escape that fate, the Corporate State removes them from circulation for the common good, silently watched by the mute majority.
Ask, in the latest meltdown who’s suffering the most? Corporate heads who are responsible for the meltdown or the middle class who were their faithful employees? Ask, how is it that heads of corporations which went bankrupt went home with multi-million dollar pay and bonus packages? What are these rewards for? Ask, who are the direct and immediate beneficiaries of the bailout packages? Ask, how many corporate heads lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts or lost their homes in the financial meltdown? Ask, where were the decisions that created the meltdown taken; in board rooms or on the assembly line? Ask, but who is the one who lost the shirt on his back and the roof over his head?
The Corporate State is a great supporter of technology. It funds and supports without limit all research that enables it to control the people better and more powerfully. The official line of course is that this is in the interest of the people themselves to better be able to protect them from harm. Anyone thinking of raising his voice against more and more invasive surveillance is silenced by his own people. Some truly amazing technological developments are being mentioned. Bugs with solar powered cameras which will transmit real-time images and audio to a satellite which will beam it back to a central console monitoring the doings of the target group. The term ‘fly-on-the-wall’ suddenly has a very different and sinister meaning. Satellite maps that pinpoint your home, car and yourself exactly and can track your every move. Cell phones, credit cards, ID cards, retina scans all to identify you positively and to track your every move. Once again, I won’t go on.
The point is that the vast majority of research and development that is currently going on is not in the areas of health, food production, environmental protection, education or economic development but in the area of what is euphemistically called ‘security systems. In fact, these are not security systems but surveillance systems, control systems and more sinister systems which all dovetail to focus on the overarching goal of enhancing the hold of the Corporate State on the world.
What can we do?
What the Corporate State can’t stand is the light of day on its activities. So accurate reporting of facts, shining the light of enquiry on shady deals, asking the unasked, speaking the unspoken and raising your voice against injustice right at its inception, are all necessary. Technology today gives us the ability to do all of this without depending on the Corporate Media to give us space. Thanks to the internet, camera mobiles, smart phones and the ability to upload images and text from almost anywhere, it is possible today to ensure that at least those who are interested can see the side of the picture that the likes of CNN, Times, Fox and other mouthpieces of the establishment have been hiding.
Ultimately to act or to sit and watch is the decision of the individual. We can’t force anyone to act. What we can and must do however is to ensure that people have access to correct information so that they can make good decisions. What we can and must do is to ensure that critical questions are asked and brought into the debate so that people can demand more and better information from the agencies of the Corporate State.
Whether they get that information or not immediately is not the issue. When they start asking the questions this in itself will generate positive trends where citizens will stop acting like consumers and start to exercise some of their rights. The right to information is one. The right to justice is another. Freedom of belief and speech is another. I believe that as citizens of democracies, no matter how flawed, if we can enforce accountability by sharing information and asking questions we will have achieved a great deal in ensuring that men and women can still walk free in the land, long after we are gone.