Most of the world celebrated the advent of Obama as a beacon of hope for a new peaceful world. The Egyptians on the streets heralded him as a light messenger, and his visit to Cairo was the most talked about event since the coming of the last messiah. Even long after his post-election speeches to the nation, his ads ran on Egyptian television like a Mister Roger’s episode for years — reminding the world that real change was on its way.
As 2010 came to a close, that flicker of hope in the eye of the average Egyptian quickly faded, and any remaining optimism on the near horizon was replaced with simmering rage. The unemployed college graduate will sit at a café all day smoking a hookah – while watching the price of tomatoes from the cart dealer in front of his eyes inflate 400% in one day. This kid watching the world glide by in despair was once hopeful about his future. Now he sits on the sidelines of life watching suffering and desperation collide all around him.
His father earns six hundred pounds ($120) a month as an eye doctor. His sister is a professor of Linguistics at Alexandria University making $2000 a month, and his mother just returned from London for a heart surgery that wiped out the family’s savings. He can’t get married and meet the demands of marriage without a job, and he can’t have a relationship with a woman without getting married. By the end of 2006, boredom and sexual frustration were the source of weekly rapes throughout the country and drug usage was at an all time high.
As an American of Egyptian heritage who left the U.S in 2006 to live in Egypt, I quickly discovered that the grievances I heard from my colleagues and the youth of America were no different than those of Egyptians. The common complaint amongst all voices was that of suffocation. Both regimes have the same review cards amongst the general population in both countries. However, the social , economic, and political landscapes of Egypt are more accelerated. What is happening in Egypt now, is an excellent forecaster of what is about to hit America.
Banks are offering these unemployed college graduates easy access to large loans they know they won’t be able to pay back with ease. In the U.S, credit cards are easiest to get if you sign up at college because APRs are ceiling high. The banks are suffocating Americans by hiking APRs at will. In fact, they are getting so nasty they will claim they never received your payment just as an excuse to flip the switch up a notch. A good person with a conscience can turn ugly under desperate situations – and banks are making even the most beautiful people – turn very ugly.
A human being can only take so much when their basic rights as a citizen of the earth are being denied to them – or sold at a high cost. When you have to pay for clean water, a sustainable roof that won’t collapse, a C-class car that costs double because of duty taxes, and have to tolerate bribes and corruption on every level just to get your mail, pay a bill, get a document, buy your bread, or open a business – eventually steaming water starts boiling and whistling loudly. And Egypt has finally whistled to their captain that they’ve had enough.
Occupation inheritance still rules the regime since the days of the Pharaohs. But how is America any different? Obama? The charismatic saint that wooed the globe is now being cursed on the streets of the Arab world as the “Black Bush”. Egyptians have proven they are tired of waiting for any messiah to pull them out of their depression.
The annihilation of the middle class created a collapse between the poor and rich. And the rich kept kicking down at the poor until they just couldn’t take the beatings anymore. The imbalanced sharing of Egypt’s wealth, resources, privileges, jobs, and free market participation in various industries (and aggressive monopolies) is the primary source for the civil unrest rippling throughout the country. Mubarak has built his own royal pyramid using blocks that stumped on Justice.
Egypt is just one of many countries where its populace is finally standing up for their basic rights to be treated as civilized humans. When you take the living out of a man, he can turn into a savage — or one who will take a strong stand to live and breath. All it takes to win a revolution is momentum. And when the Egyptians do win, let us pray they are given true light to lead them. Otherwise, the hope on the horizon is just another illusion like a mirage on the oasis.
SUZY KASSEM is an Egyptian-American filmmaker, who was living in Cairo until December.