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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Re-creating a nation.

I’m not an expert on Egypt; never been there and not planning to go. I can only speak about parts of Western culture with which I am familiar. America, for example.

What did the people of this country have in common when the nation was founded and grew? The first was a Western European heritage, predominantly English. Dominant factors included Christianity, monogamy, respect for the law, literacy. What the American colonies shook off with the founding were flaws they saw in European culture such as the rule of hereditary kings and the separation of religion and the state. There is another factor at work in America: you had to come here. Emigration from one’s home country takes a significant amount of courage or desperation. You had to be an adventurer, or on the brink of despair to take the ocean voyage - often in small, leaky uncomfortable sailing ships – to America, the home of “red Indians” ready to scalp you. In other words, you were not seeking the continuation of things as you had known them all your life.
And after you made that journey, you were over 3000 miles and several months journey away from the center of government. Oh, there were colonial governors, but you were mostly on your own. The central government was not very interested in spending its resources in helping you. Distance in time and space leads to thought of independence and freedom.
Over several centuries, Western Europe has evolved toward the American model. Part of this was due to several global wars from which America emerged triumphant.

Which brings me back to Egypt and the reason why I do not believe that Western-style democracy will be adopted by this country. The dominant religion of Egypt is even more intertwined with the State than the Church of England and the British crown. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s” is not part of Islam. Egyptian history is not encouraging, the country has never experienced any type of Democratic experience. Abject poverty and subjection of the people to its rulers remains an historic fact.   So is invasion and rule by foreign potentates.

Today, Egypt’s rulers are its military, not an unusual situation in many parts of the world. We can confidently predict that tomorrow’s Egyptian rulers will not be American style democrats.   America imposed democracy on Germany and Japan only after subjugating them in war.  It remains to be seen if this fragile flower will survive in Iraq. 

We do hope that the Egyptian people will be well governed, that its people will be raised from poverty and illiteracy and that differences of opinion will be freely expressed. That, in itself, will be a tremendous improvement over the past. We also hope that Egypt will continue some policies that its previous government pursued, peace with Israel and avoidance of theocratic rule.

If these things come to pass, Egypt, along with an American imposed democracy in Iraq, may cause other countries on the region to follow suit.   Then perhaps, this bloodless coup will have been a watershed in history.

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