How to resist the will of the people

How can you placate the frustrations of a disenfranchised population without giving them real political power?

The answers to this question describe the common ground that unites Western leaders with their authoritarian counterparts in the Middle East. The game is to come up with political formulae that will make a potentially rebellious population feel heard just enough so that the fire of revolution can be dampened.*

Egyptian Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Sami Annan, along with a delegation from the Egyptian Army, happen to be visiting Washington this week. I doubt that their counterparts in the Pentagon will be advising them on the fastest way to prepare Egypt for democracy.

Issandr El Amrani comments on al-Sayed Badawi, the president of the Wafd party (the most established of Egypt’s legal opposition parties) who appeared on Al Jazeera, demanding the formation of a new national unity government, the dissolution of parliament, and new elections under a proportional representation system.

My gut reaction: this is either a significant break with the Wafd’s behavior for over 30 years, or he is making this announcement on behalf of the regime. Why the conspiracy theory? Because he doesn’t mention the question of the presidency, a chief demand of the protestors. Perhaps he should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, the National Association for Change has made its own demands, including asking Mubarak to step down and [his son] Gamal to be disqualified from the presidency, as well as the dissolution of the parliament. Other groups have other demands, including a new minimum wage and the firing of the interior minister.

These people should be coordinating — and remember they are not the ones who protested tonight.

The cautiousness of some of the Egyptian opposition leaders demonstrates exactly why an authoritarian regime provides space for an opposition to operate: so that at a moment such as this, opposition leaders will not place themselves at the vanguard of revolutionary change and that by holding back, they will undermine the popular will.

*Am I implying that any Western countries harbor the seeds of revolution? Far from it. The “success” of Western democracy has been to depoliticize populations through the anesthetizing power of consumerism. People don’t care too much if government by the people is a fiction, so long as they can get their hands on the latest iPhone. Once the anesthetic is applied sufficiently widely and sufficiently frequently, there ceases to be such a thing as the will of the people.

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7 thoughts on “How to resist the will of the people

  1. Vince J.

    “How can you placate the frustrations of a disenfranchised population without giving them real political power?”

    Come up with a BRAND politian, who will say very vague and anbiguos catch phrases like: “CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN”.

  2. Vince J.

    …or do what the USA did in Nicaragua. Finance paramilitary terrorists to kill and torture disent or any democratic movement. Kill their priest.

    Ask Negroponte, that dog knows everything about it!

  3. Vince J.

    …or do what the War Criminal Hillary Clinton did with Honduras. Kidnap the democratic elected leader. Fly him out of the country with a stop over in one of the US military bases, and call a US backed military coup a DEMOCRACY.
    She learned that from her husband. That War Crminal did the same “democratic” move with Aristides in Haiti. So did that other dog, the War Criminal W.C. Bush.

  4. Christopher Hoare

    You said it, “there is no will of the people” in most Western countries because more than half of their populations have no values, but much covetousness for ‘things’. This is what allows US governments to manipulate other nations with impunity — the public gives them a cart blanche.

    While the Tucson shooting is still in memory, notice how strongly public opinion jumped on the idea of ‘meaningless act of a madman’ rather than look at their own lack of morals and honesty or lay blame the hacks and other manipulators of tiny brains. Similarly, don’t blame Hilary or Bill as if they were not merely executing the non-will of the people.

    When there’s a disaster, drop a few coins in the plate, a massacre, make a speech, a state operated torture operation, sign a petition (or pretend it doesn’t exist), an assassination, utter the expected words of condemnation. Actually take an ACTION. Don’t be ridiculous. They wouldn’t be comfortable with that.

  5. Norman

    I wonder about the 2 million + vets that have given their blood sweat & tears for this country, only to be shunted to the bottom of the barrel by the very same people who never put a uniform on, except for those tiny American pins made in China. Shoving them under the rug, along with their families isn’t the smartest thing these fools have done to date. There’s also the many Veterans of past wars that are disgusted with the way things are today and the treatment given. Don’t discount them. There may be a lot of dolts in this country, but there are also a lot who have the ability to cause change too.

  6. scott

    veterans are actually treated pretty well in this country. It takes the same attitude to be a soldier as it does to work in a corporation. Start thinking, and talking and you aren’t trusted. Earn a meager salary, obey orders and don’t question? You’re management material. Soldiers are the best equipped for our economy, and politics. Remember as Camus reminds us, Sisyphus was happy

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