The Lectern by MC
While announcing the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s military boss General Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi held the lectern so tight that it seemed that at the end of his declaration he might just lift it and throw it in the air. (Comedic exaggeration).
The lectern is a great prop for those seeking to assert their authority over anything. It is almost as if some great secret power resides in it which only those standing behind it can harness. Being able to spread one’s hands and grab it from its two ends is precisely the kind of imposing body language that exudes a sense of power at times like this. Once you add the full regalia of military uniform and stand behind the lectern it creates a powerful image of someone being in total control of things. One’s gait changes behind the lectern.
The turn of events in Egypt has been rather weird. First the country overthrows a soft despot in Hosni Mubarak revolution 1.0. Then it democratically elects a soft fundamentalist in Morsi. Then it rises in revolution 2.0 and enlists the military and overthrows him. The Egyptian military, like all deeply politicized militaries, wants to ensure that no one threatens its primacy and privileges. So it steps in and suspends the constitution. It also arrests Morsi and many of his followers.
I am no expert on Egypt but one must wonder about the wisdom of arresting leaders of a group which has a reputation for fundamentalist nationalism. Wouldn’t pushing them into a tight corner create conditions for violent nationalism? Just a thought worth keeping in mind. For now though, General el-Sisi has the impenetrable protection of the lectern.
It would be interesting to see how the proponents of political freedoms and civil liberties rationalize the overthrow and arrest of a fairly elected president. The kind of policies that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood seemed to pursue could not have come as a surprise to many. That’s who Egypt’s people voted in. Although for now the military is promising an expeditious return to an inclusive government, one can never be sure of such assurances. The military would do its absolute best to guarantee that it remains the single most decisive force in the country whose entrenched interests are not challenged in any way. In that what is happening in Egypt is reminiscent of what has happened in Pakistan for all these decades.
The more one looks at these restive and half-formed democracies, the more one wants to acknowledge India’s success in creating and sustaining a largely robust democracy despite such enormous odds at the time of its birth. It is the only example in world history of a nascent nation-state, still nursing massive and bloody wounds of its birth, with a population of 300 million plus managing to firmly install a civilian leadership immediately and strengthening it year after year and decade after decade. Of course, there are serious and glaring flaws in Indian democracy but none potent enough to undermine its fundamental impulses in favor of political, cultural, economic and religious democracy that steadfastly keeps its military in the barracks.
One can be facetious and argue that the country is so inherently ungovernable that even the military avoids taking over.Either that or it could also be that Indian lecterns are not strong enough. (Comedic exaggeration).