Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Direct action

It’s fascinating to watch the way that elusive thing called power is created, wielded and destroyed through the pull and tug of social forces, Egypt being the most dramatic example. But even cynical Americans can see that fired-up citizens taking a determined stand can wipe the smile off a few faces—like Texas governor Perry’s.

The Muslim Brotherhood squeezed into power a year ago after the amazing Egyptian revolution followed by an 18-month interregnum of military rule. Elections and democratic process opened up the possibility of real participation for 80 million citizens.

The MB managed a tiny majority of the final vote despite not representing half of the electorate—in the presidential run-off, the choice was the MB’s Morsi or a representative of the Mubarak regime. But Morsi immediately acted as if his group had led the revolution alone and that winning a vote meant you became a sort of elected pharaoh.

Morsi’s party proceeded to marginalize other political tendencies, impose its will through the hastily-written constitution rammed through a bogus parliament, stack the courts, attack free expression and generally confirm the fears of anyone who thought he was a Muslim Lenin intent on forcing an Islamic state on Egyptians who had a lot of other things in mind. For a while, it looked as though he would get away with it.

What a different scenario that country would be in today if the MB had had the patriotic good sense to try to rebuild the state and society through a genuinely democratic process in which everyone got something and no one got everything. It would have been a free-for-all with plenty of chaos and passion, but Egypt would not today be standing on the abyss. Since the army does not want to find itself back in charge formally, the country could get a chance for democracy 2.0 despite the fractured nature of the non-Mubarakian, anti-MB opposition. Or it could be the beginning of something really terrible.

I wish someone who knows the situation would write about how the Brotherhood could have missed its historic opportunity so resoundingly and embarked on this self-immolation when a more cooperative, less authoritarian approach was so obviously available. I wonder if it has something to do with its name, the ‘Brotherhood,’ so aptly reflective of the profoundly misogynist world-view that sustains Islamic fundamentalism. It’s a simplistic thought perhaps, but when men are so determined to rule the domestic sphere as dictators, when do they get a chance to experiment with and understand democratic equality?

It’s oddly similar in a perverse way with the goings on in the Coathanger State, Texas, where fundamentalist men are determined to put uppity women back in the kitchens through the domestication of their reproductive function. But Texas women, like their Egyptian counterparts, have had a taste of liberation. They demonstrated in the dramatic midnight scene in the Texas legislature that direct action—not waiting around for the next election—could have an impact and shift the momentum.

Texas may still pass Draconian anti-abortion laws against the will of the populace. Ohio has done so, and other states could still follow. I suspect, however, that the uprising of Texas women may mark the beginning of the end of the ‘pro-life’ counterrevolution. The Jesus Brotherhood has had a long ride, but the sight of fed-up women taking to the streets and NOT waiting for the spineless Democrats to act in their name signals a new chapter in this and perhaps other ongoing battles.

No comments: