I’m not proud to admit this, but, until recently, I did not support the protesting in Egypt. Why would these protesters try to topple their own government and implement a democratic system, when this has failed in many other Middle Eastern countries? Why would these protesters demand the resignation of their country’s leader, who helped maintain stability in the region?
I was afraid of what these protests would mean to the Middle East. Certainly, if Mubarek stepped down or was thrown out, this would cause problems for its neighbors, who must now reacquaint themselves with a new regime. Would this mean that the peace treaty signed with Israel would still be valid? I believed if these protesters ‘won,’ then other nearby countries would learn from their example and wreck similar havoc in their own countries.
My concerns were selfish, as I was only considering the safety and stability of the region, and not of the Egyptian people themselves. I had forgotten the key reason to these protests: food.
Yes, I think these protesters can sum up what they want in one word. They want food. Unemployment is so high in Egypt, the poverty level has been rising for years and there is barely any food, despite receiving billions in foreign aid per year. And so, it’s easy for people like myself sitting comfortably in their homes, fridges stocked full of food, to forget how unnatural and horrifying hunger is (and this lack of food represents so much more: poor living conditions, high death rates and, of course, the government failing to disperse foreign aid to their domestic population and failing to provide a normal living situation for their citizens).
So once I remembered this basic human right, I decided to ‘jump on the anti-Mubarek bandwagon.’
But I’m still weary as to what exactly will benefit the protesters. Yes, I understand their desire to fight their government to provide them with human rights like food and bearable living conditions, but I do not think that democracy is a right. Controversial as that may be, democracy is not for everyone. Many countries have tried to implement it – and failed. Forcing democracy on Middle Eastern countries, like Iraq and Afghanistan, has failed.
You might then ask, well, the Egyptians want democracy, so surely this is a different situation. Well, it’s not.
The Egyptians want a better living situation than the one they have now. They don’t want to riot in the streets for food. So they equate democracy with a solution to their increasing problems. Because, democracy looks great in the west! After all, it seems like the Western democratic countries have food galore with governments who protect their basic human rights.
Yes, I value democracy and would not want to live in a society without it. But I don’t think everyone shares my views. I think some people don’t care if they can vote or not, if they have multiple parties, if they have a fair say in government, especially people who pride themselves on being fiercely independent and responsible for themselves. I think we’ve tried to implement democracy in the Middle East, because, we too, equate democracy with these other benefits.
The problem in Egypt is not democracy, but a corrupt government. Not all authoritarian governments are corrupt and not all democratic governments are honest. The way to get rid of a corrupt government and increase the standard of living in Egypt is not to implement a costly, lengthy, tiring transition to a democratic system, especially one that will be influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood (which will then probably revert back to corruption). Mubarek should resign so that another leader, perhaps democratically elected, perhaps not, can take his place to provide his country with the things they need. Implementing democracy right now is not the best option.
I think Mubarek should resign. As Thomas Hobbes believed, if a leader cannot protect and provide for its people, then it’s not doing its job. Like Hobbes, I don’t think we need to establish a democratic system here. Maybe that’s what will happen one day in the future – but for now, the people are crying out for one thing – and it’s not really democracy.