by Linda Brady Traynham
Anyone who thinks Egypt has just witnessed the triumph of democracy in the usual misuse of that term go back to losing your favorite computer game and do not even consider a career in politics. The world just became a far more dangerous place for all concerned, and I’m not even talking about increased chances for war in the Middle East. The rules changed suddenly, and not for the better. One big short term winner is Swiss bankers, who self-righteously froze “Egypt’s” funds for a period of three years just as they sequestered those of Tunisia last month. The uncontested use of several billion dollars for a lengthy period is good for a bank’s bottom line, but the long term cost will be storing funds elsewhere. If a numbered account is no longer sacrosanct–and it isn’t–of what use is it? Facts are sketchy and may always be, but as nearly as I can determine from news reports and other sources Mr. Mubarak can smile tranquilly–supposing he is not within the borders of Egypt; abdication is always safer from a distance– because he had at most 10% of his private fortune in Bern, and more probably on the order of 5%.
The unemployment rate among young males in the ME is at least 25%, meaning that it will continue to be very easy to whip up mobs to protest against powers and policies. The Muslim Brotherhood has no scruples against expending a little cannon fodder, and the prize of toppling Egypt will egg it on. So what if only one “popular uprising” in a dozen succeeds–at first? As they say, “We love dying more than you love living.”
What is any sensible despot to think of all this? My guess is “NIMBY.” No sirree bobtail, not in MY back yard. At the very first sign of dissidence come down on the trouble makers with whatever it takes. If there is anything there is an excess of in most countries it is ignorant, violent, young fanatics. Their mothers may love them (although one wonders, under Sharia law) but no one other than a few Western liberals will scream over maintaining the peace, and how many guns do they have?
I suppose my readers will howl again that I am a disgrace to journalism, a “right” wing activist, and non-objective, and my reply will be the same. I am a columnist and an analyst, not a journalist. (In general “journalists” work for the New York Times and Arriana Huffington.) They will end again charging that I write “diatribes.” This may be one, but they have legitimate uses, such as warning others of danger. The demographics in our big cities have many characteristics similar to those in Cairo, and this revolution was Cairo born and led. If a crowd of 100,000 or so can cause a mess like that in a city of eighteen million…what could happen in Chicago, Detroit, Houston, D. C., or Los Angeles? True, it is easier in smaller countries with fewer cities, but it is possible anywhere 3% of the people get together and push.
Mr. Mubarak may have been no prize, but the chances of the new regime being non-oppressive are slight. The philosophy is all wrong, and human nature and history argue against it. The only legitimate purposes of government are to defend borders and provide safety for citizens. Governments cannot create productive jobs, and so long as they support 40% of a population in idleness it is difficult to accumulate enough private capital to create them. One of the biggest problems in Egypt appears to have been that the bulk of the police were conscripted for three year periods, not really trained, and paid poorly. What can a new government do about that? Replace them with the heroes of the revolution? Pay better wages? Getting the money where? Reduce graft, corruption, and vice, which are endemic in the area? How? When populations reach critical mass what IS there to do? Egypt’s only real sources of production are cotton and tourism. Tourists don’t like domestic upheaval and damaged antiquities. You can’t eat cotton.
I stopped to read this much to my dear Charles, who enchanted me by how he answered these questions: “You are now Pharaoh Charles the First. How will you save Egypt? Where will you begin?” I gave him an urchin-like grin and asked, “Raid the treasury?!” My darling replied first, “Of course I won’t raid the treasury. Everybody who wants to do business will need my permission and there will be fees.” He then proceeded to lay out exactly how I would go about it, as stated in an article he didn’t hear I sent to the Texas Ring.
The answer is very similar to telling your computer to go back to the last known configuration that worked. For three thousand years Egypt thrived under the Pharaohs until the Greeks messed things up. Egypt’s wealth, power, and stability were based on the Nile River, a stratified society, and full employment, so go back to what worked and parcel out favors to those who have demonstrated the ability to handle wealth and commerce, which would also improve tourism enormously. Egypt was built on the powers of the ruler, a system of nobles, multi-theism, and at least limited opportunity for those who were smarter, more talented, and worked harder. So…pick out all the most successful businessmen and grant them patents of nobility (with land in proportion to their achievements) and lesser amounts of land to others as small holders.
Dredge the Northern end of Lake Nasser to create thousands of hectares of fertile land. Drain the Aswan until it is possible to dredge it for the rich, accumulated silt, thereby uncovering antiquities not seen in decades. Divide the farm land into smaller portions under what are basically tenant farmers who owe a tithe–literally, 10%–of what they grow to the Nome in which they are in–to the Lord who grants them the right to farm the land only so long as production meets his standards. The Nomes tithe 10% to the Pharaoh and are also responsible for providing troops in time of war.
I can hear some of you now: “Mrs. Traynham! Are you out of your B.C. mind?!” Not at all, my dears. It depends upon what you want most, the world as it is or a world of prosperity at the cost of Statism and reasonably wide-spread electricity. This is pure genius!
Now, once the Aswan Dam is dismantled, sure, you’ve got an electricity problem–but what you get is the period when the Nile floods, spreading rich topsoil so that you can grow all the wheat, barley, cotton, and other crops you need and ample to export. Given YOUR choice, would you choose plenty over mercury-vapor lights? There are generators that work fine on propane, gasoline, and oil. Better than that, you have a period of several months during which the banks of the Nile are flooded…and a very pretty penny in the Royal Treasury you can spend employing the people to build temples, public buildings, roads, and quite possibly some new hydroelectric plants where the cataracts are, if you still think everyone needs electricity. So what if they aren’t as efficient as Brown and Root and General Dynamics? So long as anything reasonable gets done and people have a steady income during the rainy season, who cares?
Bring back the old gods and give the priesthoods a moderate amount of power. Encourage stone masons and discourage Muslims. Cow-headed Hathor was more fun. Outlaw the use of Arabic script and don’t even settle for Demotic: go back to the writings of the gods, AKA hieroglyphics. Teaching people to read causes many problems. Go back to a scribe class (a high status position) and restrict learning to the priests, scribes, higher nobility, and the palace. Sure people will attempt to circumvent your regulations, providing ample employment for Egyptologists and translators. Drive the rest of the world crazy by conducting all diplomatic correspondence in hieroglyphics. I guffawed over the thought of a chain that might be required to get from hieroglyphics to English, to French, to Mandarin Chinese. Hey, bring back mummification while you’re at it because that employs priests and workers mummifying and building private tombs. (Are you moaning in dismay, yet? Worse, do you suppose I’m spoofing? I’m really not!)
Certainly, this would require careful timing, because the big problems are Islamofascists and unemployed trouble-makers. Crops take time to grow, but if you increase land “ownership” quickly and provide at least seeds six months from now there will be a crop and large numbers who think you are a hero. Yes, it will take several years to restore full productivity, but every person who benefits from your efforts makes a two-fold difference: one more “vote” for you and one less for those who seek power but have no plan for how to use it other than spreading Islam. Terror and fanaticism will lose every time to full bellies, fat, healthy babies, stability, and hope for the future. Besides, think of the amusement value of seeing the next ruler of Egypt clad in a see-through pleated linen kilt, a Nemes headdress, a broad collar of gold and semiprecious gems, and very uncomfortable golden sandals, hissing to his Wazir, Dr. Zawi Hawass (Egypt’s premier Egyptologist, although we have much better) “What’s the transliteration for ‘No way, Jose?'” Imagine the current ruling politician describing himself with a straight face as “Raging Bull.”
In time, have a discussion with Sudan about the traditional boundaries of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms. Kemet and Desheret, the Black Land and the Red Land…it seems probable that titular overlordship by your Egypt at a price of 10% taxes on those who produce and reasonable fees for doing business might look very good to the Sudanese.
The problem with Statism isn’t just that you run out of other people’s money, but not knowing what the average person wants: secure borders, safe streets, and the ability to succeed by our own efforts and keep 90% of what we produce. Sure, mobs can bring down current administrations, but can they keep what they won? Unlikely, even with cheerful willingness to shed blood. If Mr. Mubarak had had any sense he would have restored ancient Egypt or retired as an elder statesman ten years ago. If he has any sense now he will get himself and his family out of Sharm El Whatever-it-is and outside the borders of Egypt. In a world where Dubya can’t travel freely lest he be put on trial for “torture,” I cannot think Egypt is a healthy climate for the Mubarak family.
When I return I think I’ll begin a series on building multi-generational wealth. In the meantime, contemplate whether Egyptians or even you and your family would fare better in a society structured as I suggest or the current system. Half of all you make goes to government at some level. I really want to know: do you genuinely care that much about false claims that we’re harming the sacred environment and it is our “duty” to support 40% of the population that does not work, or not? Feel free to lambaste me thoroughly, but back your words up with statistics and psychology. If you have a better idea on how to produce a stable, prosperous Egypt, let’s hear it.
Linda Brady Traynham is a former editor and analytical project report writer and is now a Whiskey & Gunpowder field correspondent on a ranch in the Republic of Texas. She studied Counseling at Boston University and got her Masters degree in Philosophy from the University of Hawaii.