July 6, 2011

Wednesday morning thoughts

Left and Islamic economies
I just realized that they are complete opposites. Islam gives maximum economic freedom and puts restrictions on personal liberties; on the other hand, communism gives maximum personal freedom and restricts freedom of ownership. I personally vote for centrist on all matters, but that's just me.

Off the shelf
For some reason we like readymade ideas and conspiracy theories. It's so easy to attack anyone using an already widely accepted theory, much simpler than coming up with a new story and convincing everyone of it. I'm not saying that all theories are wrong but there are so many other possibilities that we do not consider. For example we now have the Feloul (the Mubarak era leftovers), Israeli, American, Iranian and Saudi conspiracies. In the past few months all the trouble we were facing were attributed to one of those theories. And whenever a political figure needs to attack a competitor it uses one of those theories. Nobody is mentioning illiteracy, apathy, corrupt individuals that are not necessarily supporting Mubarak but are just fighting to maintain their status, cultural issues (such as violence, religious tensions, etc.) or just plain inefficiency of our systems. I wish we could one day get over those readymade ideas and move towards a more investigative media.

Friendliness matters
As much as I hate the fake friendliness that you find in many Western societies, as much as I really appreciate a smile, a "thank you", a nod of apology for making you wait or someone holding the door of the elevator when they see you walk into a building instead of rushing to go up before you. Yes, these things matter in a day.

The constitution will not be the problem
I'm more and more convinced that we're getting closer to an agreement on the constitution. Just like any negotiation the different players start very far then close in on a good compromise. My concern isn't the constitution anymore; it's what we're going to do with it, the "practical" issues. How laws will be written and how consistent they will be with the spirit of this constitution. As corrupt as our previous constitution was, it was still completely sidelined and laws that were even more corrupt were passed. Moreover, what we might not all realize is that our whole governance system is corrupt and defies the whole purpose of integrity and control. Also laws that govern personal freedoms and how they will be drafted under the new constitution or old ones amended. This is where the devil awaits.

The average human being is centrist
Yes. The average human being anywhere in the world wants a decent life, ability to own things, the opportunity to grow and prosper and some form of spirituality (religion, Yoga or hashish). The average human being wants to live. Extremism in any direction isn't part of the human nature and is usually exercised by a minority hungry for control or idealists with little affinity for compromise.

Hazem Abou Ismail
I was recently surprised by several very modern, liberal, logical and very revolutionary ideas that he put forward. But then I remembered that he is the same exact man who gave us the P.E.P.S.I interpretation which apparently he had heard from his teen age son and his friends at school. Could someone change so dramatically? I think not. That just goes to tell me that he is very smart, he understood what liberals were thinking and he managed to package it in a very moderate way. Those sorts of transformations scare me.

Minimum wage
I heard and read a lot of arguments for minimum wage, but I still honestly believe that it will only benefit a small percentage of the population. On the other hand job creation through investments is a far more pressing priority.

Attention: This government is scared and that's bad
None of the ministers wants to sign any papers or release any payments. Many contractors have not been paid for work delivered and new projects are frozen. They're worried they will be incriminated. The main problem is that the existing system is corrupt within itself and gives them a lot of freedom to take decisions without governance. The old system offers them no protection. Most of the corruption in the previous regime was perfectly legal; it's the laws and regulations that are defective. If the government does not go through with its expenditure plans in the new budget, the economy will really go to a standstill. This is far more dangerous than if the budget break-down isn't really what we expect it to be. There is no way out of that except giving some sort of amnesty to the existing government to go ahead and implement its budget.

Lessons learned
I sometimes am genuinely surprised that there are people calling for ideas that have been tested over and over again without any success. Why do we have to re-invent the wheel? Capitalism failed, Communism failed and religious states failed. They did not just fail because of faults in implementation as many might say; they failed because they were fundamentally wrong. I hope the next person coming with an idea of where Egypt should go that he / she have some examples of how this has worked somewhere else. There are too many people who live in this country for reckless trial and error. And please don't bring me an example from 2 factories in Argentina or a tribe in the South of Peru.

Yes, that's the approval rating of the army in a poll in June (up from +80%).

That's the approval rating of Essam Sharaf according to the same poll. He relates to the problems that concern the majority: Economy and Security (80% named those two as their first priorities in the same poll).

Take a step back
In case you didn't notice, there is a lot of positive energy in Egypt now. Many fears, many problems, a lot of challenges, but definitely far more people willing to work and do good than we had before. It's sometimes difficult to see that in the midst of everything happening but this revolution is working at the grassroots far more than it is doing at the top levels.

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