Saturday, February 19, 2011

Democracy is just a word... Why Egypt should have a pharaoh again

[Update: corrected the misspelling of pharao into pharaoh]

(disclaimer: read this post at your own leisure and don't forget to go to Wikipedia or buy a book or go to school to gain the proper details of what I'm about to convey)

I guess the title of this post is not the most politically correct, but than again what is these days?

Anyhow, to start of; Democracy really is just a word. It more or less means that a country is ruled by the people. Fortunately, those that invented 'democracy' where smart enough to realize that most people are not smart enough to rule a country. Therefore, democracies are ruled by a representation of the people that are being ruled. In the end, the majority (about 100%) of the people are ruled by a minority. Looks familiar? Well it should because this is pretty much everywhere. Every community that has some governance this is the case. In a democracy, the minority that is ruling is considered by the majority to be a proper representation and the remaining people accept this and agree to follow suite with the majority.

Kinda boring, I know. The issue is that there are many models for democracies and all have their benefits and drawbacks. I tend to think that the United States of America is a democracy (although one might also consider it a special kind of dictatorship). I also tend to think that the Netherlands are a democracy. Belgium is definitely a democracy, although it also shows that a democracy has its flaws. The USA is a republic (they have a president) and the Netherlands are a monarchy (they have a queen). Where the president of the USA has real power, absolute power one might think (hence the 'special kind of dictatorship) because the president can veto pretty much every new law that the people by means of the Senate and the Congress come up with. But when the president does this too often, there won't be a re-election. In effect, the president of the USA is sort of an elected dictator. The Dutch queen has no real power, no direct influence on governing the country. The queen merely ensures that the government is handling matters according to the law as it is written. She in fact is not allowed to even hint about her political interests. Everything she says and does in public is reviewed by the Dutch prime minister because the prime minister is responsible for what she says and does in public. One could say that she's the only person in the Netherlands that will be bleeped on TV when she uses bad language (she's allowed to talk about sex using the raunchiest terminology, but she's not allowed to say what she thinks about the right to vote for women).

So where is all this coming from? Well, the Egyptians are longing for a democracy. They want Egypt to be a democracy. The same tune is now played in pretty much the whole of the Arab world. A lot of blood is spilled because of this longing and a lot of people are teaming up to realize this wish. It's like asking for a drink in a cafe. Here's the analogy: Like I said, democracy is just a word, it comes in many flavors, many models. All of them have their goods and their wrongs. It also largely depends on the culture of the people in the democracy to determine what kind of democracy is best suitable. In the USA the culture is more or less (yeah, flame me American for getting it all wrong) to choose your strong leader and then follow that leader. But the leader can only be a guide because Americans still want to be able to make their own decisions.
The Dutch culture is one of consensus. Every decision is one that is considered by all to be the right decision. Some like it more than others, but everybody agrees it's the right decision. Rules for everything for everybody agreed on by all.
I think that the Egyptians need to figure out what kind of democracy they want. Being aware that I know far too little about the Egyptian state and government, I would actually think that they had a democracy that was poorly implemented and really sucky executed. Although, in the end the majority did get it their way. Some 'strong' language was required though.

Hmmm, where is all this leading. That pharaoh is still in the title. Ah yes, here it comes; All of you, raise your hand when you know where on earth the Netherlands are. And no, it is not the capital of Denmark, nor a German province although in more than one occasion the Netherlands were part of a German reich. The Netherlands are actually a rather small country, one of the most dense populated countries in the world actually. And although the people are among the tallest in the world, if not the tallest and one of our politicians has a hair-do that can compete with Don King. I would say, Don King's hair-do was better groomed. I'm balding so I know nothing about hair-do's.
The Netherlands are considered a small and more importantly a cute country. The Dutch queen is a major reason why the rest of the world considers the Netherlands to be a cute country. Truth is that without the queen, it wouldn't even be half as cute. Being cute gives the Netherlands a massive advantage in international dealings. It's always underestimated and therefore always has the element of surprise at its side (read the Sun Tzu - Art of War on the importance of the element of surprise in any encounter between two parties). When Holland would not have a queen, it would be one of those small republics. Now it is that cute little country with a queen.
Egypt should have a pharaoh for the same reasons. I think it would be awesome for all Egyptians to have a pharaoh again. A head of state that is only there to ensure that the government is playing by the book, but he or she would be a pharaoh. Egypt would be that country with a king or queen, but not just any king or queen but a pharaoh. One that starts building pyramids in times where there is a lot of unemployment and it would mean people get a decent job. One that reminds all Egyptians and the rest of the world on a daily basis of the grand era of yesteryear and the fact that these times are back.
Egypt would be a country with a continuing history instead of a history that ended centuries ago. It would not be that country with a desert without too much oil and too many tourist corrupting the nations values and morals. It would be that country that has a pharaoh. Maybe one that has a drink with the Dutch queen on pharaoh day. I recommend April 30th as this is a huge success in the Netherlands.

Oh, there is another reason why the queen is such a smart move of the Dutch, she's in office since a long time (1980) and because she has no real power, she can't screw up. At least not big time, but she has seen a lot of the world, she has met many, many, many people. Different people from different countries, cultures, religions, etc. She's seen it all, and therefore she's extremely well equipped to support the Netherlands in forming a government every election again.
In a democracy, in the end, it is the bureaucracy that rules. It's the people in the administration, the clerks that are behind their desk government after government that have the real power. They know the processes and procedures. They know when to stall and how to stall and they know when to expedite and how to expedite. They also know because of their longtime experience what makes sense and what not, what works and what not. The queen is the same in the Netherlands when it comes to forming a new government after the majority of the people has decided what minority can rule them.

My apologies for the length of this post, and although I might have taken the topic here and there a bit light or loose on the details, it never has been my objective to offend anybody. And I really, really hope that the people in Egypt as well as those in the other countries that are now subject to protest marches and stand-offs with the current government understand that democracy is just a word. Like going into that cafe and ask for a drink, you might not get what you like. And even though you spend 30 years in the dessert without a drink, you still shouldn't drink water from the Red Sea.



  1. I really think that you made a good point here with respect to the Pharao promotion. However he should be given a nice name like: He that illuminates Egypt like the sun does. Just to show that Egyptians can be inventive with names, as to mark a new era. He indeed could be the ruler again of a newer Egypt of the old days. He could resurrect projects to restore ancient buildings, as to fight unemployment, just like Pharao Khufu once did. He could make Egyptian people again proud of themselves, clean up the place literally, and become the emerging country in the middle east. Becoming to think of it, I really like the idea and could elaborate much more on this item. However gonna leave it like this, as this is just a reaction not a story in itself.
    Mark Dielen

  2. Haha Mark,

    You're so completely into the pharaohnic era. But I actually think that the new pharaoh should not build anything but wisdom, much like the Dutch queen he should only govern the processes by which the government rules the country.
    Mubarak may very well have been a pharaoh in the old sense of the word.


  3. Well I must admit, as an Egyptian I was surprised and a bit offended by the title of your post. But after reading it through I understand your point of view. But I see a huge gap in understanding what the word pharoh means to Egyptians (and Muslims) as it differs greatly with what people from europe or USA may think.
    A pharaoh is not a ceremonial title like you can envision of the king or queen. A pharaoh is a dictator that ruled with injustice and violence idefinitly and in doing so believed himself to be a real supreme being or a god and ended up asking his people to worship him. Nothing at all like the idea of a cute queen that you mention. Even in Islam a pharoh is the person that prosecuted the people of Israel , killed their children , took their women and enslaved them for many years. Just the mention of the word pharaoh stirs very negative feelings within me.
    Under the rule of Mubarak and before him to an extend Sadat and Nasser , Egypt has been ruled by pharohs under the false title of demacracy so I think it is safe to say Egyptians know more than most that democracy is only a word, yet people have taken to the streets and were shot to death while asking for it.
    Sorry for the long post but let me wrap it up by saying that Egyptians never felt their own self worth or dignity for the last fifty years. For the first time since thousands of years we have the sweet hope of putting a system that values our personal and national dignity and does not make pharohs from any one that has some power in his hand. I know democracy is just a word but for me it represents the aspiration of making my country a better place for my Children

  4. Very insightful and eye-opening. This is why I came to work in Egypt, to get a first hand experience of the country and its people. Getting rid of the misconceptions. When you read my post about the lock-down of Cairo (about 3 posts ago), you'll understand what the rest of the world is up against when it comes to information about in this particular case, the revolution in Egypt.

    Please be aware that in the past, the kings and queens in Europe were dictators as well, either jointly with the Pope or defiant of the Pope. Look at the Spanish inquisition which pretty much eradicated everything and everybody that was not 110% behind the Catholic doctrine. Even while the Netherlands were a republic in the 19th century, we were also the ones that elevated the trade of humans (not Christians!) to new heights. Not allowing the slaves to be baptized because the bible forbids the trade of any child of God.
    The people in the Netherlands and all over Europe and their democratic views have turned the dictatorial rulers (kings and queens) of those days into the cute ones you see today (most notably the French revolution and Germany's defeat in World War 1). It has taken a lot of bloodshed and literally hundreds of years for the European countries to become what they are right now.
    Both Russia at the time as well as China, but also Vietnam and North Korea have had their revolutions from monarchies to democracies but that turned out quite differently. And I think to great extend due to ignorance of the people at large and a massive gap in awareness, education and economic progress between the instigators of the revolution and the masses revolting.

    So, I think that it would be good for Egypt to become a democracy, but I think that the architects of this democracy will need to think very hard and very careful about which of the many models they want to implement.