A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mahmoud Salem on Egypt's "Mirage State"

Mahmoud Salem, who blogs as "Sandmonkey," has a piece in The Daily News Egypt on "The Mirage State of Egypt."

A mirage state is a country where things have the appearance of something real, but don’t actually exist or function in the same way to the real thing it mimics. It’s not a complete mirage, because a lot of it is tangible, but in reality, it’s just an apparition of what it should be. It’s like a case of collective delusion where we insist that oranges are actually apples, and get really mad if anyone questions that notion to be factually true. Unfortunately, this holds true to everything about our lives here.

Technically we believe Egypt to be a functioning state: it has institutions, democracy, elections, laws, economy, judiciary, police, a military, parties, political activists, a prime minister and a president. Unfortunately, while it seems like we have all the trappings of a country and a state; it’s more like an optical illusion.

None of it is the real thing. We have institutions that have employees and budgets and paper work, but almost nonexistent output; we have a democracy, but that is only in so far as we have elections; we have elections where the voters vote for the symbol but have no clue who they are voting for or what the candidate’s policies or history is; we have laws that don’t get enforced unless there is a political will behind it; a judiciary that are above reproach or accountability despite their inefficiency and corruption; hundreds of thousands of police officers and soldiers with uniforms but no security; a military with a huge budget and millions of soldiers and guns but can’t protect our borders; parties that compete in elections without having actual real policies, politicians or institutional structure; political activists who propose textbook solutions that would never work realistically; an economy that operates completely separately from government policies, the current state of the country and the international economy; a prime minister whose qualifications for being the most important prime minister in the history of Egypt is having a beard, and a president who we see in pictures, but don’t actually see doing anything. The Mirage State.
 It's worth reading all of it.

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