We are all Egyptians


As we regard the news from Egypt these days, it occurs to me that Egypt now shows us the dynamic that we will probably see on a global scale in the years to come.

The Egyptian crisis, at the base, is an economic one.  The Arab Spring brought hope, but instead of economic stability and prosperity, it has brought instability and massive unemployment.  Of course, Egypt is not alone in suffering from economic instability and unemployment, but, for the moment let us consider only the case of Egypt as a kind of laboratory of the future.

On top of the economic crisis there is a political crisis.  The government headed  by President Morsi was not been able to obtain the confidence of the masses of the people.  Forget, for the moment that it was radical Islamist, and for the sake of a global view, simply admit that it did not have the confidence of the people.  In this regard, we could speak of Turkey or Brazil, or even the United States, according to the most recent article in CPNN by David Swanson.  But again, let us stay with Egypt as an example.

As I write this the military has intervened.  True enough, the military brings a certain “stability” instead of the preceding chaos.  But consider the cost.  Whenever the military takes control, it brings the culture of war: authoritarian governance, threat and/or utilization of violence, intolerance and identification of “internal enemies”, control of information, violation of human rights, male supremacy and development by exploitation.  This has been the way politics have been conducted by every empire and every state stressed by crisis during the five thousand years since the unification of Egypt by the Pharaoh Narmer through military force.

Confirming this analysis, one of the first acts of the new military administration was to shut down four television stations.  And UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has expressed concern over reports of the detention of leading members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

If the military maintains control and its culture of war becomes established, it will occur because the masses of the people have allowed it to happen.  It will be because the people have no alternative and unified vision such as consciousness of a culture of peace.  And it will be because alternative institutions that provide the framework for a culture of peace have not yet been developed.

As for culture of peace consciousness, no doubt there has been some advance since the beginning of the Arab Spring, as described in the analyses published in CPNN by Joseph Mayton and Ismail Serageldin, but it remains to be seen if it has advanced enough to be a determining factor in the days and months to come.

And as for institutional frameworks, they have yet to be constructed.  For example, when a new Egyptian constitution was under discussion, I urged my friends in Egypt to push for democracy at the local level in Egypt, so that local mayors and city councils could be elected rather than appointed by the central government.  Unfortunately, as far as I know, there has not yet been any progress in this direction.

In general, I urge that all of us consider ourselves to be Egyptian in this moment of historic crisis.  Not that we can solve the problems of Egypt, which only the Egyptians can solve, but that we can learn from their example how to deal with the coming global crises that are economic and political, and which will bring us the choice between culture of war or culture of peace.  As I say in my most recent blog (below), to meet this challenge we need to advance the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace by developing culture of peace consciousness and institutions based on this consciousness.

The historic challenge to the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace


Last month’s blog posed two questions. Is the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace growing? And will it be able grow enough to replace the present culture of war when it crashes?  This month’s CPNN bulletin indicates that it is growing, but is it growing fast enough to deal with the world crises that are coming?

The coming crises are ecological, economic, political and military.

The ecological crises such as global warming and rising ocean levels, lack of fresh water resources and new forms of disease and epidemics, etc. are developing over many decades. The many initiatives for sustainable development – a key component of the culture of peace – can slow the onset of these crises, but cannot halt them as long as we maintain the present political and economic systems.

The economic crises include the uncontrolled financial speculation (the annual gross product of the world being traded every day), the constantly rising American debt and consequent risk to the value of the dollar (which begins to resemble the Soviet ruble 30 years ago), the continually increasing urbanization of the world which means fewer farms and more people dependent upon food production and delivery based on imported oil, and the increasing interdependence of the global economy to the point that a crash would be far more devastating than any in previous history. The time line for an economic crash is probably much sooner than that of the ecological crises, even less than a decade according to some predictions.

The political crises that we see today – the inability of states to deal with nuclear disarmament, with global warming or with economic instability – can only get worse if there is an economic crash. That’s what we saw in the Soviet Union after its economic crash at the end of the 80’s.

The last time there was a global economic crash in 1929, it was followed by the political “solution” of fascism. In fact, fascism is simply the extreme manifestation of the culture of war in all its aspects.

Herein lies the greatest challenge to the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace. If its principles are sufficiently established in the consciousness of people and in institutional frameworks, it can provide a convincing alternative to fascism in the face of the crises that are coming.

And, of course, there are always the crises of militarism. In recent years we have seen the military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now underway, Syria, with nothing but disastrous results, and always the risk of nuclear weapons being employed.

More and more there is a global realization that there are no military solutions to the economic and political crises. But can this negative anti-war sentiment be matured into a positive culture of peace consciousness that consists of positive actions as well as ideas?

The challenge facing us is so complex that we cannot predict its details. Hence, we need to strengthen every one of the 8 program areas of the culture of peace, mobilize every sector of society, women, youth, intellectuals, artists, etc., and the Movement needs to be expanded in every continent and region. As this month’s CPNN bulletin indicates, there is some progress in all of these respects, but much more is needed if the Movement is to achieve its potential.