Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Praying for Egypt

I've been watching the events in Egypt with a mixture of hope and fear. I have been praying that freedom and justice will come to this great country as a result of this uprising of ordinary people crying 'enough is enough'.

I have been struck by how the media here keeps playing up the fear of chaos and uncertainty, as if the options are dictatorship or anarchy. But surely democracy is messy; surely it's about the interplay of ideas and debates about what kind of country people want to live in.

Of course there is not a single leader who could replace Mubarak because that's not how democracy works; that's how autocratic regimes carry on. Democracy is about people deciding what ideas and policies they want enacted and then looking for people who'll best represent them. That's what we enjoy in the UK, why shouldn't the Egyptians enjoy the same?

It's also noticeable that much of the coverage is about what's in our interest, as though our interests are best served by dictators abroad, even though we enjoy democracy at home. It's the old argument, of course; but isn't time it was replaced? If we genuinely believe that democracy is good for people, then let's support democracy for all people and stop shoring up unpleasant regimes because they buy our goods or serve our interests.

It's possible that we won't be able to sell democrats as many guns as dictators buy but that's no bad thing. Likewise, our banks might not benefit from the strong men salting away billions in their retirement funds in tax havens, but that's no bad things either since it might mean that the cash would be used for the benefit of their people.

So, I'm praying that Egypt makes a peaceful transition to a genuine democracy and maybe serves as a model for Yemen and Jordan, Algeria and Libya...

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