They hail the revolution as easily as they praised Mubarak. But they're still Mister President's men
What makes revolutionary thought unique is its clarity and dignity, and its clear grasp of freedom and justice: simple, clear words that are understood without the need for any help from elite writers or thinkers.
In the columns of many of Egypt's national newspapers, the same face-lifted, hair-dyed dignitaries who spent years justifying and beautifying the corruption of past rulers still write regularly. They now praise Egypt's revolutionaries just as they once praised Hosni Mubarak and his ministers.
Their words jumble everything, until the truth disappears – the simple, plain truth that the law and the constitution must be fair, and must be applied equally to everyone; that a leader should not be spared a just trial, nor punishment if he is found guilty of killing demonstrators or stealing money, or corruption, or any other charge.
Mubarak has now been indicted, but the trial is being constantly delayed for health reasons, or political or other reasons. There is pressure from both inside and outside the country to spare him. Some people – the elite thinkers who write in newspapers – want to empty the revolution of its significance. They want to turn it into a song that we listen to yearly on 25 January, just as we listen to "I love you Egypt" songs during processions of national hypocrisy.
All their writings sound the same, revolving around the same concealed idea, as if they meet at night and agree upon it. "Oh, pure youth of the revolution," they say, "you are noble; you rise above revenge. You are the youth of a pure revolution, not like the French revolution that executed King Louis XVI and his family. Your white revolution shed no blood."
Their tears pour with the flowing ink of their pens. But they did not shed tears for the youth who were killed and wounded on the streets and in Tahrir Square. They did not cry for the youth who lost their eyesight to the snipers' rubber bullets, or for the people of Egypt who have suffered hunger, unemployment, and abuse in prisons. They only shed tears for leaders who have spilled blood and taken money.
In their desire to protect fallen leaders from the people's trials, they say that God alone can punish and reward. "To all the youth of the revolution, trust God and do not listen to the words of infidels who are calling for punishment."
But how can there be justice without a trial? Why are they afraid of a trial if they are innocent and if their defendant is innocent? Mubarak was the one who gave orders to ministers – and to some of our elite writers, too, as he distributed rewards and positions among them. None of them ever opened their mouth except to shower Mister President with compliments, or to show their loyalty to him by following his orders. None of them ever met the president without emerging from the meeting waxing lyrical about their "unique and unprecedented encounter".
They tell the youth that everyone makes mistakes. "You are young and pure and romantic," they say. "You haven't experienced life; but we are old and have struggled with life; we have all lived through the past regime, we all adapted to it, we the big writers. We had limits that we could not step over or else we would have been dragged to jail or exiled, and our children would have starved. Oh, youth of the revolution, you have to rise above this desire to punish or you risk losing the noble spirit of the revolution. It is enough that the stolen money is returned through the courts; we can spare Mubarak and his family from the humiliation of a trial, and he can leave Egypt."
This is the new song that the Egyptian elite is singing today. To this day, its members occupy the thrones of culture, information, writing and art. You could almost sense from them that the trial will not take place – and if it did, it would be a sham, and it would end with acquittal and a safe passage outside the country. I hope I am wrong – for the sake of protecting Egypt from another burning revolution.
• Translated from Arabic by Deema Sathame
Published on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 by The Guardian/UK