Gazetting of TOC: lessons from Egypt unrest

What has the Egypt revolution, a “huge event” as our Foreign Minister euphemistically termed it, got to do with the government gazetting of The Online Citizen (TOC)?

Plenty. 

Both are saddled with an autocratic government though democratic reform in Egypt is still underway. 

Both are tightly controlled societies with a government-controlled press and TV, and a barely-tolerated opposition. 

If you had told me two months ago that Egyptians would rise en masse to sweep away the old order and force the resignation of President Mubarak, I’d would have urged you to go for psychiatric tests. 

You see, holidaying in Egypt two months ago I saw that the country was perfectly normal: traffic snarled into gridlock in Cairo, shoppers thronging the malls and excitedly eating ice cream, tourists gazing at the jaw-dropping pyramids, bargain hunters roaming the bustling and jam-packed Khan El- Khalili Bazaar and even a pair of China women hawking their goods near Cairo railway station. 

I didn’t realize at the time that simmering below this perfect picture of normality was a festering hatred for the Mubarak regime. 

Lying dormant for decades, it all suddenly exploded in January. The rest, as they say, is history. 

When governments are repressive, resentment gradually builds up until it reaches bursting point and explodes. Nature and human affairs bear striking similarities. 

There’s no doubt in the minds of many people that the gazetting of TOC is an attempt at keeping it on a short leash,and therefore much easier to control. 

The mantra of all autocratic regimes is the same: CONTROL, CONTROL, CONTROL. 

    

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2 Responses to “Gazetting of TOC: lessons from Egypt unrest”

  1. I wonder if simmering resentment would lead to anything resembling a revolution in this State.

    A recent BBC News Online analysis (How Revolutions Happen, 13 Feb 11) highlighted 2 key factors common to all political revolutions that experienced either total or partially successful outcomes: (1) the elite & powerful insiders of the ruling regime decided not to support the regime anymore, (2) the state military decided not to defend the regime anymore. The failed Tian’anmen revolution attempt is an example in point. Sad to say, people power alone is not enough.

    For the case of this State, it might be appropriate to also add this qualifier: (3) the majority of the common people decide not to support the ruling regime anymore. The below explains why it sometimes seems to me that the majority of the common people here (esp. those of means) are actually rather or very contented with the status quo.

    A few days ago, a civil servant in her 20s pondered aloud why it took the Egyptians “so long to do something” to overthrow the 1-party regime. When I remarked that S’poreans have yet to do anything about a similar 1-party regime, she responded, “But S’pore is different. At least we are progressing.” Note that this is not some servile civil servant, but someone who has often voiced her disapproval against the rigid rules of civil service & this State, & also stated her preference to live somewhere else other than S’pore. However, she obviously does not see any need to change the ruling regime, because the “progress” is sufficient for her.

    Besides the above example, I have come across several other common people (esp. high-earners) who faithfully support the current regime & would never vote otherwise. One of them (in her 40s, an authoritarian, manipulative & very controlling parent/person who always opted for civil service & goes travelling at least twice every year) even ridiculed me as a “troublemaker” & derisively asked “why can’t [I] just follow the rules”, instead of asking questions. Her own question was rhetorical of course, as she wasn’t & isn’t even interested in any mutual discussion, reason being that in her mind, she & the govt are always right, while I am supposedly some “mad person” with deficient morals & reasoning abilities.

    As such, what is the likelihood that the co-opted common people — much less the elite political insiders & the State military/police — would rise in revolution against autocracy & demeaning authoritarianism, when it is this very regime that serves their personalities & motives so well ?

  2. 1. I agree with you that people power alone is not enough.

    2. The PAP with its extensive reach in all aspects of life and its control of the media has succeeded in brainwashing the people. Don’t rock the boat is their mantra. I too have come across such people you mentioned.

    3. Many people don’t realize but with its politically immature and fearful citizens, and a woeful record in civil society and democratic institutions, Singapore is ripe for a dictatorship.

    4. They fail to understand that only in an open and truly democratic society can we prevent a future dictatorship, and protect all that we have built up.

    5. That’s why history will never accord the PAP an honorable mention. In fact, the western media describes Singapore as a soft dictatorship, but nonetheless still a dictatorship.

    6. The army and police will also want to protect their vested interest. If people power is too overwhelming as in the case of Egypt, they’d rather desert their masters.

    3.


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