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News ::
Misery in Egypt (english)
21 Nov 2002
Description of situation in Egypt, a U.S. Ally.
(From an online journal.)

"How and when I decided I was some sort of a socialist"

Here's something I feel like sharing in the dark aftermath of the November 5th elections:

Not many people know that in December, 1996, I went to Egypt. It wasn't as frightening a destination then as it is now; there was obvously not the post-9/11 climate that makes all vaguely Middle Eastern destinations seem unattractive. I'd rather not go into why I went, but I will say that it had absolutely nothing to do with politics. I ended up leaving earlier than I had planned because I found the place such a hellhole.

Here's why:

Egypt has no: 1) minimum wage, 2) OSHA, 3) 40 hour work week, 4) laws or regulations protecting the environment, 5) legal or cultural barriers ensuring separation of religion and state, 6) Social Security or public retirement system, 7) "women's rights" culture or activist mentality, 8) ban on the death penalty, 9) welfare system, 10) privacy rights, and more.

When I got off my plane in Cairo, I was greeted with a large sign, in English and Arabic, "Possession of illegal drugs is forbidden in Egypt. Conviction means death. Welcome to Egypt and enjoy your stay." The women were pretty much all bundled up so that you could not see them, the air quality was so horrible that after a few days I was blowing chunks of black, tarry phlegm out of my nose, and the poverty was absolutely crushing; i.e. at my hotel many women - clad in conservative burqas of course - slept outdoors on flattened cardboard boxes and would wake up to beg me for money whenever I ventured outside. I began to loathe leaving my hotel because every time I did, I would be harassed for money. Like I said, it was miserable.

Egypt, with its complete lack of social safety nets, its culturally ingrained oppression of women, its melding of Church and State, its complete absence of anti-pollution laws, and its ridiculously crowded urban centers, is every bit the sort of country that right-wingers and Republicans here in the USA seem to hold as their model. It fits the bill all the way around: there are no "cumbersome business regulations" there. There are no "welfare cheats" living on the state there. There are no abortions, there is prayer broadcast at least 5 times per day over loudspeakers across the city whether you like it or not, and the police are more like a heavily armed militia who can initimidate passersby at will with their freely brandished machineguns.

This is exactly the kind of society the USA could become if the conservative Right are not forced back into the Dark Age from which they have come from. History can go either way - we can have a better place to live in, or a worse one. There are no guarantees.
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