Walk Like an Egyptian? With Pride

People say, “Enough is enough,” when they are done with an abusive relationship.  The people of Egypt had enough of the corrupt “presidency” of Hosni Mubarak.  They Facebooked and Tweeted up a popular nonviolent revolution.  We saw similar things happen in the Soviet Union when it fell.  The Russian troops would not shoot their own people when they rioted.  Most dictators and other authoritarian regimes go quickly when they go.  When fear no longer grips people and they realize they have the power to overthrow any regime, then that regime usually falls.

The Egyptian people were subsisting on $2/day.  The minimum wage was $7/mo.  That is SEVEN dollars per MONTH!  The unemployment was similar to the rate in the U.S., about 9%.  This is true austerity.  The people of Egypt knew that the corruption and power of an oppressive regime was literally robbing them of a better life.  They had had enough.

Leaders of the 20 largest economies of the world, the G-20, went home after their last meeting and announced their answer to failed and fraudulent practices and unregulated “free market” greed of companies like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and AIG.  Their answer was, yes that’s right, “austerity”; austerity for the working people, the retired, the sick and the poor.

The United States and the world are in the midst of the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn in 80 years.  U.S. wage earners have had no real gain in wages in almost 30 years.  Corporations are making record profits, and CEOs have to hire Brinks trucks to take home their bonuses.  The disparity between the wealthy and the working people is at an all-time high.  Our governments, both local and national, can’t seem to grasp the idea that tax money pays for government functions.  So, while granting more tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, they simultaneously cut public jobs and necessary services.  They subsidize corporate/business interests at our expense and tell us it is to help create jobs and taxes.  But it doesn’t.

Am I the only one who sees the ill logic and hypocrisy of these arguments?  Am I paranoid, when I think that organized labor and the rights of working people are under attack?  Am I the only one who thinks there is something seriously wrong when our city government would rather gamble tax dollars to facilitate relocation of a big box store than keep firefighters on the job?   These are not logical solutions to a deficit problem.

These actions are part of the same ideology we see working out in Wisconsin.  These actions are grounded in the same greed and oppression that the people of Egypt decided to unburden themselves of.  This is not about Left–Right, Democrat–Republican, Capitalist–Socialist ideology or policy.  This is about oligarchy or, more rightly, plutocracy, rule of the rich: the overpowering of the safeguards of democracy by the few through the means of economic wealth.  Our past presidents warned and warned us, but we didn’t listen; we have forgotten our history.  We are at the point now where everything in government is up for sale; our Congress, our Presidency and the Supreme Court are all on the auction block.  Call it campaign donations, call it all-expenses-paid vacations from lobbyists, call it revolving-door job security after your stint in the legislature, call it a high-salary position for your spouse.  I don’t care what you call it; it looks like corruption to me.

When I saw the courage and resolve of the Egyptian people, I couldn’t help but think of our own revolution against a corrupt and oppressive monarchy.  When I see the workers of Wisconsin stand up for their rights, I become proud to be an American all over again.  When I see thousands of people, in every state, show solidarity with those workers, it restores my faith in my fellow men and women.  When I see people doing what people do most nobly: caring for each other, it makes me want to “walk like an Egyptian.”

Doug Bennett is a retired contractor and construction worker who lives in Redding. He was previously an airborne Russian linguist in Air Force intelligence during the Vietnam War. Since retiring in 2000, Doug has become a founding member of the Shasta Tehama Trinity Chapter of the ACLU-NC, and chair of Citizens for Responsible Government, a grassroots nonprofit. He also serves on the boards of Sustainable Earth Alliance of Northern California and the Shasta Cascade Farm and Food Coalition. Much of his work is dedicated to community education on sustainability, environmental and social justice issues.

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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Pamela says:

    Right on Doug, thanks for your article!!!!!

  2. Avatar steven dahl says:

    No, you're not the only one who is ready to walk like an Egyptian…It's going to happen b/c the USG and its Corporate controllers are UNABLE to stop stealing from the American public…and the people now see the truth.

    As a follower of the non-violence of Christ, Gandhi and Dr. King; I would urge all Americans who want to walk like an Egyptian make CERTAIN that non-violence and democracy are the guiding principles of the second American Revolution.

    Not only has study after study shown that non-violent revolutions are TWICE as likely to succeed as violent revolutions; but, also, non-violence is simply the right, ethical and moral way to do it.

    We must humbly educate our fellow (corporate media brainwashed) Americans that we DON'T have too MUCH democracy in America, but exactly the opposite. We need democracy more than ever and that means that the people must take democratic control of ALL of society: The workplace, the schools, natural, medicine, natural resources, defense etc.–In a TRUE democracy equality of rights to decide how these institutions and resources are run and utilized is absolutely ESSENTIAL. Thanks for the great article!

  3. Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

    A follower of Jesus Christ and Mahatma Ghandi – and as an active compatriot of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – CÉSAR CHÁVEZ fought and died to help peacefully improve American civil and social, as well as workers' rights, too.

    I agree, what a refreshing, focused article from Doug, that seems to cut through a lot of the blame-gaming, disinformation-mongering, hate-filled and incendiary-gabble going around these days. A plutocracy must have hate and division. It must have those ambitious leaders who can theologize the rationalization of indulgence.

    The great Cesar Chavez once said, "Who gets the risks? The risks are given to the consumer, the unsuspecting consumer and the poor work force. And who gets the benefits? The benefits are only for the corporations, for the money makers." (Christ might say, "Money-changers"…)

    "We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own."

    • Avatar Richard Douse says:

      Anyone who lives in California – and eats – should take the time to see "The Migrant Project" at the Turtle Bay Museum. You should know where your food comes from, and why our food is the cheapest in the world.

  4. Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

    When the American growers and corporations were faced with a severe labor shortfall during World War II, the "Bracero Program" was begun. Many Mexicans were quickly welcomed to the US to make much less than any other American would ever accept for the hot, back-breaking work at the end of a short-handled hoe picking sugar beets.

    And come they did! But the confusing sign on the doors of Texas restaurants and gas stations said, "NO NEGROS, MEXICANS OR DOGS ALLOWED!" Returning home to that societal temperament after his honorable tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, César Chávez faced many dehumanizing obstacles. César, with Dolores Huerta and others went on to peacefully organize the first effective union of farm workers in the history of California agriculture. The corporations, greedy politicians, corrupt judiciaries and law-enforcement professionals were not very happy.

    At 1:00 PM on March 27th, 2011, the Northern Hispanic Latino Coalition will meet with many in front of the Anderson City Hall, 1887 Howard Street in Anderson, California. Community members are celebrating a Symbolic March for César Chávez and for supporting the fundamental principals breathed into him from Jesus Christ and other great community-activists.

    Marchers will walk from Anderson City Hall finishing the short march back at the Anderson City Hall where a small ceremony honoring César's principals. The event will include scholarship awards to encourage local youth on to higher education.

    Thinking about all the vitriolic discourse in our nation today, I can reflect that violence isn't always physical. Violence can be verbal or written, and sometimes can be more damaging than a physical assault. Thinking back upon my theological studies in college, Jesus Christ rarely "lost it." But when He met the money-changers… that's when all hell broke loose!

    Doug, thank you for your peace, activism and writing. You must love this community of ours, one heckuva lot…

    Let's walk!!

  5. Great piece Doug. You are an important asset to our community. Great comments also.

  6. Avatar Bob Madgic says:

    Very tood piece. The more of us who scream at the hypocrisy that has caused and continues to cause this despicable growing gap between the haves and the have nots, the better are the chances to reverse it and throw the bums who are enabling this out of office. Let's hope the recall efforts in Wisconsin are a successful beginning.

  7. Avatar Bob Madgic says:

    Typo: Should be "good" piece, but instead make it "great" piece.

  8. Avatar D. Nethery says:

    Thank you Doug. The public must wake up! We were warned by Leona

    Helmsley, the billionaire on trial for tax evasion in 1989. Her famous quote "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."

    It is worse now, then it was then. The corporations are evading paying taxes and laughing at low paid workers(who are paying taxes) all the way to the bank.

    And to add insult to insult, we are subsidizing many of these corporations.

    My family in Wisconsin are all hard at work, getting signatures for the recalls. We must fight back, or our children and grandchildren will be working for third world wages and working conditions.


    • Avatar Alan Ernesto Phillip says:

      A scary time it must be for your dear ones – and all those around them. I am very proud of you for speaking up, like Doug and the commenters above. Good, empathetic people who want peaceful solutions to our problems. I am SO sorry for your family, D. Nethery… This is just in to my attention for you:

      Wisconsin Judge Blocks Anti-Union Measure

      With seemingly Machiavellian calculation, the dehumanizing anti-union, anti-NPR and anti-people of color bashing & slashing going on around our mutating culture – all clearly for the sake of profit, power and prestige – I think sets a voracious and ominous model for our kids to carry on to our grandchildren and to their kids.

      (Do you remember when we could be considered un-American for calling them, "FRENCH-fries" and not wearing American flag-flare on our lapels?)

      I believe there are three kinds of Americans:

      1.) A minority of those who are part of our Problems.

      2.) Some who are passionate to be part of the Solutions.

      3.) Lulled into our corporate-crafted, convenience-oriented, creature comforts, most Americans: are numbingly comfy just being part of the Landscape

      The sociopathic: Insurance companies, Wallstreeters, Banks, Satellite TV companies, Phone Companies, Big Box Merchants, Judges, Politicians, Spin-Media and Big Corporations… They all, bank on number three. Actuarially.

      So, let's all be "Solutioneers" at the Cesar Chavez march on Sunday March 27th, just after lunch at 12:43PM at the Anderson City Hall… (We march at 1:00PM)

      Let's All Walk Like Egyptians… for Cesar's legacy, for what America is truly supposed to bequeath to our young: Healthy Legacies from each an every one of us!

      "!Si se puede!"

      I may write more on these sensitive topics for a short submission to A News Cafe, soon. Your Wisconsin family, D. Nethery (et al) will be behind in my every thought, source and word…