Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Sadly Declining Art of Bootlicking

One of the notable facts of living in Egypt is that one gets to see an endless parade of aspiring court intellectuals ply their miserable trade in the daily papers. In moments of crisis (to use an overused word), the idiot savants of sycophancy compete feverishly for inclusion in the court. Today’s offering featured Osama Saraya in al-Ahram’s opinion page blathering on about the infinite wisdom and foresight of “the political leadership” (obvious and pathetic code for the president). Saraya is wonderfully, unabashedly, unashamedly fifth-rate, a contemporary incarnation of those perfunctory, generic, Nasser-era sycophants whom no one ever read, and whose names have been rightfully consigned to the trashbin of history.

But since I’m benighted with this habit of tracking the emissions of the toadies, here goes: it seems Mr. Saraya wishes to discredit domestic advocates of political reform as a deviant, unrepresentative minority with no right to speak for “the silent majority”. Now surely you’re aware that this is the oldest and least creative argument in the bootlicking book. Apparently, Mr. Saraya just couldn’t be bothered to avail himself of the more interesting techniques in the how-to-grovel manual. So he sufficed with the novice techniques at the beginning of the book.

He scrawls, “We see now a surge from some influential forces that want to benefit from the transitional moment so they set about pressuring the policies of change,” (aside: how do you pressure policies?). But these nefarious forces will be stymied because “The silent and rational majority will move with a submerged and accumulated consciousness behind the leadership, which will in turn move to activate Egypt’s organizational, economic and political capabilities with a thin thread whose pivot is reform, building institutions capable of development. The signs of this reform are the transition to the free market state, aggrandize the state of institutions, separation of powers with political reform that amplifies the state of law, with a contemporary, organized spirit. We have arrived at the era of political wisdom via struggle, the possessors of this wisdom realize the price of this transformation, and we will pay it, because we know the value of the future and what awaits us in it.” Got all that?

It seems that putting up with such atrocious trash has become a fixed rite of Egyptian citizenship. But it needn’t be this way. Here’s a proposal: redirect a reasonable amount of state funds for better training at Abla Nazira’s School for Snivelers and Spaniels. I’m quite concerned at the budgetary cutbacks they’ve experienced lately, it’s obviously taking a toll. Rumor has it that all the money is going to the spanking new NDP Policies Secretariat with all their fancy computers and expensive software. If this is true, then this is just unacceptable. Sycophancy is a hallowed occupation with a long history here, and there’s absolutely no reason it should go to seed like this. As Egyptian citizens, we ought to demand refurbishing Abla Nazira and outfitting it with the latest in toadying technology and know-how. The “best practices” approach is relevant here; refurbishers would do well to emulate the superior product of American house intellectuals. I want to see crisper metaphors, more ardent arguments, and for God's sake better writing. I certainly hope decision-makers will take note, and that we’ll see improved results on the pages of the “national” newspapers soon. Thank you.