Monday, February 7, 2011

The Trouble with Normal

The BBC opened a story on "Egyptian unrest" with this rider:
Egypt is increasing pay and pensions for public-sector workers by 15% as protesters defy attempts to return the country to normality.
I know there are various possible meanings for "normality" here that don't miss the point. But normality, Egyptian-style, is exactly what the protests opposed: a corrupt, violent, repressive state, with a crumbling economy. Of course a return to that normality is exactly what Mubarak, Obama, Clinton (whose envoy to Egypt works for Mubarak) and Netanyahu (among others) want to see.

Mark Mardell, the Beeb's North American editor, spells it out:
What US policymakers want amounts to the current Egyptian government's pro-Western policy, plus democratic legitimacy, plus stability. They believe for that to happen, peace on the streets is essential and serious negotiations about the path to elections are vital.
What the US wants is change without change, in other words: a veneer of "democratic legitimacy" plus "stability," plus Mubarak's collaboration with the US and Israel. What the Egyptian people want is another matter, of little interest to the US. None of this is at all surprising, of course. It's exactly what I'd expect. But it's charming to see it said so openly and unself-consciously.