Views from a Blog concerning Egypt its Arab Spring, the ensuing destruction of 50 Coptic Churches
Ed: We tend to have this god-like idol sitting on a pedestal called “Democracy” but there are old examples of how good intentions lead to bad decisions by the voting population. Is the ultimate end of Democracy legalised mob-rule, as was experienced by the Early Greek venture into these pathways? The ancient Greek Admirals who won a decisive victory, Battle of Arginusae BC 406, were exalted then later vilified after democratic decisions. Executed, because they failed to stop & pick up survivors after a preliminary naval engagement. So they lost a few Athenians there, but wiped out the Spartan threat instead. The population decided on an emotional vote to punish the Admirals who had saved them. They then went on to execute others that they didn’t like. Mob-rule, emotional sway, led to the decay of Democracy. So should be shun Democracy?
Reply: These are the ideas popularised by Hobbes (a materialist) based on his extremely partial reading of the history of the Greek wars. Hobbes’ ideas led to the Hamiltonian ideas on democracy, which ultimately were included into the American Constitution. The latter is based on extremely large constituencies, meaning that only very rich people can run for Presidential elections. Result is that the U.S. is largely run by multinational corporations not by what you would call ‘the mob’. In Europe, French constitutions tend to place a lot of power at the local level and there is a very high level of participation in politics at every level of French society. Much of this is the inheritance of the Paris Commune. But not so much is local level in the UK. The unwritten British Constitution eschews direct democracy in favour of Parliamentary Sovereignty which means that basically the state can do quite a lot without looking over its shoulder with respect to the legal rights of citizens. This is the model of the mixed King in Parliament constitution which owes a lot to Locke. The presence of the monarch means that Parliament has extensive powers. It’s the reason why Thatcher was able to sell houses which belonged to Local Councils which would be impossible in France.
My reading of the Egyptian situation is based on newspaper reports and my conversations with a Copte who runs the local Italian restaurant. (A nice guy but often not too bright) He didn’t like the Brotherhood and was disappointed by their winning the election a year ago. They won the election (only by 3.46% of votes) because they were the only organised political force in Egypt at the time. El Sissi threw them out following massive – and largely peaceful – demonstrations by liberal and secular forces – figures go from 13 million to 30 million anti–Morsi demonstrators. Some journalists say they were the biggest demonstrations in history. And so there you have it: what you called ‘the mob’ reacted to the partial and authoritarian rule of the Morsi people in an exemplary fashion. The military takeover was, however, something else. We are so wrong about mob rule, and democracy will arrive in Egypt soon enough ~
Dr Malcolm Mansfield, Paris University. (lets hope/pray so, Ed).