Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt Disconnected

Egypt is disconnected in more ways than one: the government has downed access to the internet overnight as protests intensified within the country, as people call for the removal of the ruling Mubarak. The ruling party is obviously disconnected from the needs and wants of its people, and is trying to disconnect them from each other to reinforce its power.

But access to the internet is not just a question of accessing email and Twitter to find out who had toast for breakfast; it's an essential tool for information and access to information is akin to freedom of the press within a democracy. Any attack on this kind of access is an attack on democratic principles and Egypt is coming dangerously close to showing its true colours in terms of its politics.

This makes things very complicated for the Western world, which espouses democracy and yet, backs what looks eerily close to a military dictatorship in Egypt. The US sends aid to the regime in Egypt with the objective of curbing terrorism, a rather convenient excuse for curbing the freedoms of its people and channelling money into the military. A startling fact about Egypt comes through in this yahoo article:

"Many protesters are young men. Two thirds of Egypt's 80 million people are below the age of 30 and many have no jobs. About 40 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.

Egypt has been under emergency rule throughout Mubarak's term in office. The government says it is used to combat terrorism. Critics say it is used to stifle any dissent."

This is a young population that could be an essential part of a thriving middle-class economy. Instead, it's being manipulated by its government which is hellbent on keeping tight control. No wonder it's becoming a magnet for terrorist party recruitment. These parties prey on people who are unemployed, disenchanted and given no means to prosper within their home countries.

The leaders of these groups are generally Western-educated idealistic young men who come from rich families; they are the ones that recruit the ignorant, badly educated, suffering young masses with something to prove. And those masses are the ones who generally do the dirty work; they do the most terrorizing, the most fighting and the most dying within these groups.

The government could provide for these people. They could give them jobs, real opportunities, hope, a chance to start a family and live a meaningful life, a part in the wealth. They may have cut the power cord on the information highway for their people; but they are the ones who are truly in the dark.

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