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<nettime> Egypt 1956 revisited: “those who sucked us dry and robbed us b
Tjebbe van Tijen on Wed, 9 Feb 2011 21:39:09 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Egypt 1956 revisited: “those who sucked us dry and robbed us blind”



Egypt 1956 revisited: “those who sucked us dry and robbed us blind”

February 9, 2011 by Tjebbe van Tijen

The illustrated and linked original article can be seen/read at

http://limpingmessenger.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/egypt-1956-revisited-those-who-sucked-us-dry-and-robbed-us-blind/

[screen shot of news reel: Nasser speaking in Alexandria in 1956... click picture to see movie]

A post by my Hungarian friend Attila Ara-Kovacs on Facebook about the youth of Alexandria protecting the new Alexandria Library against looters (“lawless bands of thugs” according to the librarian), did trigger a whole range of associations:

[press photgraph  Alexandria, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011.]

Alexandria the city of popular upheavals for millennia against Roman pagan rule, against Roman christian rule, against French and British imperialists from the landing of Napoleons troops at the beginning of the 19th century to the French and British naval bombardment in 1882 and the Suez War of 1956… at the same time of the rising in Hungary and the Russian invasion. Tthe Egyptians under Nasser where supposedly allies of The Soviet Union in those Cold War days… though Nasser kept party communist activists in prison.

Two ancient obelisks dating back two millennia  symbols of the rule of Egyptian pharaohs and gifts of Egyptian rulers of the early 19th century to thank the enemies of their enemies for their interference against French rule, where shipped from Alexandria and are till this day to be seen in Washington and London, and why not in a long range view of history? Was the founder of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina not one of the generals of another much earlier imperialist, Alexander The Great?

Ptolemaeus (367-283 BC), a Macedonian general, who used the icon of Alexander as a ‘trade mark’ on the coins of his new found Greek kingdom on the soil of Egypt… exploiting the split up spoils of Alexanders wars of aggression against other empires, founding yet another one. He named himself pharaoh  and  was also the founder of the most idealised icon  of all libraries the ‘Museon’ with in it a collection of  mainly book-scrolls, later known as  ’The Bibliotheca Alexandrina’. The new dynasty was expanding over neighbouring countries and held out three centuries to end up as a Roman dependency. Alexandria has been a most important hub in Mediterranean trade, not only of goods but also a centre where different believe systems both came together and also were fighting each other.  Pagans versus Christians and different schools of Christians between each other , while over time Islam took over almost completely and Jewish influence was constant, but marginal.  The history of rulers and upheavals in the town of Alexandria is sheer endless. These associations made me find today a fascinating book on the history of this town by  Christopher Haas “Alexandria in late antiquity: topography and social conflict”,  with several opening chapters freely available on the internet by GoogleBooks.

“The true criminals are the blood suckers… that sucked us dry” Colonel Nasser is shouting from a balcony in Alexandria just over half a century ago… and I remember the war and the Cold war coloured news on the radio from when I was just a boy of 12 years old. The bloodsuckers where the Brits and the French that had both made the Suez canal using Egyptian slave labour (“Egyptian blood ran in the canal before the water of the seas”) and controlled and exploited it. Nasser and his rebellious group of young army officers confiscated it in 1956 and send a wave of popular enthusiasm not only through the whole of Egypt, but throughout all of the Arab world.


[screen shot of news reel with Nasser speaking in Alexandria in 1956]

Has Egypt now been colonised by its own ruling class? Or is it only a neo-colonialist conspiracy with Mubarak as a puppet? The last option seems to be the most unreal one… So who are the true criminals now?

It seems that in the end each nation that has freed itself from the shackles of colonialism and even neo-colonialism, has enough exploitive creativity within its own ranks to keep on or recreate whatever forms of group exploitation. What we see is the demise of romantic ‘Third Worldism’, packaged in marxist, leninist, maoist or any other anti-imperialist discourse. The ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ may on the level of Gross National products economically by separate areas of the world, but within each territory this two-fold separation is reproduced once again. Each name of a leader we may know or learn during upheavals like the one in Egypt, is like a bastions behind which whole social layers of society who are profiteers and practitioners, hide themselves. The personal power of the Egyptian presidency from Nasser To Sadat en Mubarak may be comparatively speaking huge, a ruler and his or her rule is always carried by several layers of society, kept in a bond of reciprocal dependency.

Is being wealthy always a crime and poorness a virtue? Or can there be some form of creative connection between the classes to level out their differences, because too much wealth can not be consumed alone and needs to be shared. Is that maybe what democracy in Egypt and elsewhere should be about?


Tjebbe van Tijen
Imaginary Museum Projects
Dramatizing Historical Information
http://imaginarymuseum.org
web-blog: The Limping Messenger
http://limpingmessenger.wordpress.com/





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