Celebrating Cairo's Carnival of Freedom

The Egyptians are different. They're nice. They do what they're told. You tell them: Fools, stop being fools and be enlightened. Not a week passes and they're enlightened!

The latest news from Cairo, updated to the moment these lines were sent to press, is that soon the Egyptians will stop being the benighted fools they were up until a week or two ago, and will become enlightened human beings just like us. They managed to oust their president - something that we, who are not fools, do every few years without thinking twice. Our job is to encourage them not to fall back on their asses after taking the first step toward emerging from being benighted fools to the status of enlightened human beings like us.

Eran Wolkowski

Good for you, sweet fools, good for you. You can do it! How nice that you're walking by yourselves, without the hand of Father Mubarak. Keep it up.

On Tuesday night I met one such enlightened young man on the street, in the heart of Tel Aviv, who was returning with unkempt hair from a small demonstration of solidarity with the Egyptian people that took place in the city's Basel Square, not far from the Egyptian embassy. He was enthusiastic, and said: The Egyptians, like, you know, brought down their regime. The world is, like, getting rid of the yoke of despotism.

And look how easy it was for them, I continued his train of thought. Easy as pie, if you compare it to Iraq, for example. How many resources and how many lives were wasted in order to shake up the fools there, and to prod them to take themselves into the light, from the darkness.

The Egyptians are different. They're nice. They do what they're told. You tell them: Fools, stop being fools and be enlightened. Not a week passes and they're enlightened!

The world press went out of its way to congratulate the Egyptians on their achievement. The French press outdid everyone. In order to shake me out of my cynical apathy, an enlightened friend who lives in Paris sent me several newspaper editorials directly inspired by the 19th-century poet of liberation, Victor Hugo. Such as: "A great light has suddenly broken through from the East. Our eyes are witnessing the sunrise!" And also: "A holiday for popular heroism, which fills despots with fear and trembling and shakes up history."

These phrases demonstrate that, in moments of elation, when the entire world is celebrating Egypt's carnival of freedom along with it, even enlightened people are allowed to go crazy and to play the fools for a moment.

Because after all is said and done, there wasn't much more in Cairo than a carnival - that is to say, a festival of a temporary loss of senses. The morning after the hangover wears off, the salesmen in the shoe stores on Talaat Harb Street, situated in the heart of Cairo, will continue to earn less than $100 a month and will sell us, the customers from the West, a pair of shoes at the price of their monthly salary, while feeling their lives are actually worth less than a pair of shoes.

The morning after the hangover of the carnival of freedom wears off, the waitress who works in the dining room of the Cairo hotel that hosts groups of tourists from the West, in which the cost of a room per night is equivalent to three months' pay for her, will rush after her exhausting eight-hour shift to another job washing floors in a dental clinic. And all that is after she had awoken at 4 A.M., in order to get to the hotel in time and avoid getting stuck in traffic jams en route.

It is doubtful whether she, whose life is worth less than a bed for a night, and the shoe salesman, whose life is worth less than a pair of shoes, care whether the country is headed by Hosni Mubarak or Shmulik Rabinowitz. Their life is affected not by the despotism of the head of state, but by the despotism of a free economy, instituted by the enlightened West - the same West that until a week or two ago considered Mubarak an exceptionally effective subcontractor for implementing global capitalism in his country. He managed to preserve Egypt as a country of cheap labor, no less than China. As a country of legendarily cheap Western tourism. As a country ruled with a iron fist to prevent any type of extremism, Islamic or other. The enlightened West couldn't have hoped for more.

Up until a week or two ago, Western fans of natural products didn't want to know that the subcontractor responsible for manufacturing the cotton socks and other organic cotton clothes they wore, and which they bought at such attractive prices, was the despot Mubarak. And yet they could have known that already back in the fall of 2008, when the workers in the textile factories in the Al-Mahallah al-Kubra industrial area north of Cairo staged an uprising to protest their disgraceful employment conditions. The festival of freedom was then suppressed with unusual violence, and no newspaper in the enlightened West saw fit at the time to declare in its headlines that a great light had suddenly broken through from the East.

And why? Because to rebel for the sake of money alone is icky. Money is a dirty and petty thing. What would those fools do with more money? Buy more cigarettes? That would destroy their health. Break their diets of ful in pita? But ful and pita and cold water is so healthy. Besides, the enlightened West has no sympathy for materialistic, uncultured people, who love only money and don't know how to behave. They have to give the West spirituality, ideals, the value of making do with little. Now it has received just what it was looking for: a purely idealistic uprising, a display of freedom and a shaking off of the yoke of despotism. What a wonderful thing freedom is: It's a fabulous show, exceptionally moving, and in addition to everything else, it doesn't cost us a penny.