29th January 2011
Mencius Moldbug does what he does best.
Egypt a century ago, under the firm and inspired hand of Lord Cromer, was a boomtown, a miracle and a paradise. A multicultural paradise, even, with Frenchmen and Brits and Greeks and Jews and Turks and Armenians – all of whom the Century of Fear would later send fleeing with a single suitcase. But as late as the ’30s “Alex” was a city of the civilized world – a place where boho trustafarians, like Lawrence Durrell, would move as if to Prague, just because it was a fun cool cheap place to live. Architecture from this period can still be seen, chipped and obscured by smoke, behind the howling mobs and growling tanks in your YouTube clip.
There are many old Egypts. Stray bits of some survive. But somehow, now, Egypt has offended the gods. They have ordered her to pass through the fire – and slowly. In the last century she got a taste. In this she bids fair to endure the full ordeal. At full heat, even the pyramids will burn. There is nothing, nothing, that politics cannot reduce to ash.
For we have seen this movie before. When the student of history contemplates the “Jasmine Revolution,” applauded deliriously by the entire “international community,” by Americans right and left, Brahmins and rednecks, neocons and paleocons and progressives, post-Trotskyists, post-Maoists and post-Stalinists, not to mention every human being on Earth who has so much as heard of Egypt, all serenading pure chaos with gladiatorial bloodlust – CNN had become so boring lately – the student does not even need to set his time machine. The pattern is simply too familiar. The autopilot can see it. The pony knows his way back home.
But Hamlet can be played by pygmies, and history rhymes even as farce. Mubarak can play Nicholas II, Mohammed El-Baradei can appear in the role of Pavel Milyukov, Charles R. Crane can be performed by George Soros, and Hillary Clinton (who has as I write just knifed Mubarak in the back, a deed which can surprise no one over the age of three) does a marvelous Sir George Buchanan. All the details are different, of course; the thing is the same.