I watched with great interest the developments in Egypt over the past couple of weeks. After being ruled by a perpetual leadership for 30 years, the citizens of Egypt finally have had enough and began the complicated process of turning towards democracy.
They are tired of intimidation and the prospect of many more years of the same type of ruler when the turnover of power moved from the existing ruler to his siblings. Enough is enough and through mass demonstrations the citizens of Egypt have managed to change their future.
While democracy will empower the people, the manner in which that empowerment occurs in Egypt will hopefully be carefully monitored. As democracy matures in each nation, if America is an example, there are consequences that Egypt will need to consider if it wishes to truly represent its people.
American democracy has been usurped by the ability to use the freedoms provided under a democratic form of government as a means to control it. Our idea of allowing perpetual representation without term limits for all elected position is nothing different than Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s self-appointment for life. We can call ours a democratic process but we all know that the continual re-election of officials is simply a reflection of how much power they have gained while in office, the favors they have amassed during their campaigns and the amount of re-election money they can acquire to manipulate the propaganda needed for re-election.
Campaigns are not cheap and the expectations generated by the contributions made to finance those campaigns are not small. Whether as a direct benefit to a politician or as an exchange with a specific earmark, the wielding of power and influence remains the same.
Elected officials can wield enormous influence and power from their office to assure re-election under all but the most obtuse circumstances. Granted, at some point enough citizens may become fed up and facilitate ousting an entrenched politician, but that occasional victory does not replace the need for term limits on all elected positions. Voters too often are left confused with the manipulative actions of their elected officials and overwhelmed by the name recognition that power and money can buy.
The longer in office the chances to misuse that office becomes greater. Once in office far too many elected officials seem to take on a new persona. Someone coming from a working background is suddenly thrust into a world where they are catered to, their every word taken as authoritative even though they have no knowledge of the issues at hand, and they are provided a multitude of benefits that were never available to them in the private sector. Attitudes change and with time they come to believe they know everything.
Inaugural balls, parades and celebrations to seat someone who is supposed to be a public servant can only encourage an uncontrolled ego to run wild with newfound power.
Once in office many elected officials become impressed with their new friendships and soon find themselves indebted to them either for benefits to themselves, their campaigns or to others they associate with. Power corrupts and in a democracy that falsely elevates its elected officials above the electorate, we can expect nothing less.
Egypt has never been a democracy, yet they are changing. America’s form of democracy has morphed into one bought and paid for by corporations and individuals of wealth. The idea that an ordinary citizen has influence is minimized when citizens attempt to act on their own; Egyptians realized this and have come together with enough mass to effect change.
Maybe America can learn something from the changes in Egypt.