Saturday, June 2, 2007

Bad Children, Stupid Father(land)

There is something particularly sinister and surreal about these modern charges against 'dissidents' in countries with poor human rights records.
In Turkey, China and Egypt to take just a few well-known examples, citizens are put on trial or simply charged, imprisoned and tortured for being bad and disloyal citizens, for airing dirty laundry in front of critical neighbours; in other words for having the nerve to make their government, that they should love and revere, look stupid, incompetent, cruel and illegitimate: "Among the preliminary charges for [Monem's] arrest were “associating with Human Rights organisation in an effort to soil the image of the regime” and “discrediting the authorities by accusing them of routinely using torture in local police prisons”. (Freemonem)
Monem - an articulate and impassioned critic of his government's use of torture - is in prison then for being a bad child; for making his father(land) look foolish and cruel in front of the other parents. In this way a grown man, a citizen of a republic, is infantalised and reduced to being the disobedient boy, who dares to challenge his father at the school gates in front of the disapproving gaze of the other fathers.
The problem seems to be principally that the other 'fathers' in this case are disposed to look down on this particular Egyptian father - thinking him crude, vulgar and barbaric, where they - let's say the imagined French, English and American fathers at the school gates - are dressed impeccably and holding the hands of their adoring offspring and exchanging a few civilised words.
This defensive reaction of the Egyptian government - punishing the citizen/child for their public act of disobedience - only worsens the government's cause, which (apart from enriching itself), is little more it then seems than to be able to join the other well-dressed fathers at the school gate without fear of condescension and sidewards glances. The arrest and illegitimate detention of Monem is, therefore, so perversely ill-judged as to drive an observer mad with incredulity and rage.

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