Saturday 23 June, 2012
What a great send off – as I prepare to fly off to the “new” Egypt Monday. I had the opportunity to hear Bassem Youssef, the cardiothoracic surgeon and popular Egyptian political satirist who made Egyptians proud on The Daily Show this week in his interview with Jon Stewart.
Bassem Youssef has emerged in Egypt in a show “alBernameg,” which premiered in Ramadan 2011, as a satirical voice for the woes of the Egyptian people. Youssef has been profiled by press throughout the Arab world, including Al Jazeera, The Guardian and Bloomberg Businessweek. He was also recently featured on CNN (“Youssef: Egypt Politics Must Accept Humor”).
Fantastically Egyptian in his mannerisms, expressions, gestures and imitations of others from poof poof ladies getting their pictures taken to all of the presidential candidates that ran for office in the first round. Bassem Youssef is an intelligent, funny man with a lot to say. He has thought about the political sphere from up and down, rich and poor, educated and not, woman and man, minority and majority, religious and secular, he understands all the angles.
His main theme of the evening – “we Egyptians got the BEST two top candidates” Shafiq and Morsi. Always convincing in his delivery, at the same time leaving half his audience uncertain whether he is joking or serious, he finally leaned forward to a few members in the first row and gave them a wink “in case you didn’t get it, I’m sarcastic.”
Bassem’s humour, like him, is often sophisticated and it is important to know the inside story to get the joke. Most Egyptians do. Egyptians are made of humour, always sharing jokes, so it is no surprise that political satire is finally breaking through on Egypt’s ON-TV. What has always been missing is the opportunity to take shots at Egypt’s leaders – it has been mamnouh or forbidden. Now everyone is making fun of them.
Abandoning the satire for moment, Bassem let us know straight out that he couldn’t possibly have voted for Shafiq and all that he stood for – the old regime – the nihilism of Mubarak and his cronies. He let us know that if the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi is to be the next president of Egypt it could be a good thing, even though it is clear that Bassem is a secular Muslim.
Why? Because whomever takes over Egypt now will be in the most vulnerable position. Egypt is shambles. The economy. The infrastructure. People need work. The country is divided. Let the Brotherhood take control, in this most vulnerable state they will be in the hot seat. They will have to prove themselves. There is much to do for the country, for the Egyptian people. If they do it – chapeau – he will take his hat off to them. If they do nothing, then they are finished and the people will see them as just another political party that is full of hot air and are not able to deliver.
Fair enough. And so it will go. Day by day Egypt will emerge stronger and better or it will continue to fall and the people, secular, moderate, Coptic or Islamist, will be shouting from Tahrir Square for their rights, for jobs, for an economy that they can simply live in and raise their children in with dignity.
The people want deeds not words. And they will demand it.