A THEATRE OF THE ABSURD WHERE THE PLAY HAS NO ENDING
By CAMERON DUODU
(For more photos, go to;
I found myself, at high noon one day recently, being wheeled into a surgical theatre in London for necessary repairs to my body.
As I lay on the operating table, a ‘theatre of the absurd’ began screening in my head.
My last flickering thought was: “If I don’t come out of this alive, I shall never know whether the Egyptians succeeded in getting rid of Mubarak or not!”
Maybe, I’d catch up with it somewhere in the ether –for, indeed, to any newsperson, what had been going on was — simply out of this world.
The play being enacted on my TV screen, day after day for eighteen solid days, portrayed an impossible scenario in which a million, or at any rate, hundreds of thousands of people, were filling the grounds of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, in mysteriously-organised relays.
They were not moving when ordered to do so. They were seeing off the police. Without firing a single shot! And they were clambering on to the armoured vehicles of soldiers who had parked their harbingers of death amongst them.
They almost looked like kids playing – despite bloodshed all around them, not always conveyed by the TV pictures.
And, of course, no-one could mistake the anger that formed the back-sound to0 the play: an anger full of hatred for the regime that had robbed a venerable nation of its soul for thirty years.
The scenes were absolutely eerie.
And then Hosni Mubarak, the object of their scorn, made his entrance. Like King Alonso, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, he showed himself to be completely unaware that power, like an egg, once allowed by neglect, to slip though one’s fingers to the floor, can never be picked up and stitched together again.
Against yells of ‘Leave! Leave! Go!’, all Mubarak could offer were self-appraisal backed up with ‘honourable’ promises of future legal reform.
At nearly 83 years of age, his face was unlined and not a grey hair could be easily spotted anywhere on his pate . A tease to those of us who have been unable to mummify our looks. He, of course, had been helped by an American “aid” budget of $1.2 billion a year for 30 years. A few appointments with plastic surgeons can easily be incorporated into such a vast head of expenditure, couldn’t they?
What came out of the guy’s mouth was decrepit beyond belief: he had always done his “duty” by the Egyptian people, in both peace and war. He would now continue to do so by releasing people who had been arrested; by implementing “reforms” and then leaving the scene in September.
But the people continued to roar: “Leave!… Leave!…. Go now Mubarak!…Go!… Go!”
Tahrir Square had become an echo chamber.
But Mubarak,unable to hear them because he had pre-recorded his speech in a soundproof TV studio, ranted on. (Actually, his speech-writer deserves to be fed to the shoals of perch in the River Nile. What insensitivity. What a total incomprehension of an unfolding situation!)
Next, a double-take flashed across my inner eye. I said: “This chap doesn’t have an awareness of history. It is precisely such a resort to inane verbosity that we saw President Nicolai Ceausescu of Romania engage in on 25 December 1989. And we saw live on TV, how that ended: the deliberate execution on live television of a head of state and his wife.”
Mubarak came on TV once more a few hours later and repeated his absurd performance, spinning ever more words.
But at sundown, on 11 February 2011, Mubarak’s newly-appointed Vice-President, Omar Suleiman, gave the cold news on television, in a stark two sentences, that Mubarak had stood down. With immediate effect. He, Suleiman, would rule with the “military council” that had already begun issuing communiques numbered in sequence.
An erupting Cairo now boiled over. The people had got their wish.
Has Mubarak really stashed away at least $70 billion, with which he can enjoy life at Sharm-El Sheikh?
‘Enjoy life’? There have been rumours that he is in a coma. And, of course, we cannot believe everything we hear when dictators are overthrown. But in many instances, there really is no smoke without fire.
For example: when the late President Sani Abacha of Nigeria died in June 1998, it was widely reported that he had amassed a fortune worth as much as $4 billion. And despite the murky and intricate routes through which such funds are usually extruded from a nation’s coffers to nestle in cosy, sacred corners in the vaults of ‘respectable’ banks, ‘domiciled’ overseas, at least a third of that sum has been traced by the Nigerian authorities, with the assistance of Swiss lawyers. At one stage, I had to laugh when one Swiss lawyer turned on the banks of Great Britain and accused them of being unhelpful in trying to help trace Abacha’s loot!
What? The Swiss, whom the British deride as “the gnomes of Zurich”, were now pointing an accusing finger at the British?”
Well, if the Egyptians want any Mubarak money back, they will have to spend more time in London than Zurich. The Swiss have promptly announced that they have frozen Mubarak’s assets. But in the City of London, and in the House of Commons, loud, indecipherable silences continue to be heaved. The newspapers are saying, though, that Mubarak’s son, Gamal, has a $10m home in a swanky area of London, and that he also owns a “merchant” bank.
All we can say is that in the modern world, where information is easily within the reach of many millions of people, at the mere click of a mouse, ideas turn around at a very fast pace.
Indeed, if I were to run an educational seminar for world leaders, the juxtaposition of what was occurring daily in Tahrir Square on one side of the television screen, with what Mubarak was saying on the other side of the same screen, would be my number one study project.
It was a classic example of the disconnect between reality and fantasy in a relationship of power politics.
Ruling countries has never been as easy as is supposed. For with every Alexander The Great that history throws out, you get an “Ozymandias”; for every Gaius Julius Caesar, you get a Nero Claudius Caesar.
Yet leaders so often continue to ignore the writings in the sand and renege on their voluntary pledge to serve their people SINCERELY.
Sincerity matters a great deal, because a leader may think that because he can mask, or hide, information about his financial dealings, or even his ideological position, he can go on pretending to be the servant of the people.
But the luxury cars and mansions, plus the luxurious private jets — as held up against the dry water-taps in the shanty-town shacks without toilets — tell the real story of how a country is being ruined by its leadership. Fancy talking constitutional reform to an Egyptian street force that has emerged largely out of the ancient cemeteries where numerous people are perforce obliged to spend their whole lives. Can the living dead be impressed by words — however craftily spun — to them?
No PR organisation can dissemble about the noisome stench of a ghetto road: the blocked gutters hit everyone in the nose, and the judgement they force into being is instant.
So leaders must truly serve their people’s interests or quit. If they don’t, the people – or in the fullness of time, their offspring – will come and burn the leaders’ very relics, if not their physical bodies, and throw them on the rubbish heap of history.
Nothing is settled yet in Egypt, or even Tunisia, to be sure. But that has not stopped the people of Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Yemen or Iran, from listening to their own very heartbeats.
Inanity in the political affairs of nations shall be ended. If you don’t believe it, think about The Berlin Wall; its Fall; what brought about that Fall – and what happened to other countries after that.