It becomes ever clearer why Bertrand Russell considered a knowledge of history to be the most basic mental furniture for those who wish to engage in the great conversation taking place across the centuries.
At Walid Eglan’s bookstore down the street, he and a colleague were trying to understand why the American government did not act more forcefully against the makers of the video.
This strikes the average American as kinda crazy. Nobody expects the American government to act forcefully against the makers of a video, because nobody can imagine a video mattering in any real sense. And besides, is Eglan ready to ensure the equivalent, that no Egyptian with a desktop computer and a few hours to waste could possibly produce something irritating? Well, actually, being a Salafist he probably is quite comfortable with repression of expression, especially expression he doesn’t like. So that line of argument may not be headed in productive directions.
Still, when even the right-wing wackos can recite factual history in their defense, facts with which most Americans are unacquainted but all Egyptians quite familiar, you know you’re starting from a deficit that will be hard to make up. It’s like games in the loss column, already in the books and now impossible to modify.
After state security melted away one day during the revolution last year, life on the street started to revive.
Now, [Eglan] said, Salafists are on the upswing, with enough power to control the country’s future, even with Morsi, a member of the more-moderate Muslim Brotherhood, trying to project a Western-friendly face to attract help for Egypt’s moribund economy.
In the end, Eglan said, Egyptians know where their president’s sympathies will be oriented. “Morsi?” Eglan said. “He’s a Salafi.”
As for the United States, he said, “America helps Israel. And they helped Mubarak, not the Egyptian people. America helped Mubarak keep Egyptians unemployed, keep them uneducated, keep them uncivilized.”
This is why there are riots in the Muslim world. For generations the US has found, armed, and supported the most brutal of dictators who collectively managed to prevent the intrusion of certain types of social civilization into the affairs of the Muslim world. As a result there are still those there who argue that all speech must be controlled, women must be covered up, and in general all impulses repressed — Freud would prefer sublimated, but as Jung says no one has ever been able to explain the difference. Interestingly, we have similar people in US culture, witness Rick Santorum; but they’re widely ridiculed in a society that chooses not to prevent speech.
What it comes down to is this: every Egyptian knows the recent history of Egypt. That’s why they hate us. Videos don’t matter.