Societal repression in Egypt

The tentacles of autocracy

The process of repression is outsourced to the citizenry who indirectly secure absolute power for the regime. Taking Egypt as an example, Maged Mandour describes this vicious circle, in which the masses are both the victims and the beneficiaries

Autocracies rely on heavy doses of repression to maintain their hold on power, which appears to be heavily centralised in the upper echelons of the social order. The reality, however, is much more complex.

Autocracies mould their masses, who are both the victims and beneficiaries of repression. Beneficiaries in the sense of ″smaller″ autocrats also repressing those below them in the social order. As such, repression is decentralised, creating fertile ground for ′societal repression′, the main victims of which are those on the margins and the weaker segments of society such as minorities, women and the poor.

This repression is recreated at all levels of society, as well as in a number of situations at schools, the workplace and even within families and homes. With a state policy that condones this form of repression, a society with extremely limited margins of freedom is created in both the public and the private spheres, with the burden lessening as one moves up the social ladder.

Inequality is accepted as a natural condition, as those on the social margins are dehumanised, repressed and violated. This is an essential method for the preservation and the propagation of an autocratic system.

Autocracy in the classroom

When one looks at Egypt and the lineage of repression, which I have personally experienced, one can clearly see that repression penetrates all layers of society. A simple example is that of the school system and the levels of violence children of the lower classes are exposed to.

Public school students during religious education class in Shrakya governorate, Egypt (photo: DW/Reham Mokbel)
A mini-dictatorship in the classroom: ″this is primarily directed against the lower classes, with the aim of implanting obedience and discipline in the minds of the poor. It is accompanied by the constant ideological indoctrination of the importance of obedience, the need for conformity and the stifling of any forms of creative thought,″ writes Mandour

In 2015 a child died due to injuries sustained from a beating by a schoolteacher. Another prominent case was in 2014, where the manager of an orphanage was sentenced to three years in prison after footage surfaced of him savagely beating orphans in his care.

This extreme violence against children is endemic in Egypt′s schools, specifically in lower class areas. It pre-dates the rise of the neo-military regime currently ruling the country.

The Minster of Education under Mubarak, Ahmed Zaki Badr, stated that banning corporal punishment in schools would leave teachers vulnerable. Thus, this violence against students is condoned by the state.

The weight of repression increases on the poor and the vulnerable, which is interestingly also practiced by those who are suffering the most. One only needs to remember that the average Egyptian teacher is economically marginalised and underpaid, as protests exposed in 2015.

Thus, the autocracy has managed to recreate a miniature dictatorship in the classroom, primarily directed against the lower classes, with the aim of implanting obedience and discipline in the minds of the poor, who have no recourse of protection against these practices. This is accompanied by the constant ideological indoctrination of the importance of obedience, the need for conformity and the stifling of any forms of creative thought. There is considerable emphasis for instance on the memorising of information, rather than the development of analytical skills. Any deviation from the textbook is considered incorrect.

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Comments for this article: The tentacles of autocracy

Yes, Maged, "the culture" of repression penetrates society horizontally as well. But isn't that related to the general socio-economic structure and the power relations perpetrated by the reproduction of the same social relations? How long do those relations, and the socio-economic structure, survive if the complicity of reproducing the Egyptian regime, and its state repression, by international capital, the Western governments, the IMF, the Paris Club, etc. cease to exist? Six months?, a year? I think you should expnaded on this.

Nadim25.01.2018 | 12:17 Uhr