Addressing a torn Egypt, contested-president Mubarak just told Al Jazeera: "I will always be on the side of the poor."
As private jets flee a burning Cairo, it seems that all but the poor have done whatever they can to leave. Which recalls one banal truth to politics:
It doesn't matter if promises are empty if a politician's promises are all the voters feel they have.
The thing about empty promises is that they're tempting. Hope is just a condition where promises mix with uncertainty. President Obama brought hope to America. Hope fares terribly in the stock market. But hope fares very well for voters holding little else.
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak is the fourth president of the Arab Republic of Egypt. He was never elected to the presidency, but was appointed Vice President in 1975 and rose to power in 1981 upon the assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat.
Mubarak has survived six assassination attempts. He is not a popular leader. Here are protestors' objectives, recorded in this primer for overthrowing Mubarak's regime (translated by The Atlantic):
If it seems dramatic, consider America's start. Our Declaration of Independence begins with a call for the people to overthrow a government that has too long usurped individual rights:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
But this call to overthrow a despotic government is not permissive; it is mandatory. The American Declaration continues:
[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The seeds for this overthrow were hewn in a philosophical tradition that we share -- a philosophical tradition, and a sense as to how human nature operates.
Protests began nonviolently. On January 25, after three decades of unpopular rule, Egyptians inspired by Tunisians' government overhaul demonstrated on the nation's capital. Women were involved at first. But armed hordes of Mubarak's police blocked off the city and attempted to enforce the 4pm curfew.
4pm. Imagine what lies behind the scenes if that is the last hour that civilians are allowed outside their homes. Check out this visual for internet usage once Mubarak decided to "turn off" the internet (by coercing internet providers into ceasing service):
Mubarak has been quoted as saying that he has always sided with the poor. It makes sense that when your policies exploit a group with few options, that will become your default constituency.
Rumors abound that the Islamic Brotherhood is behind the uprisings. Yet if that were the case other countries' Islamic groups would leap to defend their brothers in arms. We would see much more formidable ammunition than a circle of civilians holding hands to guard the National History museum with their bodies if this were an Islamic Brotherhood uprising.
Governance can only be accomplished through rule of law or by rule of man. Rule of law is stable. Rule of man is chaotic. When a 4pm curfew is imposed, this suggests at best a flawed imposition at rule of law, because a more chaotic force has clearly taken hold.
Al Jazeera is providing real-time real-life coverage. These are civilians who might be wrong in some ways, but in their urgency to overthrow an unjust, unpopular regime, this is how a freedom fight looks: