This is just a thought experiment. I am not I Egypt, I am not part of the protest movement. I do like making millions of people happy – and less sad. And I believe people should be free to choose. And I do not like the obvious bad people.
So, with this in mind, today’s thought exercise is: how do you establish a new political movement and party from the leaderless chaos in Egypt?
1) A party needs a leader – and leaders
In times like this, people really struggle to operate without a leader. There is a certain calming effect that emerges once people have someone to follow. Therefore the new party needs a leader.
I would recommend careful consideration of the age of the leader. It is sadly not credible that a twenty-something can lead a major political party. Even North Korea is going to find out very soon that Generals do not like taking orders from 28-year old fat kids (see The Onion for an in-depth look at his own fears taking over his bankrupt country).
There is a certain age required to be credible – and this applies especially when trying to negotiate toe-to-toe with old people. At the moment, photos of negotiations between the protesters and the regime look more like students being brought into the principle’s office to explain why they should not have detention.
This is NOT to dismiss their efforts in any way, shape or form. What these people are doing is extremely brave, as there is a very strong likelihood that they will not wake up one day (soon).
At the same time, for an opposition movement to take hold, it would be good to have some level of experience and credibility, that would carry not just the youth movement, but older generations as well.
There are also risks in going too old. Grey hairs and wrinkles may feel like a “good idea”, but this moment in time requires real leadership and drive. I believe that the caretaker approach is not the right way to go now, and that this moment in history creates the space for a leader, call it Obama-like, to claim a reforming space.
The leader is not the only important person. Any credible party needs leaders, people who will follow the overall leader, but be leaders in their own right. They would inspire their own areas (see below), be able to speak to the press, and, in this troubling period, be able to step in if the main leader got detained, arrested, disappeared, killed. Sad to say it, but this is a necessary contingency plan. These are not times for people afraid for their families, or worried about pension checks.
2) Naming the Party
You would definitely need a catchy name, to capture both the mood of the times, and to inspire hope in the whole population (apart from those driving the trucks filled with gold from the Federal Reserve Bank…).
I’d pick a name that sounds friendly and nice, something that people will want to say again and again, either in conversation and debate. I’d also be thinking about thousands of people chanting the name, so you would need something with a good rhythm.
I would also try to be aspirational, and personally, I would go for a concept of UNITY. Let’s face it, Egypt is headed for messy times, and the best way forward would be for people to focus on joining together again. There are signs that it is happening, with Christians protecting Muslim prayer sessions and vica verse (see OnIslam article).
I’d try to tap into some benign for of national pride too.
So I’d be thinking something like Unify Egypt, with an Arabic name that conjures up all kinds of good feelings.
Obviously I have nothing to do with this at all, but just my thoughts on the topic.
3) Balance is the Goal
Building on the concept of unity, I would deliberately aim to have the party represented with balance in all areas of activity. First off, one can think of the key dimensions of:
• age – young, middle-aged and old
• gender – men and women
• religion – all types
Balance is likely to be the only decent way of setting the country on track, as a divisive controlling entity is likely to only split the country apart.
So, tempting though it may seem to exclude people (short people, people with the wrong beards), you need to keep that irrational human emotion in check – think of the mid to long-term gains in balance.
More to follow – working on Part 2…