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China: Farewell to all Mubaraks!

Any lessons from Egypt for the next dictatorship to fall? A February 12 post [zh] in the Chinese literary tradition of addressing a topic without mentioning it directly, from novelist and political commentator Yang Hengjun: ‘Farwell, Mubarak!’:

今天,又可以从这些名字中划掉一个了。在埃及执政三十多年的穆巴拉克迫于人民的力量而辞职,“穆巴拉克”时代结束了。虽然这十几天来,我的心无时无刻不和那些埃及街头的民众在一边,但我的“国际知识”却让我无法对“穆巴拉克”这个名字生出更多的痛恨,我甚至有些惆怅:埃及少得了穆巴拉克?埃及不就是穆巴拉克吗?

Now, we can strike yet another name off that list. Following his resignation under pressure from the people after 30 years in power, the “Mubarak era” is over. Although my heart has been with those Egyptians out on the streets over the past umpteen days, my “international knowledge” leaves me unable to feel any greater hatred for this name “Mubarak”, and I even feel a bit despondent: Can Egypt really do without Mubarak? Aren't Egypt and Mubarak one and the same?

埃及、穆巴拉克、木乃伊,至少对于我这个年龄的读书人来说,已经无法分开了。我们被看上去改变不了的现实,以及穆巴拉克自己制造的“事实”告知:“穆巴拉克”这个名字曾经让埃及在动荡的北非与中东之间稳定了相当长一段时间;他统治时期的埃及,有一段时间经济发展非常迅速,而且,穆巴拉克的政府也是这个地区最世俗化的政权之一;是他,解决了埃及人民的温饱,带来了稳定;他和木乃伊都成为埃及必不可少的象征。穆巴拉克哦,这个名字一度承载了埃及人的光荣与梦想,也控制了世人对那个文明古国的想象。

Egypt, Mubarak, mummies, speaking at least for a student my age, there's no way to separate the three. The reality that we're seen as unable to change our views and the “facts” that Mubarak created himself tell us: this name “Mubarak” was able to keep the turbulent Middle East and North Africa region stable for a relatively long time. There was a time under Mubarak's rule of Egypt that the country saw extremely rapid economic growth, and what's more, Mubarak's government was one of the most secular regimes in the region. It was him that kept the Egyptian people clothed and fed, and brought stability; he joined the mummies as irreplaceable symbols of Egypt. Oh, Mubarak, this name which once bore the glory and dreams of the Egyptian people, and defined their image of that ancient state.

埃及与伊拉克,还有东亚的几个国家,都是人类历史上历史最悠久的文明古国,也正因为如此,现代民主理念在这些国家碰上了相对比较顽固的“古老文明”的抵触,也使得埃及、中东、东亚等人类文明的发源地反而成为地球上最后几个仍待进一步民主化的国家集中地。不过,这本来应该成为穆巴拉克你建功立业的好机会啊,你应该知道,民主大潮浩浩荡荡,顶多推迟几天,绝对无法阻挡,你为什么不在执政三十年的漫长岁月里的任何一个时刻改弦易辙、从善如流,利用你手中的权力,同民众一起,让古老的文明焕发青春?你一味拖延、抵制,对一些原本可以为埃及带来光明、为你自己也带来出路的改革说绝不?最后等来的是被迫的黯然辞职?

Egypt, as with Iraq and several East Asian nations, these are the longest-standing ancient civilization-states in human history, which is the reason why modern democratic ideals have clashed against the relatively stubborn “ancient civilization” in these states, making Egypt and other cradles of human civilization in the Middle East and East Asia a concentration of countries that are the last on the planet to begin democratization. However, Mubarak, this could have been a good chance for you to start over. And you should know, the grand tide of democratization at most can only be offset a mere few days, and can definitely no longer be held back. So why, in your thirty long years in power, did you never once change course, take the good advice, and use your authority to work with the people and usher in a new spring for your ancient civilization? Why did you blindly hold that off, resisting, saying absolutely no to reforms which wouldn't have just brought Egypt into a new era, but would have also given you a way out? Was it worth being rejected and forced to resign?

穆巴拉克,原本还可以承载埃及人更多的光荣与梦想的,如果他不是以这种方式下台,如果在他执政的三十年里,即便在他享受了三十年的绝对权力之后的最后的岁月里实行政治体制改革;如果他能够顺应民意,抓住机遇从善如流的话,他不但可以风风光光走下政坛,甚至有可能会被知恩图报的埃及民众摆上圣坛供奉起来,像美国人对待华盛顿一样。但这种可能性没有了,他犯的最大错误就在于忘记了艾森豪威尔说过的一句话:如果人民只要温饱就能够满足,他们还不如呆在监狱里。

Mubarak once stood to bring Egyptians greater glory and dreams; if he hadn't been forced to step down as he was, even with the absolute power he held throughout his thirty years in power, he still could have spent his final years implementing political system reforms. If he had just gone along with popular will and taken the opportunity to listen to the good advice, he wouldn't have just left politics on a high note, he might even have been held up as a saint by the grateful Egyptian people, just like Americans did with George Washington. But now there's no hope for that, and his biggest mistake was in forgetting that which Dwight Eisenhower once told us: if all people want is to be fed and clothed, then they might as well just go to prison.

说实话,以我有限的国际知识,我并不认为今天以后的埃及就会比你统治埃及时经济发展更快,政局更稳定,社会更“和谐”——这些也正是你一直不肯放弃绝对权力还权于民、进行改革的理由与借口,也是美国一直支持你的重要原因——但,如果你有点历史知识的话,你应该清楚,今后的埃及无论经历怎样的阵痛与磨难,都再也不会回到“穆巴拉克”时代了,而且民众会逐渐认识到,今后的这个国家经历民主转型的混乱,不是没有了你穆巴拉克,而是曾经你在那里统治埃及太久的缘故!别了,穆巴拉克!

To be honest, given my limited international knowledge, I don't quite see that the Egyptian economy after today will grow faster than it did under your rule, or that the political system will be more stable, or society more “harmonious”—these having long been your reasons and excuses for not relinquishing total power and returning it to the people or for implementing reforms, also the main reasons America has always supported you—however, if you were to, say, have some of your own historical knowledge, then you would see clearly that regardless of how much pain and torment it's already been through, Egypt from this day forth will never return to the “Mubarak era”, and also that the public are gradually realizing that from this day forth, chaos which occurs during the democratic transition will not be the result of Mubarak's departure, but rather due to the fact that you ruled Egypt for too long! Farewell, Mubarak!

在我尚在大学的时候,就在研究与背诵你如何治理人民,带领他们打仗,解决他们的温饱,用你的方法与埃及特色构建和谐社会,我儿子至今又在大学里阅读关于你的教科书,现在,埃及人民终于站出来,给你,也给全世界上了如何治理一个国家的最重要一课:不合法的政权,终究是不合法的,不管你拥有多么冠冕堂皇的理由,不管你如何花言巧语,不管你的军队如何强大。对于你这位老人来说,这显然是最后一课。但对于这个世界上还有为数不多的国家与掌握绝对权力的人来说,却不是最后一课。我真希望你能有机会谈谈对这一课的体会,给这个世界最后留下一点有用的东西。

When I was still at university, I spent the time researching and reciting the ways you governed your people, led them to war, provided for their basic sustenance, used your own methods with Egyptian characteristics to build a harmonious society. Even today, my son is now at university and he too is studying your textbook. But now, the Egyptian people have finally stood up and given you, indeed the whole world, the most important lesson thus far on how to govern a country: illegitimate regimes end up illegitimate, no matter how many impressive reasons you put forward, no matter how smooth-tongued you are, no matter how big your army is. As for you, old fellow, this class looks to be your last. But for that small number of countries in this world and those who hold total power over them, school isn't out yet. I truly do hope you'll have an opportunity to discuss everything you learned in this class, and perhaps leave something useful behind in this world.

在过去的十几天里,民众走上街头,局势急剧变化,这期间,你一定犹豫过、彷徨过,可能还考虑过是否下令向人民开枪,最后,你只不过希望民众能够再给你一段时间,哪怕只几个月——有人说你想利用这个时间安排后路,转移你们家族和你庇护下的利益集团贪污的钱财,让自己交出权力时能够软着陆,但我却有另外一种想法,或者说是幻想:对于一个八十多岁的老人,这十几天你依然挣扎着想保住权力,会不会是因为你心中幡然醒悟,你后悔了?于是,你想抓住最后一点权力,为你的人民做一件小事,把自由与公正的选举权还给他们?也同时为你自己做一件大事:把梦想留给人民,让自己光荣离开,也让你名垂青史?

In just eighteen days, the people took to the streets, and the state of affairs suddenly changed. During this time, you must have hesitated, and fretted, possibly even considered sending down the order to shoot at the people, and then in the end, all you wanted was for the people to give you more time, even if just a few months. Some say you hoped to use this time to plan your escape, transferring your family and the loot from the corrupt interest groups you protect, preparing a soft landing for when you transfered power. But I'm seeing a different picture, you might even say a fantasy: that of a man in his eighties, spending the last umpteen days struggling to hold onto power, perhaps because you suddenly realized the truth, and now you regret it? And then, clinging to your last bit of authority, you do one last little thing for your people, and return their freedom and right to fair elections. But then also one last thing for yourself: having allowed the people their dream, you leave with honor, possibly even earning a place in history?

但,太晚了!你有足足三十年的时间,可你都没有给埃及人民机会,这次,他们自然也不愿意再给你哪怕一天时间的机会,你不配了。

因为你的下台,今年的情人节仿佛提前到来,让一些仍然生活在散发出木乃伊气味国度的民众突然想起,我们每一个人,其实都和自由、民主的美好生活有一个不见不散的约会。

别了,穆巴拉克们!

But now, it's too late! You've had thirty full years, but you gave the Egyptian people no chance, and now, nor will they give one to you, even if just an extra day, you just don't deserve it.

Because you stepped down, it feels like Valentine's Day came early this year, reminding some of the people living in this country which smells of mummies, that each and every one of us has a date lined up, with freedom, democracy, and a better life.

Farewell, you Mubaraks!

4 comments

  • Bob

    Beyond length, I honestly cannot tell the difference between the writing of these “political commentators” and the one-liners from your average cynical and jaded Chinese netizen.

  • Liz Mitchell

    Interesting commentaries on the events in Egypt by a chinese blogger. If this posting is attempting to make a link between the style of leadership in Egypt ( and other close countries) and China, I just don’t see it any level in the writings. China is not ready for this kind of consciousness on a mass level, neither is it making the connection. It would be a shame to rouse the level of discontent spurred on from the West at this point in China. Reform and changes are happening at a whole different pace and methodology.

  • Dennis

    China is not ready to overthrow its Mubarak. The conditions arose in 1989 but the people did not respond. In Egypt the people came into the streets day after day after day. Many died when his henchmen attacked. In China after the Tiananmen Incident the people cowered at home peeking a look outside from beneath their window panes. They did not come out in the streets afterward like they have in Egypt and now Libya and Bahrain. The Chinese people are not demonstrating now. So it says to me that they do not yet want democracy since they will not yet die for it. For there to be democracy people must be willing to die for it, they will then never give it up. China regained its sovereignty in 1949. It has since regained its standing in the world. The US has lost its standing. It is arrogant and stupid. Now it is lost and stumbling about. It is like a blind man who can’t see where the edge of the cliff is located but is doomed in his haphazard way to walk over it. China is awake, but with eyes wide shut, walking straight ahead as the edge of the cliff gets closer and closer. Will it walk over the cliff’s edge or will it turn away in time. At least China can still correct its course. Some say it is beginning to do so. The US however has lost its way and can only look back with nostalgia. If China can do the right things it will gain dignity and stature.

  • […] the Chinese people of their own political history in fighting against authoritarian rule. The downfall of Mubarak in Egypt has of course alerted the illegitimate authoritarian regime in […]

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