Laughing at dictators

Ibrahim El Houdaiby, Guardian Comment is Free, January 12:

Public discontent in Egypt has not been solely manifested in ballot boxes (when there are semi-fair elections), demonstrations and newspaper articles. Most Egyptians still feel insecure about expressing themselves in these ways.

Writing against the regime is sometimes punishable by physical abuse, as in the case of Abd el-Haleem Qandil, the prominent leftist writer, who was kidnapped, stripped of his clothes, beaten up and left naked in the desert near Cairo a couple of years ago.

Joining a demonstration, even those previously approved by the notorious state security apparatus puts the demonstrators’ safety at stake. Voting in elections is not entirely safe either.

For these reasons and others, Egyptians are cautious to engage in real politics, and sceptical of the benefits of doing so. Therefore, they have resorted to other, more secure means to express their political views. Of these, political jokes are perhaps the most interesting.

A couple of jokes clearly illustrate the hatred Egyptians feel towards President Mubarak.

Mubarak and his advisers are on board of his plane over Cairo. Mubarak brings out $1,000 and asks how he could use the money to make Egyptians happy. One adviser suggests throwing it out of the window to make an Egyptian family happy. A second adviser suggests splitting it into two bundles and throwing both out of the window to make two Egyptian families happy. The third adviser suggests that Mubarak puts the money in his pocket and jumps out of the window to make all Egyptians happy.

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