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That Post article is really excellent, IMHO, and not just because of the snappy headline.  She really nailed the "two Egypts" problem -- the yawning and rapidly widening chasm between the very rich and the grindingly poor, at a time when the latter group is increasingly starting to encompass those who were, just last year, the middle class.  Doctors, civil servants, factory workers, university professors, administrators -- all these people have complained to me that they are having to stretch and adjust their budgets in order to keep affording basic foodstuffs.  These are people with good jobs, paying "good" wages (by Egyptian standards).

I mean hell, if I've fretted about how much higher my grocery bills have gotten -- on my hard-currency salary as a foreigner who is, comparatively, obscenely wealthy -- it's hard for me to imagine how terrifying this whole thing must be for someone on a pension or absurdly low government salary.  According to the World Bank, 20 percent of the population here lives on less than $2 a day (that's what they call the poverty line), and another 20 percent lives "just above" that line.  And food prices have doubled since the beginning of the year.  Doubled.

But prices have been rising for a while -- I've been hearing these complaints from workers for the last year, at least -- and the government is just now starting to sit up and take notice.  And they're doing what they can -- ordering the Army to bake bread, if that's not too surreal for us to comprehend -- but not really addressing the root of the problem here, which is not just rising prices (that's global) but stagnant wages and an entire wage system that's just corrupt and broken, and doesn't just encourage "rent-seeking" behavior on the part of civil servants, teachers, doctors etc., it depends upon it.  The entire wage and employment system is built on corruption, but it benefits the people making the decisions, and so they will order the Army to bake bread poor, but they will not change the system to really benefit the poor.

/ rant

For more reasoned takes on the situation in Egypt have a look at this blog post and a very interesting comment on it, and then this excellent assessment of the general strike dynamics, and this essay on the wider situation here.  (Full disclosure:  all of those posts and the interesting comment were been written by people I know to varying degrees... good god, this city of 18 million people is seeming rather small right now.)

So anyway, those riots in Haiti made me think, for some reason, of the classic song "Marcus Garvey" by Burning Spear...

Marcus Garvey words come to pass.
Marcus Garvey words come to pass.
Can't get no food to eat.
Can't get no money to spend....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 11:27:36 AM EST
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