A Week of Laughter and Forgetting: Day Five
A year after its outbreak, Youssef Rakha lists seven of the more revealing flights of humour that have punctuated the Egyptian revolution and its aftermath
After Mubarak stepped down, much of the hilarity centred on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ messages to the people, whether via SMS or on SCAF’s official Facebook Page. The ultra-formal, outdated lingo employed by SCAF was appropriated to express not only suspicion about the military’s intentions but also — with funnier results — the “official” standpoint of “the people” being addressed. One particularly remarkable phase started when, no longer able to conceal military violence against peaceful demonstrators, SCAF — addressing the “revolutionaries” — began to talk about their “credit with you” by way of apology, invoking the metaphor of mobile phone charge cards. Slogans circulated to the effect that SCAF have no more credit, that they must top up, that the line was disconnected…
Historical hyperbole about the bravery and honour of the Egyptian military was to undergo sarcastic reformulations in the next few months, with the increasingly untenable myth that the army protected the revolution painfully exposed: people’s heads were crushed by armoured vehicles, women were undressed as soldiers stepped on them, conspiracy theories of the regime under Mubarak were rehashed — and the catch-all term baltagi (pl. and fem. baltageyya) was used as almost metaphysical justification for the violent repression of protesters. At this point the most unlikely people started declaring themselves baltageyya. One famous picture shows a delectable little girl smiling and raising a sign that says “I am a baltageyya.”
The tendency to attach to oneself the term by which SCAF was discrediting protesters spread, reaching a climax with the enigmatic and eminently laughable Third Party — the ever unknown someone who was supposed to account for the killing and maiming of protesters every time they clashed with Military Police — with hundreds of variations on the statement “I am the Third Party” or “Obama is the Third Party” etc. When the Justice and Freedom Party — the political arm of the Muslimhood — began to deploy similar discourses in defence of SCAF, the Masonic Third Party suddenly became the Bandeeta Mask, a mis-transliteration of the title of the film Vendetta, featuring a mask that had been adopted by some protesters.
Things were going downhill indeed.