In a new Egyptian sit-com that combines fantasy with absurdism and science fiction, a scientist manages to create a formula that gives human beings superpowers. The scientist injects this formula into a man who swiftly becomes a national hero.
The Hibiscus Man, so called because hibiscus is the main component of that formula, is instantly regarded as the solution to all the country’s problems. He starts with everyday issues like traffic jams, road accidents, and bread queues. Then he is sucked into the world of politics as he becomes the winning card for any political party or presidential candidate that he agrees to support.
He gains international acclaim when he beats his arch-foe Spider Man in a wrestling game closely followed by the White House. There is no doubt that this is bound to change the balance of power between Egypt and the United States.
It is not possible to deny the role the general played in saving the Egyptian people from an unfathomable abyss, but he cannot be made to look like the epitome of the second revolution.Sonia Farid
The whole story could pass for the perfect refreshment following a long day of work, heat, and fasting. It is the ideal comic break from the ever-depressing political situation, but there is more to this farcical depiction of man-turned-superman than meets the eye.
The Hibiscus Man, which is also the name of the series, is a protagonist that is a savior capable of putting an end to Egypt’s ordeal by virtue of the paranormal powers he possesses. It is, in other words, a tongue-in-cheek way of making it clear that Egypt needs a miracle and that no rational course of action can work at this moment.
Fact and fiction
So far there isn’t a problem, for art is the craft of the imagination and nobody could blame you when you make humans fly and animals talk. The problem starts when you mix fact with fiction and start imagining that superheroes are around the corner waiting for the chance to save the day the way they do in American Armageddon movies.
There is no way to tell if the makers of this series were projecting on current events especially because the series must have been filmed a while before the latest developments.
However, what seems to be certain is that the character of the Hibiscus Man either predicted the turn of events following the June 30 protests, which is impressive, or simply aimed at highlighting the Egyptian people’s ability to confuse reality with legends and to create demi-gods of human beings with regular and sometimes limited abilities.
Personally, I can see this happening with the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces who started to acquire mythic proportions the moment he announced the end of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It was amazing how less than an hour later people carried posters of the general and placards with slogans that glorified his wisdom heralding a new utopia under his auspices. It is not possible to deny the role the general played in saving the Egyptian people from an unfathomable abyss, but he cannot be made to look like the epitome of the second revolution.
Put simply, he would not have been able to oust the president had it not been for the millions who took to the streets without whom it would have been an illegitimate military coup. I am not also questioning the man’s genuine desire to rid the country of a ruling clique that was bound to lead it to perdition, yet it was practically impossible for him to act singlehandedly and that is why there is no reason he should take all the credit.
However, it is hard to blame him for the people’s over-emotional reaction to his role in ridding them of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Moreover, it is hard to assume he was seeking personal glory and it is equally hard to pretend he had no role in maintaining this kind of relationship with the people. This was clear in the way he personalized the struggle against the crimes committed by the former president’s supporters when he called upon the people to “delegate” him to “eliminate violence and terrorism.” Two days later the people rallied in compliance with his request and in affirmation of his indisputable power.
The response of the people
The response was as peculiar as the request since both assumed that the general would be doing the people a favor and that is why they needed to ask. Both parties totally overlooked or blinded themselves to the fact that it is the army’s duty to protect national security and to act in accordance with this duty whenever a threat appears imminent. This is regardless of whether or not the people decide to be part of the equation.
The general has transformed himself from the commander of an army who is responsible for an entire nation to a patriarch in charge of protecting a bunch of family members. Combining a professional and personal role is just another way of creating a new dictator who always makes sure to remind his “subjects” that it is out of the kindness of his heart that he is fending for them.
Certainly, to different degrees both parties are to blame, for they both seemed to have signed a pact where one party played on the other party’s weakness and that other party gladly responded to that maneuver.
The commander was fully aware of the willingness of the people at this stage to create a superhero. What’s more the people made sure not to let him down. Both might mean well but good intentions are not really effective at these critical times.
Motives aside, it is absolutely necessary that he stops acting like he has a magic wand and it is equally necessary that the people stop waiting for the moment that this wand could change their lives.
In Western cultures, children are quite shocked when they discover that Santa does not exist and that it was their parents who filled their stockings with gifts. In Eastern cultures, adult citizens remain unable to cope with the shock that their leaders do not possess any out-of-the-ordinary powers. Children have an excuse, adults don’t. Almost all children get over the trauma; many adults are still unable to.
Sonia Farid, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English Literature at Cairo University. She is a translator, editor, and political activist. Her social work focuses on political awareness and women’s rights and her writing interests include society, politics, and security in Egypt. She took part in a number of local and international conferences and published several academic papers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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