We are all Machiavelli

The truth is, there is a small Machiavelli inside all of us. We only care about ideals and morals when we are the weaker party

Bassem Youssef

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Under the rule of former President Mohammed Mursi, the general atmosphere was threatening, and Muslim Brotherhood TV shows were full of accusations that spared no one. I remember how “our” opposition channels rose against incitement to violence and murder in the name of religion.

I remember how “our” channels mocked the use of religion to serve the interests of Mursi and the Brotherhood, who used expressions such as “God sent Mursi to Egypt,” and “the prophet barely did anything in his first100 days, so why is Mursi being held accountable already?”

Amazingly, the situation has shifted 180 degrees, but you do not find private channels (which are frankly the only ones left) paying any attention when murder and incitement lawsuits are made without evidence.

Clerics and preachers now tell you that voting yes on the constitution is a religious duty, that God sent us army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, that anyone who opposes the latter is a sinner, and that the constitution “pleases God and his prophet.” No criticism is made against these statements.

The truth is, there is a small Machiavelli inside all of us. We only care about ideals and morals when we are the weaker party

Bassem Youssef

We did not mind that Molotov cocktails were thrown at Mursi’s palace, but we are now intolerant of anyone who flashes the four-fingered Rabia sign in support of the former president. We previously mobilized channels and analysts to attack the Brotherhood’s constitution, but we have not allowed anyone to appear on TV and object to the current one.

Little manipulator

The truth is, there is a small Machiavelli inside all of us. We only care about ideals and morals when we are the weaker party. We love American newspapers when they insult the Brotherhood, and we bring up Fox News investigations about terrorism and extremist parties. However, when these same media outlets criticize the interim government and the Interior Ministry’s suppression, we accuse them of treason, bias and unprofessionalism.

You would insult a writer, but if the same author wrote an article insulting your enemies, you would publish it on your Facebook page since it suits your beliefs. The Brotherhood said my satire was religiously forbidden. Now its pages publish my articles when it feels they serve its cause. Its youths are now resorting to satire and mockery.

The Brotherhood used to criticize its opponents and accuse them of burning headquarters and attacking police during Mursi's reign. The organization considered these acts a profanation of the state’s prestige. Now, their online pages proudly publish videos in which police cars are burnt and policemen in armored vehicles are attacked by Molotov cocktails. To hell with the state’s prestige until Mursi returns.

The Brotherhood used to cheer for the interior minister, and even said by suppressing protests he had presented his credentials. Back then, the Brotherhood’s enemies accused Sisi of being a supporter of the movement. Now, they have fallen in love with him.

Linked with power

The issue is linked to who has power. It has nothing to do with morals and ideals. We love human rights, but for which humans? We love democracy, but which democracy? That would be the humans who are on our side, and the democracy that is only attained through us.

I will not be deceived by the Brotherhood and its laments. The only difference between it and the current authorities is that by the time it was ousted, it had not had a firm grip on power yet. I will not be deceived by those faking liberalism and freedom, because their liberalism is custom-made and their freedom is selective.

We are all Machiavelli. Slogans we raise on love of sharia or love of liberalism only serve to embellish our image when we look in the mirror, and to have a clear conscience when we violate the simplest principles of sharia or liberalism. Perhaps it is better for us and future generations if we change the name of the country to the Machiavellian Republic of Egypt.

This article was first published in al-Shorouk on Feb. 11, 2014.

Bassem Youssef is is an Egyptian doctor, satirist, and the host of “el-Bernameg” (The Program), a satirical news program broadcast by a private Egyptian television station. The press has compared Youssef with American comedian Jon Stewart, whose satire program The Daily Show inspired Youssef to begin his career. Despite all controversy and legal debates it has sparked, El Bernameg has been a major success. It is constantly topping the regional YouTube charts, making Youssef's YouTube channel one of the most subscribed to in Egypt.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.