National human rights organizations have estimated tens of thousands persons arbitrarily detained on political grounds since 2013 in Egypt, such as Alaa Abdel Fattah, British-Egyptian writer and human rights defender. Alaa has been on hunger strike since the 2nd of April. Listen here to Alaa’s sister reading one of the letters Alaa got out of prison. Read the letter below:
Saturday 17th September 2022, 2 am
How are you Mama? Tell me about your health .
My last letter to you, the one you never got, was mainly thinking aloud about global warming because of the news from Pakistan.
It was just trying out an idea I have about the roles that demography and election cycles play in the major industrial and consumer societies in tipping the balance away from taking serious measures.
The idea was that aging societies, societies that rely on migrants to renew their life-blood, societies where political rights don’t extend to all taxpayers and societies that drift further and further away from the extended family: these societies are not invested in the future and the prosperity of generations that haven’t yet been born, are not invested enough to sacrifice present privileges in favor of the remote future (and they don’t reward or punish politicians for the results of their decisions after they retire from office).
So the first idea in the letter was that the global west and north will not do anything that involves a sacrifice of prosperity or competitive advantage, nor will they gamble with their political and institutional stability. This isn’t just because of the greed of big capitalists but because of the composition of their societies. Decision-makers know this; they accept it and they reproduce it. The only actions they can take are actions that are potentially profitable (the dream of the Green Economy) or that tap into technical solutions that don’t require social change.
The second part of the letter was an exploration of what might today be called “The Second World”, mainly China and India (while acknowledging their differences). China is opaque. Theoretically, their decisions can be taken with less sensitivity to short cycles, but practically their main concern is not the environment but demography; society is aging fast and if they reach stagnation – like the structural stagnation in Japan – because of a fault in their population pyramid, then the century that was supposed to be the Asian Century could end up with them in a position similar to Latin America: medium income till the end of days.
That’s it, really. The last part of the letter said that we Africans (mainly Africans because the Arabs at this juncture will be bogged down with the petroleum states’ efforts to maximize their economic gains and translate them into ever more extreme strategic adventures for fear of the consequences of the shift away from fossil fuels; (ie for fear of having to face the realities of the desert without petrodollars)) . . . We Africans, well, we don’t have any real impact. We’re not the cause of the disaster, we have no leverage over the countries that are the cause, we don’t have the weight to propose solutions nor, sadly, the institutions necessary to protect our continent and societies from the looming catastrophes.
The bit that panicked them was probably when I moved on to the question: what’s to be done? It revolved around the idea that the demography of the continent indicates that the next century could witness an African renaissance (it’s the most genetically diverse continent, both for humans and for domesticated animals and plants). Maybe what we’ll have to do is realize that the fight over the coming decades is not ours, that ours are the longer roads. In the letter I thought about what this might mean, what it would need at the level of state-building, and institutions and alliances, what kind of knowledge would need to produced, ideas disseminated.
So that, you see, is the lost letter…
It was probably well written, flowing, lucid, so maybe they felt it was dangerous or, as Ramy Shaath said, chaos is usually the best explanation in Egypt, so the Master might have spilled his coffee over it or just lost it or something.