Say it loud - I'm elitist and proud

Saturday, August 17, 2002

ELITISM RETURNS. Elitist is back, if not with a vengeance, then with some occasional bile.

I'm currently reading The White Nile (1960) by the legendary Australian journalist Alan Moorehead (1910-1982). Here he describes the 1882 Egyptian rising against the British:

Since Napoleon's invasion at the end of the previous century Egypt could look back upon hardly anything but defeat and humiliation at the hands of the Christians. At the first sign of trouble British and French warships were sure to appear at Alexandria, and the possibility of outright invasion was always in the air...Even as early as 1868...even in the depths of the Sudan, the Franks (a term that applied to other Europeans besides Frenchmen) were detested, and in the years that had elapsed since then this xenophobia had increased. It had been kept underground, its spirit had faltered because of the natural lethargy of the Middle East, but still it continued to expand.

In Paris and London politicians had begun to talk of a dangerous Pan-Islamic conspiracy, a resurgence of fanatical Mohammedanism. In Cairo it seemed to the Egyptians that things were the other way about: they were being encircled by a Pan-Christian movement that was becoming more menacing every day.

Sound familiar? But I don't know about 'the natural lethargy of the Middle East' - when it comes to Middle East politics, some lethargy might be a good thing.