Waiting for Godot in Egypt – how absurd



1st English edition, Grove Press translated Samuel Beckett, Wikipedia

It sounds like a joke, or at least I tried to make it sound like a joke – who is one first?  But it is far from funny, not to me and I am certain not to anyone in Egypt.  There is simply to much stress and anxiety in not knowing and not knowing is a national disease in Egypt at the moment.  No one in Egypt, not the army, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Coptic Christians, school teachers, students or businessmen – no one knows what is happening.

The formal announcement of the results of the elections has been delayed – that means no one know who is going to be president.  The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the leaders of that group of people we lovingly call The Army, issued a declaration that the powers of the president have been amended and somewhat curtailed; the Egyptian press is full of analysis and commentary on the subject, but no one is sure what it means.  The SCAF has said it will turn over power to the duly elected president at the end of the month, but who is that and what are those powers?  Egypt is a very uncertain place, but it has been in a state of flux and uncertainty for 18 months – that must be very scary for the average Egyptian.

Nearly every person during the course of a lifetime experiences severe and debilitating anxiety at least once; the kind of anxiety that keeps you in bed, stops you from starting a project or confronting someone – there are thousands of situations that can create stress and cause anxiety.  I sometimes get anxiety over money, over a writing project or completing a gaming application that may ask for information that I don’t know how to provide.  That is general cause for me uncertainty – it doesn’t put me in bed or under the bed the way it once did, but it still slows me down and causes stress and worry for me.  It can be very painful and debilitating; think of what it would be like if your whole world was filled with debilitating anxiety.

Can you image living in Egypt?  How do people go to work, pay their bills, go to school, propose marriage or remodel their houses?  There is no way to know what is going to happen, what kind of a government will ultimately control the country?  For example, the next government might declare anyone a criminal for his past political activities – like demonstrating in Tahrir Square  – or for his religious beliefs, his occupation,  his friendships, anything – how is one to know what will be right and what will be wrong?  The entire economy is in limbo – what businesses will prosper in the future, which will fail because of government polices?   What purpose would there be in getting a degree, getting married, having babies, buying houses or cars?

I can think of hundreds of questions and hundreds of scary possibilities for the future of Egypt – and most of them would render today meaningless and would, if I were an Egyptian,  add to my anxiety and stress.  And yet, there is nothing to do, but to wait – wait for what one might ask?  Maybe they are waiting for Godot.  When Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot – it was meant to depict the absurdities of modern life  – it was meant to be absurd.  Egypt today is acting out an equally absurd play.

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2 Responses to “Waiting for Godot in Egypt – how absurd”


  1. 1 Bill Hanigan June 21, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    My favourite play. But in Egypt the Army know what is happening, Que ?
    Seems like I read this playout in Algeria a few decades ago. The Islamists won an election and the Army intervened and assumed power. Much, much bloodshed followed. An Islamist won in Turkey a decade or so ago and seemingly has slowly reduced the influence of the Army in political life. And Turkey still remains a secular society. Maybe the Turkish President is also waiting for Godot ?

  2. 2 Ken Adams June 22, 2012 at 7:20 am

    In someway we may all be waiting for Godot, that at least was Beckett’s idea. Absurd of course is that which is completely out of line with our normal view of the world, our sensibilities. Nothing in Egypt, Syria (and sometimes Turkey), Saudi Arabia or Algeria matches my concept of a normal world. But that may reflect more on my own narrow frame of reference than on the status of life in those countries.


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