http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/06/25/154804.html

Apparently infuriated by the “Constitution First” campaign that has been lobbying for postponing parliamentary elections until a new constitution is drafted, a medical student from Upper Egypt wrote “The Poor First, you bastards!” a Facebook note in which he slams what he sees as the excessive attention given to the political process in Egypt and the equally excessive negligence of the fast deteriorating conditions of the poor.

The note, now the most widely circulated among Egyptian users of Facebook, starts with exposing the bias of the media as far as the protestors who died during the January 25 Revolution are concerned and which is demonstrated in the way only middle and upper-middle class martyrs get all the coverage while the others, the pictures of many of whom he posted with the note, are totally forgotten.

“Hadn’t it been for the those youths who come for working class neighborhoods, the fall of the Interior Ministry would have been impossible,” writes Mohamed Abul-Gheit. “Why were their faces not among the pictures of the now much-celebrated martyrs?” The writer wonders if those youths who come from humble backgrounds are not part of the “flowers that blossomed in the gardens of Egypt,” the title of a poem by renowned Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm and which he dedicated to the martyrs of the revolution. “Anyway, they never cared about flowers, for they had something more important to worry about: bread.” Abul-Gheit then quotes a few lines from the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish:

We love flowers
But we love bread more
And we love the fragrance of the flowers
But we find wheat spikes much purer

Those poverty-stricken revolutionaries did not brave the streets of Egypt under a torrent of live bullets and tear gas bombs because they were preoccupied with whether constitution comes first or last or whether Egypt ends up Islamist or secular. For people who can’t afford to buy their daily bread, constitutions and parliaments and presidents are of absolutely no importance. They are in fact a luxury they cannot afford simply because when you’re hungry you can’t think straight and when you’re cold you can sell your soul to the devil for a blanket. The current discussions about the necessity of writing a new constitution before holding the elections for fear that one single faction would monopolize power in case this does not happen is, I believe, as provocative as TV commercials that advertise villas with swimming pools in gated compounds that are worth only a few million pounds. Yes, they did want to topple the regime, but not for the same reasons for which their fellow revolutionaries who live in cozy houses and drive air conditioned cars took to the streets: “They went out for reasons that relate to their own reality.” Then he cites food, housing, and clothes as their top priorities followed by the humiliation to which they are daily subjected whether through losing a job, dying for not affording medical treatment, torture in police stations, or any of the numerous manifestations of persecution only reserved to the weak and disenfranchised as the stop stimulants that incited them into rebellion.

For those people, talk about the constitution and the elections is nothing but ink on paper unless they see it reflected on their own lives, and as long as none of the activists who get so worked up about who gets a parliamentary majority or who chooses the committee the will draft the constitution starts addressing the problems of the poor, it will remain nothing but empty words falling on deaf ears.

“The poor first, you bastards!” Abul-Gheit concludes his note that leaves you with a mixture of shock, guilt, and helplessness.

He is, of course, right. The things middle class people, i.e. those with full stomachs and comfortable lives, consider vital are absolutely useless for others who cannot afford the basic needs without which they cannot function in anything else. I remembered how when I am hungry—and this means having not eaten in the past couple of hours—I get so edgy and become unable to do any work no matter how important it might be, and I felt I wanted to burry myself right where I was for also believing that the constitution is the most vital issue all Egyptians have to be preoccupied with at the moment. I thought of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and discovered that the two bottom levels of the pyramid, physiological needs and safety, are non-existent for the majority of the poor, so how do we expect them to climb to the top and have the same priorities as people for whom food and shelter are taken for granted?

I so much agreed with the writer of the note and admired the way it sounded alarm bells on a crisis that is recipe for disaster if overlooked or downplayed. I felt that the political “elite”—as much as I hate this word—are to blame for behaving as if they are all Egyptians and their needs are the prerequisites of Egypt’s wellbeing. Yet, on a second thought—I always have many of those nowadays—I felt kind of guilty for holding them responsible simply because they are doing what, according to their education, upbringing, and style of life, they see as the best for post-revolution Egypt and because it will be too unfair to assert that they have never had the poor in mind or are never planning to address their needs. May be they just have a different approach, I said to myself. Maybe even the poor possess a level of awareness that we have not explored before and we are, in fact, underestimating their take on national matters when assuming they do not know the close connection between a democratic government and social justice. True they might have been driven by their abject poverty when they decided to take part in the revolution, but how do we know that they were not fully aware that the advent of a democratic regime, which of course is not possible without a proper constitution, a balanced parliament, and an elected president, is not really separable from the problems they face in their everyday life and the solutions that can eliminate them? If you lose your job because the factory where you worked was privatized and hundreds of workers were laid off, if you can’t pay for medicine because the money that should go to medical care ends up in the pockets of officials at the Ministry of Health, if a policeman harasses you because he knows you have no power to fight back, if you can’t afford to buy breakfast for your children because the subsidy on bread was lifted, if and if and if… who is to blame? More importantly, who can redress that?

Wait! More ifs coming your way. If the constitution is not written in a way that guarantees equality for all citizens and gives power to the people over the ruler and if not all echelons of society are represented in the parliament because political parties had not had the chance to prepare for contesting in the elections and if the new president remains with the same powers that enabled his predecessor of enslaving his people and steeling their money for three decades… who will be the first to suffer?

I belong to the educated middle class and when I decided to join the throngs of protestors and yell, “The people demand the fall of the regime,” I was doing that undoubtedly to be able to have the right to enjoy my full citizenship rights and to feel the dignity of having a voice and taking part in the future of my country. Yet, I was not doing it only for myself, but also on behalf of the 40% of Egyptians who are unable to secure the basic requirements of a human being. We all risked our lives because we wanted a better life for all, each in his or her own way, and because we wanted to see an Egypt that embraces all its people like Tahrir Square did.

One of those days when we were in the square, a little boy—I guess he was around 12—sat beside us. One of my friends asked him if he goes to school and he said he couldn’t because he has to work and help with family expenses. She then asked him, “Do you know why we are all here?” “Because we want Hosni Mubarak to go?” he replied. “No,” she said. He was astonished at her answer and I could see he must have thought that she is crazy. “We are here so you can go to school,” she told him. He was really confused, looked at her with a blank face for a couple of seconds, then left.

He might not have understood then and may be till this moment he hasn’t grasped the meaning of what she said, but maybe by time he and many others will realize that toppling the regime is not different from bridging that gap between rich and poor so that one day when we ask, “What do Egyptians want?” the answer will come out the same and there will be no squabbles about what goes “first.”