These are not the first riots we have seen in Egypt in recent years and the revolution was somewhat predestined. There is an indisputable link between the cost of bread, wide gaps between the rich and the poor and populist movements as evidenced by the French Revolution. Had the Egyptian Government looked at protests against rising cost of food in early 2008, through the lens of the French Revolution, then they would have been able to prevent calamity.
In early 2008, Egypt was already experiencing the beginning of the revolution. Rising cost of bread, an economic crisis, and a booming population left schools ablaze and riots on the streets of Mahalla. Similarly, 1788 hail storms created one of the worst harvests in modern French history, French financial collapse, and population growth precipitated the French Revolution. Additionally, popular perception of the government in revolutionary France and Egypt are quite similar; echoing the injustice of the huge gap between the rich and the poor. Furthermore, as France looked to the American Revolution for inspiration, Egyptian youth looked to Barack Obama in his famous 2009 “Cairo Speech.”
These riots did not come out of the blue; the Egyptian government was slow to respond to social unrest that had been developing for years. The Egyptian Government’s priority was maintaining the status quo, not feeding its people; it should be no surprise that unrest transitioned to revolution. Relative to the French Revolution, Mubarak has gotten off easy and with his head, unlike Marie Antoinette. But the future is still to be seen.
Will Egyptian revolution result in democracy and peace? If the course of Egyptian history continues to mirror that of France, then probably not. The ultimate result of French revolution was ineffective provisional governments and a return to Monarchy.
The Egyptian government failed to effectively respond to social unrest, which mirrors that of 18th century France. It should be no surprise that when the largest populace in the Middle East (which also happens to be the world’s largest importer of wheat) cannot afford to eat, revolution results.