Egypt’s Revolution: The Lion, the Fox, and the Ass

Egypt’s Revolution: The Lion, the Fox, and the Ass


Four years have passed since Egyptians of all forms and ideologies took to the streets to protest an ailing autocratic rule that was clearly bringing the country into systematic chaos.

The unprecedented protests took police forces by surprise, and the subsequent sit-in in Tahrir Square stunned the world by its determination, culminating in the toppling of the long-serving dictator, Mubarak, by the hand of his subordinates in the military hierarchy. The following months, however, were full of turbulent times and precarious states that have, more or less, led to the death of the revolution in its early infancy.

What happened exactly is a matter of interpretation though, depending on which ideology one sympathizes with, and, so, which side one is willing to take. Political analysis is a field usually marred with ideological bias, and analysts are usually lost in details. Therefore, in order to understand fully what has happened, one must detach himself from any bias and look at the whole picture. This is possible only through a process of abstraction; and there’s no political book in history that had discussed politics in abstraction more coherently than – as ironic as this may sound – Aesop’s Fables.

This book’s allegorical mechanism is usually the embodiment of basic human traits in the form of familiar anthropomorphized animals. There’s the mighty lion, the cunning fox, the unsuspecting ass, among others. Together, they form fantastic anecdotes in no more than a few lines each, holding a great depth of wisdom that has stood the test of time. Going through the fables, one cannot cease to be amazed by the similarities between what’s fantastical and what’s real. The following fable has particularly caught my attention as I believe it holds within it the story of Egypt’s failed revolution:

An Ass and a Fox went into partnership and sallied out to forage for food together. They hadn’t gone far before they saw a Lion coming their way, at which they were both dreadfully frightened. But the Fox thought he saw a way of saving his own skin, and went boldly up to the Lion and whispered in his ear, “I’ll manage that you shall get hold of the Ass without the trouble of stalking him, if you’ll promise to let me go free.” The Lion agreed to this, and the Fox then rejoined his companion and contrived before long to lead him by a hidden pit, which some hunter had dug as a trap for wild animals, and into which he fell. When the Lion saw that the Ass was safely caught and couldn’t get away, it was to the Fox that he first turned his attention, and he soon finished him off, and then at his leisure proceeded to feast upon the Ass.’

Now, it’s time for the interpretation: It is simply a question of who’s who, no? Well, in order not to fall into the trap of ideological bias, it is better to classify the actions in general terms rather than the personalities in specific. Thus, the Lion would be the forces that resisted the revolution and desired the return of a Mubarak-like era, the Fox would be those who participated in the revolution with the sole intent of personal gains, while the Ass is those who participated with the intent of establishing the common good, which in this fable is the successful hunt for food by both the Ass and the Fox as was intended before the Lion showing up.

Such classification, as simple as it sounds, transgresses the boundaries of ideologies by maintaining focus only on the actions. Granted, real circumstances are far more complex, and political players are not as rigid as Aesop’s animals. Regardless, all these realistic details are nothing but noise that distorts the underlying basic instincts that govern our thoughts and motives. If we wonder why the revolution didn’t succeed, we must look at the actions and their consequences. Maybe the Fox’s deception made itself and the Ass easy preys to the Lion? What would happen if the Ass was more intelligent? Or was it that the Lion was too mighty to be overcome?

The fable certainly suggests a combination of the three traits as the reason for the failure of the hunt (the revolution in our case). It implies that if unity had been maintained between the Ass and the Fox, the Lion wouldn’t have been able to catch them through divide-and-conquer. This seemingly childish analysis is truer than any babbling of all political pundits throughout the past 4 years. It is as simple as that: if the sense of unity of the first days of the revolution were maintained throughout these years, we would now be celebrating the ongoing achievement of its goals of serving the common good instead of just a date on the calendar.

Aesop’s Fables are full of contradictions, as does real life. For instance, the Lion is not always the victor: in another fable, a lion is totally tamed by the power of love alone! And while there are many fables calling for freedom, others demonstrate the chaos that may come out of it. It is a book of several truths; reality is also a book of several truths, the most prominent of which is that change will continue to happen.

What change the future holds, one cannot tell for now. Yet, one can assume that it will resemble one of these fables.

Edited by Karim Hafazalla

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  • Essam Mohamed Ghareeb

    The mistake here is that you decided that the revolution has failed. While the mistakes made by the revolutionaries has made the road more twisted and bumpy, but it has somehow succeeded. It will certainly fail if there’s no follow-up and engagement from the revolutionaries in the processes , which have erupted from it. When I say revolutionaries, I mean as well, all the sympathisers with it and supporters, which is the great majority of the Egyptian people. It’s now easy for some, like you, to through the towel and call it failed and indulge in negativity and pettiness. Any great work done in history, was never finished just in a few weeks or months, its the persistence, continuity and determination accompanied by wisdom in action and detailed sensible reading of the situation at hand, then choosing the right action, that’s what will make it successful. Al Sisi is saying he’s for democracy and modern government, either he fully means it or not, the problem is in the other parts of your lion, who are trying to steer things back to the old times. You can see and hear them clearly in the papers, like Al Ahram and the rest of the media and also all the big guys in all the government departments, who weren’t affected much by reducing the maximum salary. Because they are getting the big bonuses, which are not out-lawed. Here comes the duty of the revolutionaries to expose and systematically expose these people at all levels. Believe me it’s not dead, but some are trying to kill it.

  • CJ Jensen

    Excellent article!!!

  • Z-Man

    Excellent piece. Well written and intellectually provocative.


Muhammad Moneib holds a bachelor of science in computer and software engineering. Whenever he is not at work writing code, he usually enjoys reading, writing about Egypt and drawing cartoons.

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