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Sean Carman

Sean Carman

Posted: February 11, 2011 10:29 PM

Great. You have to give a speech. In public. Surely this is one of the most distasteful obligations of public service?

Still, you don't have any choice. There's apparently a crisis going on, and your vice president, the new one, who you installed last week (praise be to Allah, how fast they come and go), along with every general in the army, is demanding you address it. Maybe if you had paid any attention to affairs of state over the past 30 years, you would have some idea what this is all about, and why every Cairo citizen is in Tahrir Square preparing for a celebration.

No matter. Just follow these steps for giving an effective dictatorial address. Anwar taught them to me, and they have never let me down.

1. Whatever you do, don't step down. Why would you ever step down? You're a dictator. Dictators don't step down. Don't the people understand that?

2. Denial is the most powerful weapon in a tyrant's arsenal. Whatever problems the nation of Egypt has, pretend they don't exist. Your advisers may all look drawn, and years beyond their age (did they ever look this tired?), but to you this is just like any other speech in which you praise the Ministry of Interior or announce a round of firings in your cabinet.

3. Speak with painful deliberation, in monotone, keeping your voice inhumanly flat. Try to sound like a robot or a zombie. Convey the sense that you have lost all capacity for human feeling.

4. If the political situation is tense, which it appears to be, take time before your speech to transmit a rash of conflicting signals about what you will say. Your goal is to give flight to soaring expectations or, barring that, sow utter mass confusion. Even better if you can do both. When you take the podium, speak in muddled terms, being extra careful not to get your points across. You want your audience to feel confounded, deeply angry, even betrayed.

Ideally, this pervasive incoherence and tone-deaf arrogance will come naturally. It's a gift: You either have it or you don't. Just remember that your strength lies in your obliviousness and probable insanity. Your talking points will bend reality to your will. Trust that this is true.

5. Declare that your heart goes out to the people you have hurt the most, and stolen from, and that you are still trying to oppress. Don't bother trying to mean this, it's only important that you say it. Refer to tip number three, above.

6. Gather your self pity as you stare into the TV lights. Once you could have been an entrepreneur, a scientist, or poet. Or you might have just remained a general. Imagine the joyful life you would have now if you had only done such things. Oh, to march back ceaseless time! Maybe you would be happy. Maybe you would have your natural hair, instead of this awful weave. You can't remember the last time anything felt real. It's possible that you are drunk, or have some kind of brain disease.

7. Did you mention your military service? Something about the blood of Egypt? How you'll never leave, that you will die here? Good, that means the speech is over. Why is the vice president staring at you like that? Why are a thousand citizens outside the state television building furiously waving their shoes at you?

8. Accept the interior minister's invitation to turn the Internet back on, so you can click on Priceline and buy a ticket to Saudi Arabia, or wherever it is they are sending you after your layover in Sharm el-Sheikh. If Saudi Arabia won't take you, plead with the United States to put you in its Witness Protection Program. It can't hurt to ask, especially after all you've done for them.

9. Now the vice president is yelling. What is with this man? It's almost as if he has no tolerance for your anger and impatience, the hatred that has poisoned you and made you blind, the evil that has transformed your character. Does he not understand that you are the dictator, not him? Still, do as he says and climb into the tank that is driving to the airport. Why is the vice president handing you a toothbrush?

10. Where are you going? You have no idea. What is it they are saying about a tiny island at the end of nowhere, where a waiter in a dinner jacket will serve you the occasional mint julep? That doesn't sound like Sharm el-Sheikh. How did it come to this? How does one man become so isolated and despised in his own country?

Say goodbye. You're never coming back, you know. And from their jubilant cries, it doesn't seem that anyone in Egypt is going to miss you.


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