The other day I wrote a little about arrogance and power. This evening we had a masterful display from Hosni Mubarak, an awesome example of the patronising superior stupidity of someone inexcusably detached from ordinary life.
Exceptional though his bizarre, tasteless speech was in that particular quality, its basics are hardly unfamiliar. The tone is not much different to what we are accustomed to from Westminster and many of our town halls: I know best, I have the power, you are young and enthusiastic, jolly well done in that respect, and it's nice to think about change, gosh yes quite right, but not just now.
The style is characterised by patronising half-compliment, damning with faint praise, miserably-minor concessions, ignoring the real issues, selective deafness, and measured encouragement to keep on keeping on for the common cause - but on status quo terms, otherwise there could be recriminations, I think you know what I mean.
More than once I have heard the same tone of unjustifiable, in-the-face-of-reason arrogance from the chair of a community group or residents' association, from a housing officer, once I remember from a senior council officer who thought she could play politics with everyone.
How does this come about? Scientists, help us: where is the disempowering gene, can it be isolated? What is it in humans that drives them to demean others in this pathetic and incendiary way? What is it about arrogant people in power that fails to stop them behaving like History's Total Dickheads?
I want to ask, is it really necessary to be detached from the everyday to have power? If you attain power, do you have to sever ties with the ordinary? Why? What could be more inapproriate?
And let's just note that, as with the London disturbances in December, this is a network society moment. A moment focused by the democratising lens of technologies, with people able to network together in a way which is no longer inferior to the networking power of the Haves. One BBC correspondent said of the people in Tahrir Square,
'This is the twitter generation, they know what's going on.'
Other comments I heard on the BBC's coverage:
'What matters in this is the street, the people on the street... These young people are too smart...'
Of Mubarak's inner circle: 'They don't know what democracy is'.
And from within the crowd, the crowd itself described as 'Moving unconsciously in the same direction'.