FAIYUM, Egypt -- To mark the two-year anniversary of an uprising that led to their ascension, members of Egypts Muslim Brotherhood came to the town of Faiyum on Friday with a simple message: The government may not be providing services for you, but the powerful social organization supporting it still can.
They fanned out in this historic, impoverished town and picked up 2-week-old trash thrown between apartment buildings. Brotherhood doctors carried boxes of medicine into makeshift clinics to distribute to the ill. Merchants opened subsidized food, gas and clothing markets.
One hundred miles north down the Nile River and a world away, thousands gathered at Tahrir Square, a now international symbol of its literal name, liberation. The opposition, unable to coalesce around a political platform that can unseat the Brotherhood, was back protesting in the streets, battling police tear gas with rocks, stagnation with chants.
But regular protests in Tahrir have done more to alienate voters than to topple Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. And the Brotherhoods social campaign no longer buys the votes it once did. There is a patina of disillusionment over millions of Egyptians like Faiyum resident Safa Ramadan, 43, who is too hungry to embrace the luster of revolutionary change, too humiliated to appreciate another handout.
Ramadans husband does not make enough money to keep up with rising prices brought by near constant instability. So she pulled her 12-year-old son out of school and made him get a job as a garbage man, or perhaps more aptly, garbage boy. Friday, she stood over baskets of fruit and vegetables, swarmed by flies, and fretted over whether she could afford the extra 10 cents a kilo of tomatoes will cost her this week.
The prices never go down. They always go up by a lot. What am I supposed to do? Should I pay for school or pay for food? she asked, draped in a dark headscarf and gown. Morsi has not done anything for us.
Two years after Egypt began an awe-inspiring campaign of change, two major groups that spurred that movement, the Brotherhood and its opponents, in many ways cannot evolve past the movement that led to the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In the absence of a government that can provide goods and services and salvage a deteriorating economy, Morsis supporters on Friday fell back on the strength of their social movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, to pacify their base. Since Morsis election, it has become increasingly blurry how independent the Brotherhood is of the government; the organization members make no apologies that their mission is to help Morsis base.
Morsis supporters, repeating a Brotherhood talking point, said democracy is the ballot box, and Egyptians should respect the results and allow Morsi to govern.
The uprising is over. Lets start working on the nation. We would be happy if all the parties started joining this, said Abdel Tawab Moussad, 43, a 22-year member of the Brotherhood and an engineer who helped pick up trash. We are trying to show the government how to work.
The opposition, which once had so many on the street that it forced the Egyptian military to tell Mubarak to step aside, was back out Friday. Comprised of liberals, moderates, remnants of the Mubarak regime and the elite, they again came to remind people they could still cause headaches for the leadership, but so far, not much more than that. Even if they had solid ideas, they are too disjointed to manifest them.