The Egyptian state and its youth: Who is afraid of whom?

Power certainly strengthens entities and, consequently, people. Illegitimate strength, however, is not sustainable. This is what Egyptians should have learnt in the course of their genuine attempt to revolt against the autocratic regime on January 25, 2011. Once they had come together, the accumulation of tiny, weak cells (individual citizens) was able to break the power of the state, built over decades.

They define themselves as statesmen, persons who are willing to serve their country to the best of their knowledge. In reality however, because they have been ruled by the same regime for decades, Egyptians have come to confuse the regime’s politicians with state entities and authorities that are supposed to function independently of the ruling regime. On the other hand, Egyptian youngsters, who often proudly call themselves “the kids”, represent the large segment of society that has always been ruled by senior citizens (who only leave their positions upon their deaths).

The Egyptian state, in my view, has been notorious for its power that, in the absence of the proper application of rule of law, it uses only to serve its affiliates – and to demolish its opponents. Meanwhile, the youth, who benefit from greater international exposure, have been struggling to bring their ideas forward and to capitalize on their energies to modernize their country. These qualities are not really recognized by the state, which accuses the youth of importing western values that will defile our country and insists on using its outdated mentality to overcome challenges facing the nation.

Our youngsters have been subject to state manipulation for decades. Their ideas have not been paid attention to; their energy has been used to serve the ruling class as they have watched the country deteriorate further. The state came to realize the power of youth only for a few weeks when they attempted to bring the country to revolt on January 25, 2011. At that time, the state, which has made a habit of scaring the society, was forced to flee the streets occupied by the youth. The state’s worst nightmare is the youth taking to the streets again.

Even as the youth demanded dignity, the events of 25 January damaged the state’s pride. Accusing a number of foreign countries of being behind the events of the day serves to soften the impact of the revolution on the state. The state believes that to remain united and strong, it needs to expand its muscle by acquiring more weapons, adopting harsher measures against protestors and inciting Egyptian citizens against their young. Meanwhile, the powerless youth are holding fast to their single, effective tool: thinking about when they will manage to protest against the state again.

Political immaturity?

Egypt is currently in a state of complete political immaturity. The state doesn’t want to understand that it will never be able to bring back its repressive policies and manipulate its youth as it used to in the old days; the old tricks it used to employ to handle the youth have become obsolete. One example is the meetings between the president, and his affiliates, to which young people were invited. They had completely different demands (even though they were not allowed to express their opinions at the meetings). It was a kind of monologue that only strengthened the prejudice.

President el-Sisi is continuously warning Egyptians against the “Evil People” i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. Now an outlawed organization, with thousands of its leaders facing prosecution in Egyptian courts, the Muslim Brotherhood today doesn’t represent a real threat to the state. The Brotherhood will make a deal with the state eventually – leaving the president and the state to face the real challenge of how to deal with the youth.

The Egyptian state is growing old and weak, but its egoism is preventing it from releasing this fact. The state’s current invulnerability could be broken at anytime. If it were politically mature enough, the state would work on integrating our youth’s ideas and energies into its political mechanism, with the aim of modernizing Egypt.

Reforming the state is our best option, but it is not the one foreseen by the state. This step might lead to discarding the current ruling regime, but it will develop and enhance the functionality of state entities and authorities. The alternative is the collapse of the state, the scariest scenario – and the one that, gradually and contentedly, we are moving towards.

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