Why do Powerless Egyptians Always Sound Smarter?

Having the ability to express ideas and criticize government policies without being held accountable is certainly a form of ‘deceptive behavior’. Unfortunately, the absence of democracy in Egypt gives people with no official power the advantage of being able to sound clever and knowledgeable without being held responsible. It also misleads executive officials by misinterpreting their failures as successes. Citizens cannot be blamed for the ‘fanciful ideas’ they put forth – but executives in authority are guilty of deliberately over-empowering themselves.

Nations progress by attempting to apply new policies, some of which succeed while others fail. In my view, the ability to differentiate between success and failure is just as important as the realization of genuinely successful projects. Policies put in place by government executives who have been in power for a long time have suffered because no mechanism has ever been developed to detect and measure their faults and failures – and to take corrective actions accordingly. Due to the absence of a proper ruling mechanism, these government officials (including those who hold outstanding credentials) will always be perceived as mediocre by their fellow citizens.

The proper management of scientifically driven projects necessitates going through a cycle that usually consists of several phases: research, design, application, implementation and follow-up. Neither our government nor the opposition applies this process. We are all exceedingly active in forming haphazard ideas about which we are over enthusiastic and to which we become extremely partial – without first validating them. Whereas government executives have the disadvantage of having their poor performance exposed to the public, ‘experts’ who are not in power are not put to the test; thus, they often appear to be ‘smarter’.

In the course of the past few years, we experienced a fair amount of swapping of government officials. A number of people who for a long time had quite actively criticized the authorities managed to accede to power, but failed completely to bring their intelligence into play insofar as government performance was concerned. They justified this failure by complaining that they occupied their official posts for short periods or that their attempts to introduce change were crushed by the strength of the internal obstacles they had to face. In reality, these people deliberately hindered themselves with the rules and regulations of the state, which not only constrained their capacity to act, but also created a mental block that shut down their ability to think about altering the ruling mechanism of the state.

The 365-day period during which the Muslim Brotherhood inadequately ruled Egypt was a true experiment in functioning liberal democracy. The Brotherhood’s lack of ruling experience led to many mistakes that naturally empowered opposition forces and worked to substantially reduce its popularity on the street. If we had continued to apply the democratic mechanism, we would have gotten rid of the Muslim Brotherhood, without needing the June 30 event that is viewed as a revolution by some and as a military coup by others! This proposition conflicts with what I personally advocated for few years ago.

The current ruling mechanism is deceiving the entire country by empowering the obsolete ideas of government executives that are often justified by a handful of implausible arguments, while at the same time allowing those who are not in power to voice their solid criticism. Egyptian executives, whether in power or not, need to revise their ideas to figure out which are still valid and which need to be dropped immediately. Citizens will then be able to distinguish between success and failure and to eventually vote for the group or party that produces the most appealing ideas.

The absence of an established mechanism for assessing ideas and projects concludes in the prolongation of a number of failed policies and projects that have been applied for a long time simply because they are affiliated to people in power. Meanwhile, plenty of potentially constructive ideas are ignored for the sole reason that they are submitted by people who are not in power.

If true democracy won’t be established in Egypt in the near future, we need to think of an alternative structure that would enable citizens to present their ideas to the government and have them assessed fairly, accompanied by a system that makes them accountable for their deliverables. This will require replacing the government’s current top-down approach with an open-minded outlook that relies on the ideas of people and institutions.

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