POWER is, apparently, a source of true pleasure for many Egyptians, something that most of us adore, but, paradoxically, are completely forbidden to practice. Our desire to seek power has always come at the high price of favoring a few powerful citizens to the detriment of our nation – and obviously at the expense of powerless Egyptians. In a nation such as Egypt where rule of law does not fully function, the possession of power does not only enable people to chew off more by sharpening and strengthening their teeth; it also empowers their digestive systems to easily absorb the chunks they bite off.
In Egypt, power is substantially more valued than wealth. Money is known for its ability to gently open all locked doors, but power breaks doors down, without the need to knock. Many Egyptians, who certainly don’t deserve to be empowered in the first place, have been blessed with power and allowed to abuse it. Whereas it is easy for powerful people to become corrupt if they so choose, wealthy citizens who are corrupt can only flex their muscles if the people with power permit them to do so.
The Egyptian state is fully aware of Egyptians’ obsession with power! The state adeptly manipulates this scarce commodity for which there is such high demand; it accords power to a few citizens for a while, and then retracts it. Being part of the state authority is the highest status coveted by Egyptians eager to exert power. The state enables those obsessed with power by appointing them to selective political positions wherein they can wield their power. Then, once they are no longer needed, it removes them from the executive position of authority.
Many Egyptians seek to achieve power by establishing their own private entities, whether commercially structured or in the form of non-governmental organizations. These entities are founded to give a certain status to power seekers that they would not be able to achieve independently. This phenomenon has led to a situation where we have plenty of entities with identical missions and activities, differentiated only by the persons in command.
Egyptians prefer to think, act and behave like big fish in a small pond, rather than like small fish in a big pond. Therefore, they form their own ponds and work on inflating their power within these ponds to dominate their habitat, like sharks, even selecting fish roommates to live with them in peace. This has resulted in too many unneeded, isolated ponds, all designed to allow inflated fish to swim at their convenience.
Furthermore, this excessive grasp for power has prevented us from either teaming up to realize one another’s strengths, or engaging in a dialogue aimed at minimizing our dissimilarities. We can only harmonize separate entities and complement one another’s deficiencies if we are ready to modestly give up the power we have assumed. Moreover, living in isolated ponds has prevented us from engaging in any kind of true competition that would benefit society.
For reasons that I am not aware of, Egyptians who are obsessed with power always shout when expressing their opinions. They probably believe that a loud voice, accompanied by aggressive and egotistical behavior, strengthen and bolster their authority. This kind of behavior is widespread in Egyptian society – even among the preachers in our mosques, who tend to pass on religious values in very loud voices, contrary to the teachings of Islam.
Power differs radically from leadership (which we certainly lack)! Leadership is about mobilizing people by bringing out their best qualities, while powerful citizens suppress people with their invalid ideas and actions. We need to apply legal and constructive methods to regulate and channel strength and power in the service of advancing our nation. Establishing a truly progressive nation and a civilized society will only be possible when we depower this tiny segment of Egyptian society that is allowed to exert power over the rest of society in the absence of rule of law.