“Late President Nasser put me behind bars for two years; yet my loyalty to him remained unabated throughout my prison term, and up to the present,” stated a renowned Egyptian Nasserist intellectual. All through his presidency and beyond, Nasser was the ultimate hero for millions of Egyptians and Arabs, who were ready to give up their freedom rather than question their admiration for their hero or his mechanism of rule. People’s attachment to hero-leaders draws a thick curtain over their ability to assess their leaders’ merits and credentials truthfully.
The hero syndrome has been widely portrayed in Egyptian drama – a male actor who represents demoralized citizens combats the powerful evil character to secure the rights of the marginalized. Heroism is a phenomenon that exists in almost all Egyptian entities; anyone claiming to possess extraordinary capabilities can easily act on behalf of his followers. People who value heroes highly tend to be driven more by their emotions and less by rational thinking – a recipe that yields numerous negative consequences.
The search for a hero is what keeps Egyptians awake at night! Our inability to team up and work as a homogenized group has resulted in the quest for someone who can magically solve our problems, effortlessly satisfying the diverse needs of all citizens. The hero concept was not imposed on Egyptian society; citizens have adopted this phenomenon and are happy to adhere to it. A hero is often strengthened by the emotional support of followers who continually justify his faults.
The heroism narratives that the Egyptian state releases every now and then are not meant to be judged by people who use their critical thinking abilities; they are directed at people who are prone to irrational thinking and who look for a hero in their daily lives and day-to-day activities. The government’s recent encouragement of unarmed citizens to engage with terrorists was an attempt to solve our terrorism challenges by creating a hero! Sadly, this attitude not only endangers the lives of innocent citizens; it also distances the entire nation from any form of intelligent, methodical thinking about the best method to tackle terrorism.
In Egypt, a leader’s success is not measured by achievement, but by his perceived pleasing personality traits. In the absence of any genuine assessment of a hero’s capabilities and actions, Egyptians who claim heroism tend to imitate one other’s behaviors without making tangible contributions. Most of the tales about heroes that we hear are inflated considerably to make them more appealing; however, our willingness to believe these stories is what makes them take hold. A hero is completely different from a champion who wins a straightforward competition and makes the entire nation proud of him. Nevertheless, the rash heroism concept often prevails over the serious work of true champions.
Heroism is a false concept that prompts people to behave irresponsibly, beyond their capacities, simply to become heroes – at the expense of being technically driven, which requires much more effort. The hero’s blind followers are a large segment of society that is lacking in knowledge, willing to relinquish its powers of thought and to act recklessly and reluctant to assume responsibility, happy instead to assign a single person to act on its behalf. Thus, heroes spare no efforts in polishing and glorifying their personalities to maintain their heroic image.
Being an Egyptian hero is the ultimate personal status; it concludes in instating an incontestable leader who is difficult to remove, even if he messes up. The hero-leader is a phenomenon that should not belong in the twenty-first century; however, our limited capacity for innovation, our minimal use of technology and the non-enforcement of the rule of law, all pave the way for heroic acts. We Egyptians need to do away with this concept completely and to work hard to realize our achievements scientifically and objectively.