“Sleeping with the enemy” is a phrase that symbolizes the political behavior of Egyptians today. The popularization of political issues and the daily heated arguments with relatives, friends and colleagues that every Egyptian engages in have turned us into a very divided society; disliking one another because of our different political perspectives, struggling more by having to live together under one roof. Egyptian polarization is driven mainly by emotions; people become attached to a proposition based more on their individual preferences and less on substance.
We are living in a truly frightening era in which emerging political events are deepening the polarization of society. The overconfidence individual citizens have in their knowledge, their belief that they know the whole truth and the accusations of ignorance and national disloyalty leveled against opponents are further aggravating our polarization. This kind of deep division poses a greater threat to our society than the poor economic conditions that the nation is facing.
During the three decades of Mubarak rule, politics was the business of only a very few citizens; those who dared to engage in political activities knowing the risks associated with political involvement. Thus, politics was the domain of genuine politicians that knew best, but lacked a revolutionary attitude. However, after the 2011 revolution, politics became an interesting, fantasy realm for millions of citizens who – regardless of their knowledge or their ability to contribute – are attracted to, and interested in, the current heated political debate.
Egyptians are politically divided into three clear groups. The first group is strongly affiliated to the ruling regime, happy with the current progress and always finding excuses for the government’s errors. The second is constituted of political Islamist entities for whom religion is the single common dominator and who perceive the entire world from the Islamist perspective. Finally, the third cluster is comprised of revolutionary citizens; many dynamic citizens with genuine intentions to change our country for the better – but lacking in political experience and extremely fragmented.
The first two groups have clear leaderships, good organizational structures and know how to mobilize citizens during elections, but their governing cadres and their policies are obsolete and they decline to waste any effort on modernizing them. These groups probably derive their strength from being old-fashioned and corrupt entities, which keeps them united. Partisans of the third group are political pioneers with revolutionary attitudes who want to modernize Egypt drastically, but who lack leadership and literally have no proper organizational structure whatsoever.
Events of the last few years that have been defined as revolutions or uprisings were based on two of the three groups teaming up to kick the third group out of power. In 2011, the revolutionary group led the uprising that was eventually backed by the political Islamists and ended in the ousting of the Egyptian deep state regime headed by Mubarak. In 2013, the revolutionaries and the deep state teamed up to topple Muslim Brotherhood rule. The main dilemma in both instances is the way the revolutionary group was cast off by its partners once they had assumed power.
At present, Egypt is steadily moving towards a third wave of uprisings. The current polarization of society, accompanied by the state’s failure to make sound decisions in a timely manner are once again strengthening the revolutionary group, fueling its frustration with the traditional ruling regime. The government’s inability to stabilize society is reinforcing the dynamic revolutionary group that, by default, knows nothing better than revolt; a revolt that the opportunistic political Islamists will eventually back, recreating my proposed equation: two-thirds will always prevail over one-third.
Egyptians are strong believers in exclusive rule, which has worked perfectly over the past decades, but is not good enough for today. The political stability that the state is always aiming to achieve will never happen, until it receives the true blessing of our youth who account for two-thirds of society. The mock gatherings of Egyptian youth with the President are weakening the regime, not strengthening it. Egypt is a young, dynamic society that has been suppressed by various old-fashioned governments; genuine stability will only occur when the state engages youngsters in politics and responds positively to their demands. The only other alternative is a repeat of our most recent political history.