Even though we Egyptians tend to conduct tense debates on a wide range of economic and political issues, we often discuss the content of a given topic without realizing the metaphorical frame within which we live and that affects our manner of thinking – a virtual frame that is designed by the Egyptian State to enhance its ability to mobilize citizens. As long as our minds are enclosed within this framework, the back and forth of the arguments we exchange with one another are of no value.
In the words of renowned author George Lakeoff, the metaphoric frame “…uses knowledge about the mind, the brain, language, imagery, emotions, the framing of experiences and products, personal and social identity, and normal modes of thought that lead to action and that change brains over time”. Our population at large is living within a mental frame that shapes all aspects of “living behavior”; it affects all of our thinking and activity, leaving only the narrowest room in which our minds can operate.
Egyptians are well framed by the State that works on forming their patterns of thought by setting up mental boundaries that constrain their ability to think! Framing differs from social norms that we can easily identify and work to change. For the majority, the virtual framework within which we live is difficult to notice. Once it has set the frame in place, the State works on mobilizing citizens, moving them, unawares, from one milestone to another within the designated mental framework.
The recently held 2018 Egyptian presidential election is a good example of how the Egyptian State designed a political frame and mobilized its citizens towards a clear goal. The goal was to limit Egyptians’ choices of presidential candidates and to work on mobilizing their thinking pattern to serve this purpose. The State did a good job in this regard by narrowing citizens’ choices from the beginning and offering valid justifications that favored its preferred presidential candidate.
Some Egyptians argue that education is the gateway to overcoming many of our challenges. However, while education certainly is a blessing, it is not the most crucial factor when it comes to framing and mobilizing citizens! A large portion of our well-educated citizens is oblivious, living effortlessly within the State designed framework and being successfully mobilized by the State, their intelligent minds completely absent.
Culturally, Egyptians belong to a conservative, traditional society that values emotion over reason; we do our utmost to maintain our norms and have no desire to cross any boundaries. Emotional propositions work better to trigger Egyptians; thus, the State tends to make the utmost use of them – to the extent that, in my opinion, the 25 January 2011 revolution took place within the State’s framework, without crossing any of the boundaries the State had designed and established specifically for this kind of development.
The framing and mobilization of Egyptians come at a high economic cost and have a clear objective – to strengthen the Egyptian State’s power to rule over citizens. These efforts would serve our country better if they were addressing our ingrained deficiencies, such as bureaucracy, low productivity and corruption – but they only focus on serving the State’s political need for empowerment. In fact, the seven million State employees who consume roughly one-fourth of our fiscal budget play an essential part in buttressing the State designed frame.
A significant portion of society affirming the State’s famous political and economic slogans without bothering to subject them to any sort of critical thinking is a measure of the State’s success in framing and mobilizing society. This is largely happening in Egypt – even among the most knowledgeable of citizens. Nevertheless, we still face the challenge of our youth who want to break any kind of boundary or framework imposed upon them by the older generation.
Egyptians today are moving from one theme to another, believing that they are progressing by the force of their own will, unaware that they are intentionally driven by the State. Since any application of proper scientific thinking will gradually conclude in wiping out the State’s efforts to frame and mobilize, the expansion of ignorance often favors the State’s stance. While Egypt is not the only nation that is a victim of these metaphors, their weight and impact on Egyptians are glaringly obvious.