The risk of compounding Egyptians’ ignorance

Is it better to check into a hospital that has a single qualified physician or one where all physicians, nurses and support personnel are equally competent? Obviously, being in the care of a knowledgeable team is better than seeking the help of a single physician whose capacity and energy cannot always be guaranteed. Contrary to this logic, Egypt is governed through empowering a selected few by providing them with access to factual knowledge – and leaving the vast majority ignorant.

Ignorance is widespread in our society and the State often justifies this status quo by arguing that its decisions are not driven by ignorance, claiming that State channels broadcast fabricated information only to mobilize citizens efficiently, while a few senior government executives, who have exclusive access to a parallel, factual channel, are empowered with true knowledge. Still, informed executives could indirectly fall victim to the widespread, intensely fabricated information that is disseminated to the public.

How is it that a successful surgeon, or a renowned CEO, who realize double-digit annual growth rates can misjudge facts about so many fields outside of their areas of specialization? The answer to this question was provided by renowned author Edward de Bono, who explained that some people’s minds could be likened to a sharp-focus lens that only enables them to see a single topic in detail, while others are equipped with a wide-angle camera lens (which de Bono likens to wisdom).

The Egyptian educational system strongly encourages the formation of this sharp-focus lens phenomenon; it requires students to digest (and not necessarily learn) a specific curriculum, and eventually release the information in their respective school exams. This mechanism has produced a society whose members tend to excel in their respective fields work, but who lack both basic knowledge of other fields and social dynamism.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian State often argues that our nation’s main challenge lies in the large number of illiterate Egyptians. I will argue further that our real, deeper challenge is that we have many ignorant citizens who claim to be extensively knowledgeable. Acknowledging ignorance often prompts people to explore ideas thoroughly prior to their implementation – the true dilemma is believing that we are knowledgeable when we are in fact ignorant!

People should develop their opinions based on knowledge and experience; in Egypt, perspectives are developed based on social status that has been empowered with completely fake information. We then use our ignorance to polish these perspectives and pass them on to our peers to do the same – creating a vicious cycle of ignorance. Citizens who are convinced that they ‘know it all’ need to revisit their thoughts! Ignorance is a plague in any given society; in a country such as ours, where it is so widespread, no one is left immune.

Egyptian politics have recently become the principal victim of ignorance; millions of Egyptians were prompted to express their political views expansively and confidently, when in fact they had no idea what they were talking about. Egyptian elites, who naturally have a sharp-focus lens, have been deliberately employed by the Egyptian State to convey its political perspective; they simply duplicate the State’s arguments and, in return, are designated to become social celebrities.

In this kind of false environment, we are not only helping citizens to zoom in their sharp focus lenses, we are also prompting them to capture a false scene – and to believe in it permanently. Regardless of the State’s claims to the opposite, it is much more challenging to mobilize citizens in a largely ignorant society. Egypt needs to develop a relationship of trust between citizens and the State, and this can only happen by conveying correct and factual information to everyone. We will be a stronger society when we arm all our citizens, equally, with accurate facts.

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