Dominance of Arab masculinity must be challenged

Masculinity in the Arab World is a dominant phenomenon that is falsely overrated by society. We tend to associate power with masculinity, unnecessarily strengthening and privileging males at the expense of females. Power today no longer comes in the shape of a hardcore masculine machine that requires considerable physical effort; it has emerged as a software application driven by innovation and technology in which physical masculine power is superfluous.

Beyond its gender definition, masculinity is an Arab cultural phenomenon created and advocated for by Arab males in order to acquire substantial privileges.  For centuries, Arab males have been working on optimizing their natural masculinity, leaving our female spouses to submit to the role of inferior gender in our society. Moreover, females eventually tend to adhere to this cultural trait and to raise their children with the same understanding.

Many feminists are willing to comply with the concept of masculine superiority as long as it includes an element of decency in dealing with women. However, our living reality shows that when females over-empower their male partners and are forced into the role of clear followers, the situation can easily and unconsciously evolve into one that involves harsh male attitudes and distressed females. The role of family caretaker that many Arab women find comfortable may eventually turn into a heavy burden that places them squarely in the position of blind followers.

Many Arab females tend to rely on their male spouses, believing that their respective male partners are better able to handle most of our life challenges. However, the only element of truth in this proposition is that we males have designed our work dynamics to accommodate us better than they do our female partners. This situation could be easily altered and made more suitable to both genders by offering women a decent method to commute, work and socialize – without being exposed to any male pressure or abuse.

Many successful Arab marriages are built upon a clear division of family responsibilities; husbands are responsible for meeting their families’ financial needs and wives are the caretakers of homes and children. However, dividing marriage responsibilities means that we are not capitalizing on both partners’ utmost competences, either in bringing up children or in securing earnings. In fact, alternating between female and male duties will certainly give children a better childhood as well as offer the family more financial security.

In my country Egypt, women who work outside of the home have to live with the natural challenges of their work, along with confronting many indecent attitudes at the workplace and, eventually, be fully responsible for running their households and raising their children. In many poor neighborhoods, the men tend to rely on their wives’ incomes, spending their days and nights at coffee shops! Nonetheless, the men in these neighborhoods still enjoy a clear superior status over their female spouses – who value their “masculine” protection against wide exposure to male harassment.

The Lord created Adam and Eve who shared equal life responsibilities; what has happened since then is the evolution of diversified cultures that have empowered the male over the female gender due to the need for physical power that was required centuries ago. Whereas nowadays we refuse to recognize the obvious possibility of alternating “male” and “female” duties i.e. career women and husbands who take care of the house and children (children only need to be fully cared for by their mothers during early childhood).

The over-empowerment of men and the undermining of women’s role in our society is a clear defect that negatively affects both genders and hinders social progress.  Many females around the world have fought for their rights, not only by advocating, but also and more prominently by proving themselves in various work places, demonstrating that they can work at the same jobs as men and even do it better. Men will not give up their cultural superiority voluntarily; Arab women must gently challenge them in order to live fruitful and meaningful lives.

How academia can become more beneficial to Egypt

Knowledge is the foundation of any nation that desires to achieve true progress! Although knowledge in itself constitutes the highest aspiration for any human being, nations should have a different goal; that of optimizing knowledge to best serve their citizens – which is not the case in Egypt. Knowledge is our lifeblood and our government should ensure that it continues to flow and flourish.

In Egypt, the education system and business operation are two completely different dynamics. Far from benefitting one another, they tend to pursue separate paths that cross only once every summer when university graduates eagerly seeking employment pour onto the job market. Meanwhile, companies are looking to hire employees with specific skills and personalities that are appropriate to the real-life work environment, irrespective of their scholastic knowledge.

The academia challenge in Egypt does not concern the various courses of study on offer; rather, it lies in the prevalent attitude toward education wherein many faculty members believe that academically successful students are an achievement per se – regardless of whether or not their studies eventually benefit their respective communities. No one in our education system is interested in exploring the relevancy or the suitability of subjects taught at our universities to the needs of the work market.

The success of Egyptian private enterprises is due to their talent for maximizing their profits in a ruined market that works with a mechanism and tools that have nothing to do with knowledge. Thus, rather than hiring graduates who can make use of the advanced knowledge they acquired at universities to better serve their employers, these enterprises look for new graduates who can fit into their working structures.

Meanwhile, our high school graduates, supported by their families, often make the mistake of enrolling in faculties determined either by their school degree grades or based on unrealistic emotional desires. At that age, students cannot make mature choices and are not familiar with the reality of work demands, while their parents often want to impose their own narrow personal educational desires. This dilemma results in having hundreds of thousands Egyptian university graduates every year who are searching for a job that is frequently not linked to their studies.

The thousands of students that our State universities are forced to enroll every year, along with the very minimal student fees charged, has led to the complete deterioration of our educational mechanism (curricula, quality of faculty members, university facilities – and the list goes on). This constitutes a costly burden on both our government and our society; university graduates are eager to obtain higher degrees to differentiate themselves from high school graduates, but they are still lacking in substantive knowledge.

The clear alternative to this dilemma was the spread of private universities, inaugurated a few decades ago with the intention of attracting wealthy students whose families could pay noticeably higher fees. These universities may provide significantly better facilities – but not necessarily a better education. To attract wealthy students, private universities have commercialized their educational programs by giving their universities attractive foreign names, accompanied with false or exaggerated claims of affiliation with renowned international universities.

Egypt currently has a number of private universities that better fit into the reality of our work market – both (the market and the universities) are commercially driven and have a limited knowledge base. One of the results is that Egyptian business enterprises are unable to produce products that can compete with those of other developing nations. Egypt’s evolution is presently far removed from any form of genuine development. To achieve true progress, education and employment structures need to be well-integrated and they must be driven by knowledge and merit.

Talented Lebanese must be given chance to help nation

At a meeting that I attended with a number of international directors who work for a leading global business enterprise we realized that the corporation deals with large numbers of business partners of Lebanese descent who live in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Lebanese immigrants are widespread across all continents and a significant number of them has had very successful careers heading large corporations – and even as Heads of State.

Many international enterprises and foreign nations have offered Lebanese citizens real opportunities for success and prosperity that they have managed to make the most of, opportunities that their loving homeland declines to offer. Nevertheless, Lebanon still possesses many talented citizens who prefer to stay home and make the best out of it. Lebanon has gone through intensive civil war and has been militarily abused by neighboring nations. As a result, four and half million Lebanese live in their country and roughly fourteen million are living abroad.

Lebanon’s dilemma lies in its inability to exploit Lebanese talents, both within its borders and abroad, to build their country. Lebanon possesses all the necessary ingredients to be a developed nation; its citizens are quite proficient, it has considerable natural resources and a large portion of the population is quite wealthy. The nation could easily attract substantial foreign investments to better develop its tourism industry facilities and thus receive more tourists.

Integrating these factors together will certainly transform the nation. However, the country lacks both the political will and the leadership capable of accomplishing this mission. Lebanese politicians are quite open to listening to advice proffered by international economic institutes that could help move their country forward, but achieving consensus among these politicians on any given economic scheme is beyond a “mission impossible”. Thus, numerous ideas land in and leave the nation, without being subjected to any kind of serious consideration.

Lebanon’s current rhetoric is the setting up of a new cabinet in which each political force is demanding a given number of ministerial seats (the combination of their demands far exceeds the existing number of ministerial positions). Observing the Lebanese media during a recent visit to Beirut made me feel that Lebanon, along with its citizens, should be grateful to its political forces for establishing a government – an approach to political accountability that is the reverse of that in many democratic nations.

Meanwhile, all Lebanese citizens agree that a number of foreign nations are influencing the forming of their government. Regardless of the factual weight of this belief, foreign nations certainly don’t micro-governor Lebanese politics; the responsibility for investment expansion and attracting tourists falls to the coalition government that will hopefully be formed soon. Nonetheless, apart from the disputable foreign factor, Lebanese citizens, who tend to be individualistically driven, may be the real obstacle to the solution of their challenges.

Apparently, all Lebanese citizens, regardless of their political ideology or ethnicity, admire Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (assassinated), who exerted genuine efforts to reconstruct the country and managed to move the nation forward based on a clear political stance and consensuses among all political parties – a proposition that Lebanon lacks presently. Hariri’s footprints are easily identifiable in numerous Beirut venues.

Airports often provide me with the final impression on how nations are governed. After standing over an hour in the passport control queue (which could have easily been avoided by appointing additional passport control officers), I was astonished to find that the VIP lounge at the Beirut airport was unnecessarily spacious, with plenty of unused space. To me, this signaled that the government is not eager to ease tourists’ experience by reducing queue time, but it is keen to offer an extra comfortable lounge to elite travelers.

Lebanon needs to move from its current static politics towards a more dynamic model! The most urgent political step is to establish a functioning government in which competence – not adherence to the current political obligation towards various political forces – is the driving force. This can easily be done while completely complying with the Taef Agreement. Lebanon is in desperate need of a “new Rafik Hariri”. Many Lebanese citizens certainly possess the necessary characteristics, but the current political structure denies them the opportunity. Until this hindrance is overcome, the country might be living with the same challenges for years to come.

Egyptian work ethic needs a lot of work

The Egyptian government’s rhetoric on productivity usually emphasizes that we are a poor nation wherein the State bears the financial responsibility for its citizens – a philosophy that often prompts State employees to “while away” their working hours instead of maximizing their inputs! Our government does not offer any policy to stimulate its employees’ productivity; on the contrary, our excessive bureaucracy works on reducing employee efforts. Meanwhile, Egyptians see resources as a means to fulfill personal desires rather than achieve specific goals.

The fact that Egypt’s workforce represents nearly one-fourth of our population, combined with the government’s inability to create sufficient new jobs contribute to our low productivity. The Egyptian workforce tends to exert only the minimum effort required to keep the boat floating; it is neither eager to take part in any kind of boat race or concerned with the boat’s punctual arrival at its destination. Furthermore, by promoting them based on seniority rather than on productivity, we demotivate our employees from enhancing their production.

Productivity may be defined as the maximum use of time, energy and resources. In Egypt, we simply tend to misuse these three factors, declining to push ourselves to exert our utmost effort, because a minimal effort is sufficient to ensure our survival. Moreover, the absence of accountability encourages many to spend their working hours on leisure activities, a work attitude obviously implying that our government needs to establish a policy to prompt citizens to make the best use of these three factors – which it has failed to do.

Instead of stimulating people to work more and earn more, the Egyptian government is very determined to apply an economic policy geared toward regulating the economy with the clear intention of controlling it in order to realize its economic growth targets. The government tends to overburden its employees with irrelevant bureaucratic tasks that may only be overcome through bribery, making our business transactions more complicated and costly – and granting a clear advantage to citizens who know how to deal with this system.

Meanwhile, Egyptian enterprises often work on advancing their respective executives’ technical knowledge, which in fact is quite adequate in many fields; what we lack is a positive work attitude! A large segment of our labor force spends its working hours navigating social media instead of doing their jobs. Sadly, entertaining ourselves during working hours, unaware of the drawbacks, is an essential part of our culture!

Egyptian society is not driven by specific goals or achievements. We don’t hold our employees accountable for their outputs. Embellished by bureaucracy, this work mechanism is widely applied in the public sector and, to a great extent, in the private sector (for the sentimental reason of not leaving citizens jobless). Thus, our employees tend to gauge the number of working hours as clear achievements and decline to take any responsibility for their work output, claiming that it is influenced by many factors beyond their control.

The Egyptian government needs to work on extracting maximum ideas and energy from its employees. Advancing the technical know-how of government employees will not stimulate them to produce more. We must establish a clear correlation between employees’ outputs and their respective incomes. This will require clear job descriptions and a scientific measurement of work outputs – a policy area that our government needs to revisit.

Egypt’s main problem isn’t whether it is a rich or poor country; the real challenge lies in our policy with regards to maximizing citizens’ productivity. We need to teach employees that productivity is an essential part of a citizen’s dignity. Egyptian employees need to be educated to think before they act and to aim clearly at producing functional outputs – not justified inputs. Our path towards becoming a developed nation is through advancing Egyptian workforce productivity while simultaneously applying appropriate economic policies.

Egyptians’ remittances rising, while at home economy ails

Egypt’s consistent sources of foreign currency have always revolved around the Suez Canal, tourism and expatriates’ remittances. Our government plays a minimal role in Suez Canal waterway revenues, which are mainly influenced by global trade. External and internal factors significantly affect the performance of the tourism sector, yet our government is certainly to be blamed for its inability to develop a solid tourism industry. As for remittances from Egyptians living abroad, they are anticipated to be at a record high this year, providing a surprise increase in our foreign currency revenue.

Almost a decade ago, Suez Canal revenues amounted to USD 4.7 Billion and they are presently in the vicinity of USD 5.5 Billion (per annum); yearly tourism revenues have dropped from USD 10.5 Billion to USD 7.6 Billion today. Meanwhile, according to Central Bank of Egypt reports, annual remittances that used to be USD 7.6 Billion are expected to exceed USD 26 Billion this year. Reviewing the evolution of these numbers over the past decade could easily indicate that revenues controlled by our government have dropped substantially, while the one source of revenue that is completely out of the government’s hands is growing significantly.

Remittances from abroad reflect the strong bond that Egyptians overseas have with their families at home. However, the increase in the number of overseas workers, along with the significant increase in their remittances, is a clear sign that our economy is ailing; it has not been able to expand its domestic investments and create new jobs to accommodate those overseas workers.  The overpopulation that our government has been denouncing for decades has now become our topmost source of foreign currency.

Egyptians who work abroad are either highly talented calibers that were recruited for their singular competency, or skilled laborers needed by overseas entities. Apparently, Egyptians produce a valuable output when they work in foreign nations and in entities that know how to best utilize their competence! Prior to moving abroad, these Egyptian immigrants were most likely unable to find decent jobs that could fulfill their ambitions.

Large numbers of Egyptian families are living on monthly remittances sent by a family member who holds a temporary resident work visa in an Arab Gulf country.  A large segment of our expatriate workforce is doing ordinary jobs, but a one-hundred or two-hundred US dollar bill is sufficient to boost the living standard of many poor families in Egypt considerably. There are no statistics on how remittances are spent; they are probably used to finance the daily consumption of relatives, with some opting to invest in time deposits.

Aware of their gloomy employment prospects, millions of Egyptian youngsters dream of leaving Egypt. This lays a clear responsibility on our consecutive governments that often fail to attract foreign direct investment that could accommodate our large population or to create a professional work environment that could fulfill Egyptian workers’ ambitions. Many of the jobs that Egyptians are doing abroad could be done in Egypt – if we manage to attract the overseas companies that employ them to operate in our country.

Egypt is a nation that has many distinct advantages that could yield good revenue on their own – the human element is one clear example.  However, the highest revenues are often realized when we integrate these components to produce an added-value product – and this is where our failure lies, both at the government and social level. For instance, Egypt grows an outstanding species of cotton, but we have a mediocre textile industry. Egypt possesses nearly one-third of the world’s antiquities, along with fabulous beaches, but we have a fragile tourism industry.

The brain drain that we have been confronting in Egypt for decades may be the weak link that is impeding our progress. Our flagging industries will not be revived on their own; they need a strong engine to pull them forward; that engine is our human factor, which we have been neglecting for years. Egyptians who live abroad have substantially better knowledge, experience and personal resources than those who are struggling domestically; thus, the government should encourage them to play a greater role in enabling the national transformation we desire.

Egypt: the rift between critics and praisers!

The cultural tendency of Egyptian society is to express opinions categorically, irrespective of knowledge or validation! This has created a polarized society that is split between citizens who believe that expressing emotional endorsement of government policies is the ultimate support that our country needs, and others who believe that drawing the government’s attention to its deficiencies is the most effective route to progress. Our government, in all likelihood, takes no notice of either group’s outlook.

I am sure that all members of Egyptian society want to see their country advance rapidly. However, we are living in an era that has divided our society between critics and praisers; the two parties have never reached any degree of consensus concerning a single policy or issue. While millions of citizens spend their time and energy debating its policies in this “zero-sum” game, our government has never considered altering any of its policies in response to citizens’ remarks.

The Egyptian government believes that it can boost citizen morale by intensifying the role of its praisers. The State therefore offers all Egyptian media outlets exclusively to those who praise it and work on conveying government policies to the viewers. For years, Egyptians have been living with the dilemma of spending their evenings listening to exaggerated praise of government policies on TV shows, only to confront stiff challenges and miserable reality the following morning.

In Egypt, giving praise is a simple and neat job that requires no qualifications other than the ability to be loud on TV shows and to attract multiple viewers! Although praising has become a field of activity in itself, the government, aware of praisers’ limited capabilities, never appoints them to actual jobs or assigns them specific responsibilities. Nevertheless, given that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” the work these praisers do pulling a dark curtain over many citizens’ eyesight comes at considerable cost to our national economy.

Egyptian praisers often accuse government critics of demoralizing society with their continuous harsh judgments. In return, critics accuse them of not being of any added value to our country (conceding that applause is not a real value). The Egyptian Grand Museum’s new logo that was lately the subject of debate between both teams symbolizes the rift between the two groups in Egypt; while the critics have expressed strong disappointment in the design and believe that Egypt can do substantially better, the praisers endorse the logo wholeheartedly.

Egyptians who are in power often want to apply their own thinking exclusively! This would be a constructive attitude if these executives possessed solid accumulative knowledge in their designated fields. Unfortunately, the appointment of the majority of our executives tends not to be based on their demonstrated competence, but on their affiliation to the regime. The combination of inadequate knowledge and a refusal to listen to alternative opinions is impeding our country’s progress.

Critics and praisers exist even within the ruling regime; the critics work on questioning their peers’ qualifications with the intention of taking over their positions. Obviously, these critics assert that although they don’t approve of their peers’ work, they continue to be loyal to the regime. Although much of their expertise lies exclusively in criticizing the government, Egyptian critics would struggle hopelessly were the government to challenge them with appointments to serious positions.

It is certainly in the interest of the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities to develop a remarkable logo for the Museum, but the government’s tendency to rely on its cadres is the source of our regression. Our country has thousands of talented designers capable of developing a brand identity for the Museum that will meet the expectations of many experts. What Egypt needs in order to progress is a governing mechanism based on merit in which critics and praisers play a minimal role.

Which revolution best represents Egypt’s National Day?

A National Day should mark an event that is a source of pride for a country’s entire society, not a politically divisive one. In the past decades, Egyptians went through a number of revolutions that aimed to improve their lives, but the minimal benefits these revolutions realized are outweighed by the undesired economic and political impact they have had! Our revolutions can be easily described as occasions when a segment of society revolted against the ruling regime – leaving the country torn in two.

July 23 was designated as Egypt’s National Day after a group of Egyptian army officers revolted against the monarchy and transformed Egypt into a republic, in 1952. A few years later, acquiescing to the revolution’s demand, the British ended their occupation of Egypt. Our most famous revolution, which resulted in the ousting of former President Mubarak, took place on 25 January 2011, followed shortly by another revolution wherein Egyptians toppled former President Morsi on 30 June 2013.

Whereas the controversial outcomes of all Egyptian revolutions have polarized our society, the Six of October War united all Egyptians in the service of a specific, successful, mission that was further strengthened by the signing of a peace agreement with our former enemy, Israel. It marks our successful management of an inspirational well-planned event that enhanced our dignity and self-esteem, placing the Six of October War as the greatest achievement in our history by far; a historical turning point that qualifies to be designated as Egypt’s National Day.

At that time, the entire Egyptian population was more than happy to sacrifice their lives for the sole purpose of liberating our national territory. All Arab and Islamic nations steadfastly backed Egypt in the Six of October War; by sending troops to the battlefield, offering substantial financial funds and even by instating an oil embargo to pressure western nations biased towards Israel. It was a truly triumphant event for Egyptians and for the entire Arab and Islamic worlds.

Most renowned political scientists have never unanimously acknowledged any of our revolutions per se; they label them as either a “massive uprising” or a “military coup”.  However, because revolutionary claims provide Egyptians with a sense of achievement, our State officially acknowledges these revolutions – but leaves Egyptian society living with intense political disputes amidst a clear deterioration of the political and economic spheres that resulted from these revolutions. Furthermore, Egypt is no longer governed by the 1952 constitution – completely new constitutions were adopted in the wake of subsequent revolutions.

The National Days of a number of nations fall in the month of July, beginning with Canada Day that celebrates the effective date of that country’s Constitution Act, which united the three separate colonies of the Province of Canada on the July 1, 1867. The United States’ Independence Day, on 4 July, marks the day in 1776 on which it declared its independence from the British Empire. This leaves us with the National Day of France, the Bastille Day; a turning point for the French people who celebrate their unity achieved on 14 July 1790.

Today, Egypt is worth less politically and economically than it was prior to 23 July 1952. Many politicians claim that our engagement in a number of regional wars and the substantial increase of our population are the main causes for this decline. However, our engagement in war was a purely political stance stemming from our regional ambitions and the inability to tackle our population growth problem is a consequence of our governments’ faulty policies.

The July 23rd event is a historic event that will always be a source of pleasure to a segment of Egyptian society – and its effectiveness will continue to be the subject of consistent debate. In contrast, the Six of October War is an indisputable event that brought happiness, dignity and unity to the entire Egyptian population and to the Arab and Islamic worlds where Egypt plays a leading role. Let history settle all the debates about our revolutions; October 6 clearly deserves to be acknowledged as our National Day.

The Egyptian state’s struggle to engender citizens’ loyalty

That nearly three-quarters of eligible Egyptian voters voted for political Islamist entities in the 2012 Egyptian Parliamentary election came as a severe shock to the deep State in Egypt and to many non-Islamist politicians. Since then, the Egyptian State has been doing its utmost to strengthen citizens’ loyalty to their nation – an effort that often, unknowingly, produces the opposite effect.

The Egyptian Minister of Health’s recent decision to play the national anthem in government hospitals every morning (aimed at reinforcing national loyalty among hospital personnel) underlines our government’s deficient understanding of both the true meaning of national allegiance and the real needs of citizens in specific crisis situations. Additionally, it highlights the ongoing state of panic about our citizens’ attachment and devotion to their country.

The Egyptian Minister of Health who issued this decree is probably aware that an appropriate and speedy cure is the only desire of hospitalized patients and their families; if attained, it will eventually strengthen their loyalty to the State. However, as a career State physician, the Minister is also conscious that upgrading our mediocre government hospitals into advanced ones necessitates substantial efforts that the State is not competent to provide whereas broadcasting the national anthem is a task that is likely to be appreciated by the Minister’s superiors.

Egyptian political pundits often tend to credit political Islamist entities with being skilled in expanding their popularity in Egyptian society. I personally believe that the credit should go to our government’s deficient policies in various fields; it is they that reinforce the status of political Islamists. Meanwhile, as long as it is never challenged, political Islamists’ false claim of building a Utopian community will persist as a fantasy in the minds of wishful thinking citizens – and our government’s defective policies certainly intensify this state of affairs.

For decades, the Egyptian State has been tolerant of political Islamists. It has enabled them to infiltrate society at will, as long as they don’t attempt to officially compete with State political figures in key State institutions. This ruling approach has enabled political Islamist entities, working through a variety of underground channels, to reach out to the poor and illiterate, thus strengthening their political standing to the detriment of building the desired allegiance to the State.

Egyptians have never bought the Egyptian State’s constantly repeated argument that instead of demanding better government services, citizens should be thinking of how best to serve their nation. The State still ignores the true meaning of reinforcing the State-citizen bond, believing that State media rhetoric is all that is needed. Thus, the State keeps working on expanding its rhetoric according to which humming the slogan “Long Live Egypt” is valued over genuine job performance.

Moreover, and to complicate the loyalty issue further, the Egyptian Parliament has recently passed a law enabling foreigners to obtain Egyptian citizenship subject to placing seven million Egyptian pounds in a five-year no interest time deposit. Many advanced nations grant citizenship to foreigners after they have resided in the country for a specific number of years and have become socially and culturally integrated. We, on the other hand, are sending a clear message that citizenship is all about paying a lump sum of money, irrespective of any kind of allegiance or loyalty.

Several unsuccessful policies that our government has adopted lately are resulting in disaffiliating Egyptian citizens from aspiring to a coherent State bolstered by loyal citizens. The Egyptian government is confidently and speedily working on founding a flail state wherein deceptive rhetoric moves a few citizens forward at the expense of citizens who can offer genuine merits. If the Egyptian State truly wants loyal citizens, it needs to revisit all government policies related to this issue to better serve this commendable and legitimate goal.

Egypt must end its generational clash

Rather than being well-founded, Egypt’s current heated economic and political debates tend to revolve around various generational quarrels. Traditionally raised according to a “chains of generation followers” philosophy in which the young must follow their elders blindly, Egyptians are nowadays confronting a strong determination by the youth to break these chains that elderly citizens are grasping tightly. Egypt is currently an “in-between” society; our young people are neither fully obeying their parents’ instructions, nor are they entirely independent.

Egyptian children are brought up to obey their parents at all times, unquestioningly; attempting to initiate mutual dialogue is considered a sign of disrespect. However, our new generations, widely exposed to western culture and believing in their right to determine the course of their lives, have been meticulously resisting this child rearing method. Even those who rely on their parents’ financial support want to collect their parents’ money but maintain their independence.

Sadly, the clash of generations that we are currently encountering cannot be expressed in a logical, debatable formula! It stems from having an inflexible elderly generation who strongly believes that its ideas are part of its heritage – and should last beyond their lifetime. Members of this generation therefore try to defend and sustain what they have been doing for decades – even when they know that it is obsolete – while the youngsters are often obsessed with change, for better or worse.

This old parental guidance approach is widely applied in Egypt. It is not limited to the home, but functions intensely in work and social venues where youngsters are obliged to respect and obey instructions issued by their elders. Elderly citizens, often favored by seniority leadership mechanisms, tend to embellish their attitude to life by claiming to possess a youthful spirit while completely discarding the ideas of youngsters (who want to be assessed based on the relevancy of their contributions, not on seniority).

The older people get, the more rigid they become; thus, when our government wants to defend a given policy, it tends to assign a senior executive to the task, knowing that he will never change his mind one bit! An essential part of the instability resulting from the various protests that took place in Egypt in recent years is due to the State’s stubborn insistence on implementing the ideas of the older generation, with all their deficiencies, while declining to adopt some of our youth’s ideas.

Egypt is not a coherent, progressive society – and our conflict of generations intensifies this condition! Our society is currently divided into two isolated segments, each exceedingly confident of its ideas. We are a stagnant society because the ingrained old-fashioned ideas of the elderly keep them in coherence while youngsters, who put forth a growing number of modern ideas and have a strong desire for change, have absolutely no common ground or a clear ideology, giving rise to intense disputes among them.

Egypt is progressing at a very slow pace and won’t accept to be ruled by youngsters; seniority is a fundamental trait of our culture. We are a nation that has a large generational disparity, favoring youngsters as long as they stay away from power. However, Egyptian youth constitute an “energy bomb” that has the potentiality to explode at any moment and that has proven difficult for the State to defuse. The official dialogue that has been taking place in recent years between the Egyptian State and its youth has been revealed as a mockery; both the participants and the topics are meticulously filtered to favor the State’s viewpoint.

We Egyptians must admit that we need to alter our old-fashioned patriarchal approach. To move forward, every era should be led by its own generation. It makes no sense to comply with qualities espoused by previous generations that have been proven to be obsolete on the pretext of “seniority knows better”. If we want to end the clash of generations in Egypt, we urgently need to establish a genuine dialogue among generations – starting at home, in the early stages of childhood!

The “Second Thoughts” that Egyptians Lack!

The dilemma of the Egyptian thought process does not only lie in the rigid inflexibility of respective individual opinions, but more in the tendency to articulate opinions that have no valid substance. The ability to express opinions loudly and assertively (rather than knowledgably) determines whether Egyptian citizens’ thoughts are heard! When people are that committed to their outlooks, it is very difficult to prompt them to have “second thoughts”.

Egyptians believe that entertaining “second thoughts” on any given issue is equal to undermining their social status; revising their outlooks would therefore be shameful behavior. We tend to first insist on the veracity of our initial, spontaneous points of view and then search for justifications of these opinions (even if they are already invalidated). Ideas, which should be considered independent thoughts that mature through others’ inputs, have in fact become the victims of Egyptians and are often used inappropriately or immaturely.

Human beings’ lives are made up of achievements and failures! People naturally tend to exaggerate their successes and play down their failures. However, understating or ignoring our faults prevents us from noticing and overcoming them. “Let me sleep on it” is a universal expression that serves to give people more time to consider a given issue thoroughly. The belief that ideas constitute an essential part of our personalities, prompts us to defend them to death. This cultural drawback results in our inability to have second thoughts!

Senior representatives of the Egyptian government all tend to repeat the same socioeconomic phrases. This is not because their views are in complete harmony; it is due to the common criteria, stemming from its own singular thinking, that the State applies to the selection and promotion of its senior officials. Most government officials don’t dare to exert any effort to produce new ideas that might be seen to challenge the State’s perspective.

Observing Egyptian Ministers regularly reporting only their achievements makes me wonder if they are aware of their failures. I used to attend numerous political party meetings at the end of which individual impressions concerning the meetings’ outputs were often very different. Not knowing what we have agreed upon certainly reflects a lack of basic communication skills and a clear defectiveness in teamwork. Meanwhile, not allowing “second thoughts” into our thinking process prevents us from realizing our drawbacks!

Apparently, establishing a dialogue among Egyptians is a “fearful task”. We believe that by prolonging our rhetoric, we are being more persuasive – unaware that our insensibly long speeches could lead to losing our audiences’ attention completely! Over expressing ourselves reduces our comprehension of other citizens’ perspectives; thus, we continue to operate with our initial thoughts, even if they are redundant.

In Egypt, we live in small, isolated circles wherein a few individuals who share the same thoughts tend to exchange their common opinions with the aim of endorsing one another. Brainstorming sessions among diversified groups often conclude in strong waves of disagreement driven by willful personalities, while our minds are completely absent. As a result, people leave group meetings with ideas that are more rigid than the opinions they had held initially.

Questioning the effectiveness of our “initial thoughts” will better help us to tap into the value of “second thoughts”. Acknowledging that we have a deficiency in our pattern of thinking wherein we refuse to rely on one another to build up ideas is the first move towards producing “second thoughts”. Egyptians need to learn to exchange thoughts with one another until they formulate a mature, practical idea. God has created zillions of different minds – but not a single perfect one.