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National myth in Egypt

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Unless we, the people, and the regime that is in charge of the country, admit that we are very close to rock bottom, we had better be prepared to face the dire consequences.

Refaat Mohamed
21 January 2013

I was attending a workshop conducted by a Lebanese filmmaker who lived most of her life in the US, and we were talking about Egypt. She said that she fled to Egypt as a kid from the civil war in Lebanon, and went again around 2007. This time, she said, things are really changing, and to the shock of most of those present, added that things are getting much much worse.

My fellow participants and I did not see this coming. But if we were shocked, so was the filmmaker who couldn’t believe that we didn’t see this for ourselves.

Thinking about it, for as long as I can remember Egyptians in all the different strata of society have been fed the notion that Egyptians are a kind of higher race, or a different race to be more precise. Egyptians are capable of great things, but they have fallen for this self-congratulatory stance hook, line and sinker. Competing athletically, we are supposed to win just because we are Egyptians. Egyptians think that no common or garden monetary or economic rules apply to us. The Egyptian pound can do well just because it is the Egyptian pound. Egyptians would survive the most adverse conditions just because they are descendants of the pharaohs.

We tend to believe that given a slightly more benign environment we could conquer the business world, and procure for ourselves the most beautiful women without the usual hassle that the rest of the world needs to undergo. Hence the many Egyptian youngsters who drown in the middle of the sea, convinced they are about to reach the better shores offered by Europe.

The former regime loved this and nurtured it. It worked hard to underpin the myth and render its magic more powerful, because this was a numbing effect. It deflected people from their worries, and sustained their hopes regardless.  That is one big reason why no problem ever had to be solved by the former regime, and this state of affairs seems still to be the case.

Morsi’s administration is following the doctrine of Mubarak’s regime to the letter, which is not as surprising as it might sound. The truth is, they loved what Mubarak’s regime was doing with regard to the media, information, freedom of speech, and propaganda. So the media is demonized; false information is widely on offer; freedom of speech is confined to the boundaries they require; and the propaganda machine is up and running at full spate. Still enjoying a plentiful supply of credibility among the common public, the current regime is doing its best to deny we are facing any profound problems, shamelessly bragging about minor or non-existent accomplishments even on the part of the president himself, surrounding themselves in hot air, and blaming anyone to hand who is not half as involved as they are  - the opposition, the media, and foreign conspiracies – for anything that goes wrong. This is very similar to what you would have heard from the regime three years ago. And it is completely different from what Morsi and his friends were yelling about at the same time.

Logically, problem-solving processes start by identifying a problem and thereby admitting that it does exist. So unless we, the people, and the regime that is in charge of the country, admit that we are very close to rock bottom, we had better be prepared to face the dire consequences.

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