Search form

Last updated: 11 min 25 sec ago

You are here

Searching for a hero: An Egyptian dilemma

“Late President (Gamal Abdel) Nasser put me behind bars for two years, yet my loyalty to him remained unabated throughout my prison term, and up to the present,” said a renowned Egyptian Nasserist intellectual. Throughout his presidency and beyond, Abdel Nasser was the ultimate hero for millions of Egyptians and Arabs who were ready to give up their freedom rather than question their admiration for their hero or his governance. 
People’s attachment to hero leaders clouds their ability to assess those leaders’ merits and credentials. In almost all Egyptian entities, anyone claiming to possess extraordinary abilities can easily act on behalf of his followers. People who value heroes highly tend to be driven more by their emotions than by rational thinking, yielding numerous negative consequences.
Egyptians are constantly searching for a hero. Our inability to work together has resulted in a quest for someone who can magically and effortlessly solve our problems and satisfy the diverse needs of all citizens. This hero concept was not imposed on Egyptian society; citizens are happy to adhere to it. A hero is often strengthened by the emotional support of followers who continually justify his faults. 
Heroism narratives that the state releases every now and then are not meant for people who use critical thinking, but for those who are prone to irrational thinking. The government’s recent encouragement of unarmed citizens to take on terrorists was an attempt to solve our terrorism challenges by creating a hero. Sadly, this attitude endangers civilians and distances the entire nation from intelligent, methodical thinking about how best to tackle terrorism.
In Egypt, a leader’s success is not measured by his achievements, but by his perceived pleasing personality traits. In the absence of any genuine assessment of a hero’s abilities and actions, Egyptians who claim heroism tend to imitate one another’s behaviors without making tangible contributions. 

Our inability to work together has resulted in a quest for someone who can magically and effortlessly solve our problems and satisfy the diverse needs of all citizens.

Mohammed Nosseir

Most tales about heroes that we hear are inflated considerably to make them more appealing, but our willingness to believe them is what makes them take hold. A hero is completely different from a champion, who wins a straightforward competition and makes the nation proud. Yet the rash heroism concept often prevails over the serious work of true champions. 
Heroism is a false concept that prompts people to behave irresponsibly, beyond their capacities, simply to become heroes — at the expense of being technically driven, which requires much more effort. 
A hero’s blind followers lack knowledge. They are willing to relinquish their powers of thought and to act recklessly. Reluctant to assume responsibility, they assign one person to act on their behalf. So heroes spare no effort in polishing and glorifying their personalities to maintain their image.
Being an Egyptian hero is the ultimate personal status; it concludes in instating an incontestable leader who is difficult to remove, even if he messes up. The hero-leader is a phenomenon that should not belong in the 21st century, but it lingers due to our limited capacity for innovation, our minimal use of technology and the non-enforcement of the rule of law. Egyptians need to do away with this concept completely, and to work hard to realize their achievements scientifically and objectively.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. He can be reached on Twitter @MohammedNosseir