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Maturity and morality, the missing ingredients of democracy in Egypt

Democracy is not about institutional ruling mechanisms, fair elections and freedom of expression alone; building a consensus among all political forces involved in advancing the entire society is equally important. Political consensus (based on constructive dialogue) and a mature society that abides by moral values constitute, together, the spirit of democracy that Egypt needs. Unfortunately, a pronounced disparity exists in our country between mature speech and the spouting of moral platitudes on the one hand, and the reality of immature acts or immoral behavior on the other.
Maturity and morality are qualities that cannot be defined by constitutions or laws. Education and culture play a fundamental role in shaping them both; they are more a reflection of a society’s state of mind. Maturity levels are measured by people’s response when confronted with a true crisis. Morality is revealed when people decide to abide by moral values at the expense of personal interests. Sadly, most Egyptian politicians today tend to favor their political interests over being moral or mature.
In true democracies, politicians abide by a certain level of political maturity and a high degree of morality, and forfeit their personal interests for the sake of their countries. A functioning system of government is essential, but it is not sufficient if politicians behave immaturely. Egypt is going through a challenging transitional phase in which politicians tend to give their immediate personal gains precedence over the country’s progress; thus, the clear majority behaves immaturely, neglecting any form of adherence to moral values.

Egyptian politicians need to scale back their political demands; they need to be more realistic about what it is possible to achieve today versus what we need to work toward in the years to come. 

Mohammed Nosseir 

The state of immaturity that we are currently experiencing makes each citizen believe that his or her perspective is what our nation needs today. Immorality and immaturity cause us to be shortsighted and to value small personal advantages today over our nation’s future potential gains. Unhappily, many of the politicians who behave immaturely are not aware of their limitations and tend to believe that they are standing by their principles. In fact, immorality in Egypt is more of a social fault that exists in many areas of life. It would be wrong to accuse politicians alone of immoral behavior.
Egyptian politicians failed in their revolutionary attempts because they behaved immaturely on many occasions, and did not abide by any code of political ethics, so the genuine reforms that were the revolution’s objectives were not achieved. Egyptian citizens, instinctively realizing the futility of supporting politicians who are unable to achieve a consensus on any given issue, decided to retain the present united ruling mechanism rather than establish a new, fragmented, ruling model. This drawback too does not just apply to politics; many socioeconomic issues have been subjected to the same process.
Maturity is not an inevitable result of seniority; many of our senior politicians exhibit extremely immature behavior. Education and culture play a key role in enabling people to behave maturely and morally. We Egyptians tend to be an individualistic society driven by single-minded (as opposed to collective) efforts. We need to reconsider our system of education, which is based on digesting knowledge that will eventually be tested, but doesn’t teach us the importance of mature behavior and respect for moral values.
Immature behavior on the part of political forces is not an excuse for the rest of us to emulate their actions. Although not everyone accepts this reality, moving our country forward needs genuinely mature and moral politicians. Egyptian politicians need to scale back their political demands; they need to be more realistic about what it is possible to achieve today versus what we need to work toward in the years to come. We must address our cultural deficiency — not only to help us achieve a better political standing, but also to enhance our culture in many fields.

• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir