Why do Egyptian elites resist liberal values?
Egyptians generally, and the elites in particular, tend to assess and value our country’s economic and political development based on the single and narrow perspective of their personal interests. They work to undermine any change that could benefit society if it comes, however slightly, at their expense.
Many intellectual Egyptians, who often talk about freedom and equality, practice the opposite of what they preach in their daily lives. They tend to pay lip service to these democratic values, simply because this complements the good standing they enjoy in society. But in reality, conformity dominates their lives and inequality serves them best. Even less fortunate Egyptians, who have been truly suffering from the absence of these values, would adopt the same behavior if they were elevated to a better status.
Recognition and exclusivity play a significant role in the life of Egyptians. Being ahead of other citizens pleases the tiny elite, even if the entire society is living in murky waters. The elites often want the state to privilege them and protect them from the masses, which it does with pleasure but at a price. However, the elites are probably not aware that their lives revolve mostly around unethical acts and behaviors.
Are the Egyptian elites, who drive society economically and define the norms that the rest follow, honorable? Many of them will not agree that the wealth and power that they enjoy today, and that intuitively and instantly open many government doors wide, do not stem from their superior qualities.
Ordinary citizens have been knocking on the same doors for years without any luck. This state of affairs enables our elites to compete only with one another, leaving no room for ordinary citizens to even learn where those doors are located.
Naturally, people who have more tend to work harder to protect their power and wealth. Unfortunately, during this process many tend to behave immorally, and often illegally, to defend what they have. This is especially true in a country such as Egypt, where the rule of law is not functioning that well.
Ultimately, the application of liberal democracy, along with offering business opportunities equally to all citizens, will better stabilize and protect the elites.
People whose wealth was realized unethically will expend the same effort to protect it, with the support of the government. The elites’ wealth and status are realized at the expense of our economy generally, and of ordinary citizens. This argument remains valid even if we apply the full-fledged laws of a free-market economy.
Observing the sharp curve in the lives of some Egyptian elites, and their sudden and harsh downfall, should have prompted them to consider a different life path. But apparently, elite status comes with many illusions.
The application of liberal democracy, along with offering business opportunities equally to all citizens, will better stabilize and protect the elites, enabling them to enjoy their lives without threat while abiding by better moral values — an argument that most elites in Egypt do not endorse and work hard to resist.
Uplifting the entire society by properly applying the rule of law will secure the lives of the elite better than the current ambiguous state does. Giving the masses a fair stake in our country will empower them to defend it more than the current policy of marginalizing them, which only leaves the masses worrying about exacting revenge. Liberal democratic values are meant to help all segments of society to better progress.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view