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 philosophy that says the young must follow their elders blindly, Egyptians are nowadays confronting a strong determination by the youth to break the 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 method of rearing children. 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 that strongly believes 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of this generation therefore try to defend and sustain what they have been doing for decades — even when they know it is obsolete — while the youngsters are often obsessed with change, for better or worse.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).
Egypt is not a coherent, progressive society and our conflict of generations intensifies this condition.
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 have taken 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 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 being 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, the Egyptian youth constitutes an “energy bomb” that has the potential to explode at any moment, and which 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.
- Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir