Praiser or hater, in Egypt there’s not much in between
The cultural tendency of Egyptian society is to express opinions categorically, irrespective of knowledge or validation.
This has created a polarized society that is split between citizens who believe that expressing emotional endorsement of government policies is the ultimate support that our country needs, and others who believe that drawing the government’s attention to its deficiencies is the most effective route to progress. Our government, in all likelihood, takes no notice of either group’s outlook.
I am sure that all members of Egyptian society want to see their country advance rapidly. However, we are living in an era that has divided our society between critics and praisers; the two parties have never reached any degree of consensus concerning a single policy or issue. While millions of citizens spend their time and energy debating its policies in this “zero-sum” game, our government has never considered altering any of its policies in response to citizens’ remarks.
The Egyptian government believes that it can boost citizen morale by intensifying the role of its praisers. The state therefore offers all Egyptian media outlets exclusives to those who praise it and work on conveying government policies to the viewers. For years, Egyptians have been living with the dilemma of spending their evenings listening to exaggerated praise of government policies on TV shows, only to confront stiff challenges and miserable reality the following morning.
We are living in an era that has divided our society between critics and praisers; the two parties have never reached any degree of consensus concerning a single policy or issue.
In Egypt, giving praise is a simple and neat job that requires no qualifications other than the ability to be loud on TV shows and to attract multiple viewers. Although praising has become a field of activity in itself, the government, aware of praisers’ limited capabilities, never appoints them to actual jobs or assigns them specific responsibilities. Nevertheless, given that “there ain't no such thing as a free lunch," the work these praisers do pulling a dark curtain over many citizens’ eyes comes at a considerable cost to our national economy.
Egyptian praisers often accuse government critics of demoralizing society with their continuous harsh judgments. In return, critics accuse them of not being of any added value to our country (conceding that applause is not a real value). The Egyptian Grand Museum’s new logo, which was lately the subject of debate between both teams, symbolizes the rift between the two groups in Egypt; while the critics have expressed strong disappointment in the design and believe that Egypt can do substantially better, the praisers endorse the logo wholeheartedly.
Egyptians who are in power often want to apply their own thinking exclusively. This would be a constructive attitude if these executives possessed solid accumulative knowledge in their designated fields. Unfortunately, the appointment of the majority of our executives tends not to be based on their demonstrated competence, but on their affiliation to the regime. The combination of inadequate knowledge and a refusal to listen to alternative opinions is impeding our country’s progress.
Critics and praisers exist even within the ruling regime; the critics work on questioning their peers’ qualifications with the intention of taking over their positions. Obviously, these critics assert that although they don’t approve of their peers’ work, they continue to be loyal to the regime. Although much of their expertise lies exclusively in criticizing the government, Egyptian critics would struggle hopelessly were the government to challenge them with appointments to serious positions.
It is certainly in the interest of the Egyptian minister of antiquities to develop a remarkable logo for the museum, but the government’s tendency to rely on its cadres is the source of our regression. Our country has thousands of talented designers capable of developing a brand identity for the museum that will meet the expectations of many experts. What Egypt needs in order to progress is a governing mechanism based on merit in which critics and praisers play a minimal role.
Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir