How to reverse the decline in Egypt’s morality
As their citizens evolve, nations’ cultural norms go through clear ups and downs. The dilemma in Egypt is that morality is on a sharp downward trend, with no sign of a possible change of course. We Egyptians used to abide by a significant set of moral values that constituted a common ethical code among rich and poor, well-educated and illiterate. Today, the values that we had happily espoused for centuries have deteriorated seriously, reaching a risky, low level of immorality.
One of our main morality dilemmas is our overconfidence in our individual perspectives concerning righteousness and sin. Certain behaviors and practices that, in the eyes of a given group of Egyptians are absolutely perfect, may be perceived to be completely indecent by others, who share the same background. Each Egyptian citizen operates according to his or her own “manual” of what they define as moral values; there no longer appears to be a common norm that is shared by the entire society.
People normally need to have a clearly defined moral framework and set of guidelines that they can follow. This does not currently exist in Egypt — and it is probably absent on purpose. Alternatively, or even ahead of applying a moral guideline, Egypt needs proper law enforcement that, if well applied, will fine-tune citizens’ behaviors. This kind of government failing in the fields of law enforcement and morality has left the entire Egyptian population to move unguided in a grey area of immorality and unapplied laws.
The Egyptian state often argues that it is doing its best to rule and stabilize Egypt and its large population, while some pundits believe that our deteriorating morality is due to our accumulating economic challenges and the substantial increase in our population. In fact, I believe that the decline in our moral values is the result of the defects in the present government’s approach to ruling its citizens. Poverty and illiteracy are common socioeconomic factors that have existed in our history for centuries; nevertheless, even when both were in effect, individual citizens used to apply a high degree of morality.
One of our main morality dilemmas is our overconfidence in our individual perspectives concerning righteousness and sin
Egyptians who believe that they are abiding by a perfect set of moral values are often comparing their adopted value standards to those of others who obviously suffer from a deficiency of moral values. However, with the mean bar of moral values set so low, the few who feel that they are morally superior are still not complying with the minimum prerequisites of morality. Meanwhile, the application of moral standards functions best when we are certain we can escape the legal consequences of our wrongdoings, yet refrain from unethical behavior that doesn’t comply with our moral values. In Egypt, however, our immorality works to manipulate the rule of law.
The Egyptian state has for decades been prompting individual citizens to look after their personal business interests. This has created a social condition in which Egyptians are fully occupied with maximizing their personal earnings, neglecting to apply any kind of morality. Citizens don’t even notice their moral failings — especially when they observe the immoral behavior of many Egyptian celebrities (politicians, wealthy citizens, artists, famous professionals, etc.).
The creation of this kind of individualistic understanding of morality has generated an immoral, chaotic nation of low integrity, where law enforcement is weak and wherein each citizen justifies his or her immoral acts and accuses the rest of society of being unethical. Meanwhile, the inadequate and dysfunctional rule of law that triggers citizens to commit minor wrongdoings can eventually empower them to undertake immoral acts that may entail illegal activity.
To regain our lost moral values, we need to work in a different direction involving leadership, law enforcement and the development of personal awareness. Executives in various positions need to set the example by implementing moral standards and explaining the benefits of morality for individuals and society. Meanwhile, proper application of the rule of law will certainly fine-tune citizens’ behaviors by prompting them to promote righteousness in society, regardless of personal returns. Egyptians need to realize that a moral society will serve them better.
- Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir