By Arab News
By Mohammed Nosseir*
More prejudice, complete polarization, and substantially less tolerance — these are the results of a few years’ journey since the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution in Egypt. Egyptian society used to be a remarkably considerate place, where friendships and even business partnerships could be established between rival political parties. Nowadays, every citizen feels the need to declare their political stance unequivocally; a stance that entails sentiments of hatred toward opponents without any kind of compassion.
Prior to the revolution, political arguments took place among a tiny segment of politicians, whereas the vast majority of citizens did not dare to talk about politics — at least publicly. Fortunately, those politicians used to display some degree of maturity. The revolution has resulted in opening wide the door, enabling each citizen to give his or her take on every single political development. Millions of politically ignorant citizens disputing topics that they know absolutely nothing about have worked on advancing our polarization extensively.
We Egyptians used to share a large common ground in which we lived together happily. Presently, we live in a black and white battlefield wherein each disputing party has deliberately departed the common ground, moving to its hardcore doctrine. Our intolerance and complete lack of sympathy for others has led to the adoption of a solidly prejudiced perspective that keeps intensifying our society’s polarization. Meanwhile, for reasons that I am not aware of, the Egyptian state exerts no efforts to ease this social tension; on the contrary, its policy aggravates it.
I personally used to have many good friends who were closely affiliated to former President Hosni Mubarak; they were open-minded citizens who accepted my criticism of the ruling regime and were willing to engage in constructive dialogue. Mubarak himself used to keep track of many opposition intellectuals’ remarks, calling them personally in an effort to better understand their outlooks. Nowadays, I often advise my family and friends to avoid entering into any kind of political discussion with adversaries in order to safeguard the bonds of friendship.
Egyptians who are affiliated to the current ruling regime believe that the state can easily turn our country into an advanced nation, without promoting any kind of social unification efforts. Aside from being completely impractical, their perspective, in fact, reflects the prejudiced environment that we live in. This political stance not only keeps the regime’s opponents at a distance; it clearly targets them as enemies. Obviously, enemies spare no efforts to fight back fiercely, using both legal and illegal means.
A chairperson of a charitable organization recently stated that the financial donations received by his organization this year were triple the amount received the previous year. How can a society that donates billions of pounds to charity every year be lacking in basic sympathy? Egyptians, in my opinion, tend to differentiate between their political positioning (that has no true basis in substance) and their feelings of consideration for the less fortunate portion of society. They extend their sympathy toward the poor — as long as they have no links to their respective political opponents.
What has happened to Egyptians during the past few years? Is it a genuine paradigm of our moral values, or is it a chronic deficiency of ethical values that has been unleashed in the wake of the revolution, having being hidden for centuries? I am not yet able to figure out the answer to this question. The current social status quo is weakening our socioeconomic standing, including that of citizens who are benefiting from this situation (who may be oblivious to this fact due to their shortsighted outlook).
The divided, prejudiced, apathetic society that we live in is affecting us all. Overcoming this challenge should be through the initiative of citizens or executives affiliated to the ruling regime. In the black and white battlefield that we inhabit, battle lines should be drawn based on moral values, not ideologies. We need to agree on topics wherein we can compete legally while subjecting citizens who engage in any kind of illegal activity to lawful punishment — a proposition that is in sharp contrast to the current state of affairs.
*Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosse