Whatever Happened to the Egyptians?!


Whatever Happened to the Egyptians
Whatever Happened to the Egyptians

Did we grasp the fundamental message delivered on many stages by Dr. Galal A. Amin, professor of economics at the American University in Cairo, and author of the best-selling eye-opener book Whatever Happened to the Egyptians, the Arabic version of which was awarded the Cairo International Book Fair Prize for the best book in Social Studies in 1998?

Dr. Galal presented in his book a picturesque overview of the Egyptian society and the changes unleashed over the past 50 years, in other words, since the toppling of King Farouk, the last Egyptian monarch, by the Egyptian army. He dealt with changes, whether positive or negative, as a phenomenon that needs to be endorsed and comprehended in order to be able to live with it and adjust it when needed. He did not pinpoint the source of troubles or negativity just with the aim of presenting a bleak image of the country and tarnishing what is left of its glamour.

And he surely did not say that we have become a fallen miserable nation wherein no adjustment can be applied. All he said is that We “Egyptians” have undergone certain type and certain level of change, calling on us to understand how far have we changed in order to know where we’re standing and begin to take correct and measured steps towards a better future.

It’s a smart endeavor describing the many changes developed, challenges faced, and corruption that crept into the Egyptian social, political, economic and cultural being throughout those 50 years, supporting his argument and views, as usual, with accurate facts and figures based on extensive academic researching and the studies.

Not sure if we, whether those of us who read it or haven’t read the book comprehended the message Dr Galal attempted to communicate through this smart endeavour to describe what has become of the Egyptian society, starting off with the early years of the Nasser Revolution, reaching the peak of corruption, development and changes, both positive and negative, felt in the social, economic and political flux of our present time.

Well I’m definitely not trying to evaluate Dr. Amin’s work, released what? eight years ago. What I’m trying bring into focus here is the faulty assessment of the core source of the Egyptian society’s woes. Why are people failing, purposefully, to reckon the nightmare approaching our lives if we didn’t shed off the dust covering our eyes and blocking the vision of a possible bright future?

Even though the book hit the book markets eight years ago, I call on all Egyptians to reread it and ponder accurately what the man wants to say.

I’m not speaking politics here, and I’m not addressing political figures, on the contrary, my concern here is the Egyptian nation with all of its diverse and rich social sections, beginning with the lower sections up to the Elites, or in other words those who used to be the Elites and now belong to the upper mediate standard, ending at the top of the fancy bright world of the Business Echelons.

Dr Amin acknowledged the negativity that swept into our society, but at the same time he presents a very descriptive analysis of the stage of evolvement and journey of change undergone by our nation.

In a staunch critique discussing the book, Mark Skousen, appeared judgmental, subjective and above all grasping the totally wrong message from all that Galal Amin attempted to say in his book. Even though he seemed quite supportive of Dr Amin’s book, he missed out on a lot of tactful assessment of our society, going so far as to label us Egyptians “a fallen nation”.

Here’s what he narrates to have seen in Egypt upon his arrival with his family:

“Arriving in Cairo to see the ancient pyramids, we also saw filthy canals, undrinkable water, dire poverty, noisy traffic, teeming millions, incessant vendors and dust everywhere.”

Not sure what made him only spot this load of negativity as if he’s arrived in “Hell”. Before somebody stands up and preach me on passivity and the necessity of facing reality, calm down I’m not suggesting that we remain like ostriches burying our heads in the sand, and I’m not naively resenting the fact that some foreign professor and speaker on economics came to our nation and didn’t like the loads of dust we ourselves cant put up with anymore.

But what disturbed me is his miserable failure to portrait a credible view of a country, he, more than a lot of other academics and economic experts, knows quite well it stands out as one of the very few Middle Eastern countries that has developed majorly in the last 50 years, despite of the potent challenges it’s been facing and the clear negativity prevailing in some of its vital sectors.

It makes me wonder how come Mr Skousen is referred to as the “maverick” of economics for his “optimistic” views on economics and investment industries. 

I call on all Egyptians reread the book to understand that the middle class did not parish as some mistakenly believe. It’s the lower social class that has developed while the bourgeoisie deteriorated sharply, and the result, both social classes dissolved into one, facing up to the gap left between them and the upper class, known in the past as the Elite, and now descried by some as the Nouveau riche and by others as the class ruled by Business Echelons and their branches spreading across the country.

It’s important to understand the changes and challenges facing the country, and let’s not just focus on negativity, let’s just grasp the lesson, live the change and adapt to the challenges, and I don’t mean give in, but adapt in the sense of building on what’s already there, there’s no time to keep pitying our fate and reminiscing on good old days when education was made available for all, bread was cheap and made available as well, and the gap between the rich and poor wasn’t as nightmarish as it seems nowadays. Let’s move on for God’s sake, there’s no time to waste. Be productive, intuitive, resolute and effective. Enough negativity, enough despair.

It’s time to dry up our tears and rise up to face the challenges, some of which are already facing us and some still awaiting or nation in the very near future. It won’t be long before the entire sections of the Egyptian society sense the difficulties awaiting them in terms of economic difficulties and future challenges. It’s only a matter of time.

Let’s not lay the entire responsibility on the shoulders of the government and stand passively watching. Pinpointing the core of our troubles is crucial at this stage in the history or Egypt. The solution lies within each of us. It’s you who can change and challenge difficulties. Don’t stand arms folded as you watch your lost dreams falling apart.

We are the best assessors of our nation and its current status, we just need to “Watch and Assess” carefully.

Try to see the light at the end of the tunnel and pursue it… See the positive and develop it further.

Otherwise, I don’t promise you a much better future.

 Maha Youssuf


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