Egypt’s going through a critical phase in its history that will surely affect its, as well as the whole world’s, face. Egypt is infectious. Anything that happens here will take the Middle East, the backyard of Europe. The examples for this in history are many. 1 in 4 Arabs lives in Egypt. The importance of Egypt cannot be sufficiently underlined.
As most of the world will be affected by this development, many countries, especially regional ones, are trying to have a strong say in the new face of Egypt. This reminds me of a lecture I learned in school from my history teacher about how you should react while voting. We generally used to believe that during any vote there are three options – Yes, No or Withhold – and that the best thing to do if you’re unsure is to just Withhold. In reality, however, there are just two options: Yes or No. In withholding you actually support the side that gets the most votes, either the Yes or No, even if it’s against your will. So in withholding you’re not withholding, but in fact voting for a side. The message to take home: it would be better to decide rather than support a side against another by the mere incompetence of making up your mind and taking action!
Now to bring this back to Egypt today. Egypt is going through a transitional phase, forming its future face. Each country is trying to follow its own interest, empowering special groups on the ground, which was pretty obvious from the flags raised during a recent Friday demonstration in Tahrir square. These countries chose a side; they voted! On the other hand there are other countries, especially in Europe, just watching the shift in power taking place since January and only becoming concerned. They’ve decided to Withhold in the hope that if they don’t chose a side they won’t lose. I should tell you: they’re surely wrong.
Let me remind you of the year 1955 after the 1952 Revolution in Egypt. The country was desperately trying to persuade the west to give military aid to the newly formed Egyptian army. It took three years of fruitless negotiations with neither a Yes or a No, another Withhold by the west. The result was that the Soviet Union gave Egypt the military aid (a Yes vote), meaning Egypt went under the Soviet umbrella for 15 years! The difference at that time, however, was that it was easier to follow your interest, as a dictatorship was deciding for the land on the Nile. Now the situation is more complex, as the masses need to be convinced, most of whom are uneducated and therefore easily misled.
The transition Egypt is going through now cannot have any Withholds. Egypt is reaching out for friends, and the ones that’ll provide a hand will surely have a great say in its development, the wider region and the world. Egypt must and will rise up. Egypt needs a functional economy, a new education system, new technical schools in the provinces and a functioning health system. Europe knows this and Egypt knows that Europe knows this. So why the Withhold?
By initiating such projects, especially in the provinces, new bridges will be formed between Egypt and Europe. Each Egyptian in the provinces, which will comprise the electorate in any coming election, will know he’s being taught in schools funded by Europe and will always remember this throughout his life. When he later gets a job, and remembers this in contrast to his unemployed father, he’ll think of Europe as his friend (as he used to think about the Soviet Union when they helped him with the high dam!) and will not be easily misled by fanatical slogans or extremist propaganda.
I learned that chances are like windows: They open for brief periods, but close soon afterward. I hope it’s not already too late.