It was a year ago that the flurry of events began. While the revolution changed the destiny of an entire nation, it also changed so much about me and my perception of my own culture.
Before that fateful day, I had generally accepted a very dismal view of Egypt and Egyptians: that it was a stagnant country, a backwater with an entire populace suffering from incompetency or, at the very least, apathy. I felt it was up to me, or someone else out there, to shake that country out of that feeling. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to do that from a different continent.
It may have been the reason I had become so attached to politics and social justice. Seeing and hearing those things in Egypt everyday shook me to my core and spoke to my inner values. Since I left Egypt, I grew up in an environment that emphasized and prioritized good financial sense. What I have found, however, is that those values are not always compatible with social justice. You can’t always make solid, ‘efficient’ economic decisions without leaving somebody out in the cold or putting them in a very dire economic situation. I had learned that even though good economic sense is essential for long-term success, it can’t be the only way to go on living.
I had hoped that someday, Egyptians would wake up and realize that for themselves. And if it never happened, that I would somehow help them achieve that. I don’t know how: maybe as a political leader, or a business leader, or a community leader…I never really knew how I fit in this picture. But, to be honest, ever since the January 25 revolution, I don’t think I fit in this picture anymore. It seems that Egyptians have woken up and finally realized that they are worth something. It seems that they realized their country is worth so much, and that they have the right to live in dignity and respect.
I don’t agree with everything that Egyptians believe in: having lived abroad for years, I don’t agree with how women are marginalized and targeted for violence and harassment, even if it is unintentional. I don’t agree with the fervent hatred against anyone who does not conform to the major social fabric. There are highly marginalized communities in Egypt, and they deserve as much respect from the government as anyone else. If that respect doesn’t start with the people, then it needs to come from the government first. While this ‘top-down’ approach may not resolve everything, it will at least be a step forward in educating people that those minorities are not evil. While I do not endorse what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, I do not agree with Egyptians that we need to sever ties with Israel or, even worse, go to war with them. The time for brute force has passed. I do not want to tarnish Egypt’s reputation by seeming radical with our eastern neighbours, even if it is done pursuing something noble like standing up for oppressed Palestinians. I am sure there is an alternative solution that won’t cost Egyptians their reputation or the lives of young Egyptians, if we have to go to war with Israel (heaven forbid).
I do what I can to help Egypt from my end. I write about the subject, and inform my friends as much as I can. I want to help my country someday. I want to be on the front line of this strange and uncertain political landscape, doing what I can and contributing the little bit that I know in order to make this country a better place. I do not know how I fit into that right now, but perhaps that will change in the future. I pray that an opportunity will come, and that I will be up to the task and have valuable knowledge to provide.
Whatever my future is, I now know and appreciate the value of sacrifice in something that you believe. As a law student, I fully believe that the law is an absolutely essential part of our lives, even if some people perceive it as a corrupt system, an outdated concept, or an aspect of life that somehow doesn’t apply to them. I fully appreciate the fact that I must sacrifice my time, effort, and even happiness in order to achieve something that I believe in. I believe that everyone has a right to have fair access to justice, regardless of their alleged crime or the totality of their circumstances. It’s a concept that is not fully appreciated in Egypt right now, but it’s the basis of good governance if Egypt is to ever get through these difficult times and move to be a more just and fair society to all its citizens.
It’s my hope. It’s my dream. It’s my aspiration. If the unthinkable idea of the downfall of Mubarak has already happened, who knows what else Egyptians can accomplish?