OPINION: Egyptian patriotism: Critics vs sycophants
Rulers who enjoy being complimented should also listen to those who disagree with their policies, Mohammed Nosseir writes
“Stability and frequent praise of the ruler will move us forward.” Astonishingly and sadly, many Egyptians strongly believe in this false notion and abide by it strictly. This often goes hand-in-hand with the condemnation of all critics, who are automatically categorized as disloyal citizens.
Egyptian rulers tend to surround themselves with people who make them comfortable, who constantly eulogize and applaud their ideas. They are thus placing themselves in a position that makes listening to critics who oppose their ideas very difficult.
Egyptians enjoy receiving compliments! Indeed, who does not like to be continually admired for their work? Admirers, however, do not develop nations, especially when most of these are beneficiaries of the state. Sadly, many rulers surround themselves with their favorite devotees, regarding all critics as enemies.
Rulers who enjoy being complimented should also listen to those who disagree with their policies; they should evaluate all ideas according to their substance and potential for implementation – not the identity of their initiators.
Because our leaders always want someone to endorse their perspectives, they tend to surround themselves with more sycophants and to distance themselves from critics. The result, unfortunately, is that the Egyptian state has fenced itself in behind a barrier of many sycophants who consistently and continuously praise all decisions made by state leaders.
The more their praise is couched in good rhetoric, the closer these sycophants are able to get to the state’s decision-makers. Sycophants are, in fact, a group of mediocre and lazy citizens who have nothing of substance to offer our country, aside from flattering the government (if this sin can be considered a virtue).
Some argue, quite sincerely, that patriotism is about supporting the ruler and the state – even if one is aware, well in advance, that their policies are not beneficial; blind support of the ruler is always needed, regardless of his policies.
According to this logic, a nation that stands united behind a single course of action is more successful than one that has diversified opinions; thus, justification of the ruler’s decisions and policies is always required. This line of thought obviously completely disregards the role of opponents and critics, and even brands them as traitors and betrayers.
The hypothesis of critics and sycophants is also applied to relations between Egypt and other nations. Countries that make remarks or comments concerning the political or economic path that Egypt is pursuing are commonly perceived as enemies, even when these remarks are a sincere product of goodwill.
If the Egyptian state doesn’t have enough sympathy and tolerance to listen to those of its own citizens who differ with its polices, it obviously won’t listen to the advice of other nations, some of which is even regarded as conspiratorial, part of a plot against our nation.
As an emerging country, Egypt needs more people who have new ideas and who are strongly committed to the implementation of these ideas. The sycophants who are currently dominating the entire political scene cannot offer a single new idea. At present, our country is torn between people who exaggerate and amplify the benefits and merits of our government’s actions and policies and others who are substantially undermining the same; neither party is helping Egypt to progress.
If we assume that the two sides have valid opinions (which I personally doubt), then we are in the truly unenviable position of not being able to differentiate between that which benefits our country and that which harms it.
Egyptians who don’t believe that that their country is on the right track must be given proper room to express their concerns. They are not the state’s enemies; they simply perceive things from a different perspective, based on their experiences. Rulers are the ones who can either open or close the “sycophant / critic channels”.
In Egypt, and probably in many Middle East countries, we definitely need to prompt rulers to open up wider opportunities to their critics. Additionally, rulers need to admit that they cannot be right or wrong all the time. Establishing a constructive debate of ideas between ruling regimes and their critics is a vital step for all nations.
Mohammed Nosseir is an Egyptian liberal politician who advocates for advancing liberalism, political participation, and economic freedom. Mohammed was member of the higher committee at the Democratic Front Party from 2007 to 2012, and then member of the political bureau of the Free Egyptian Party till mid 2013. Mohammed advocates for his work through providing the Egyptian government with a number of schemes to better reform its government institutes, as well as he is a regular contributor to various Egyptian newspapers. Mohammed also has extensive experience in the private sector, working with a number of international companies assisting them in expanding their businesses in the Middle East. Mohammed graduated from Faculty of Commerce, Ain Shams University, Cairo (1986); he participated at Aspen Seminar on Leadership, Values and Good Society (2011), Eisenhower Fellow, Multi-National Program (2009) and Stanford Fellow for Democracy, Development & Rule of Law (2008).