Who is influencing Egypt: the elites or the masses?

Egyptian elites appear to be enjoying driving their luxury cars on the country’s congested roads

Mohammed Nosseir
Mohammed Nosseir
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People may believe that being part of the privileged social elite naturally leads to steering and influencing the less privileged members of society. Regrettably, this is not the case, at least not in Egypt where the ruling regime cleverly makes use of the needs and dynamics of different social segments to create divisions among them, eventually making it easier for the state to rule the country effectively and to better manipulate its citizens, at the expense, obviously, of true progress.

Egyptian elites appear to be enjoying driving their luxury cars on the country’s congested roads. In reality, they are scared to death of being hit by the heavy trucks or mindless minibuses that literally control Egyptian thoroughfares.

Meanwhile – for the sake of further enhancing citizens’ appreciation of its role – the traffic police whose function is to regulate traffic is deliberately absent, leaving all kinds of vehicles to wrestle one another in a free-for-all. Egyptian traffic police will interfere occasionally to collect fines (to replenish the state’s coffers; not to enforce the law).

Prior to the January 25 revolution, the relationship between the elites and the masses was well defined and accepted by both sides. The streets belonged to the masses, and the elites (protected by the state and served by the masses) hid inside their gated communities. The masses relied on the elites to hire them, and the state favored the elites by offering them exclusive business opportunities to enable them to accommodate the expanding masses. In the meantime, the elites also had another, implicit, mission: to control and restrain the masses, who understood that to encroach upon ‘the realm of the elites’ was strictly prohibited.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has never bothered to appeal to Egypt’s elites, is known to be the group that dominates over the masses

Mohammed Nosseir

Egyptian movies portrayed elites as individualistic, laidback, cowardly citizens who met at their exclusive clubs and engaged in destructive discussions, whereas the masses were depicted as patriotic, energetic, heroic citizens, willing to offer their lives in the service of their country.

The two segments of society were completely isolated from one another, enabling the state to govern Egypt more easily – for better or for worse! The 25 January revolution, however, allowed the elites and the masses to join forces and revolt against the state and its ruler.

Revolution and economy

The revolution’s failure has adversely affected the economic condition of Egypt’s elites and masses, respectively. Nevertheless, the educated elites, quickly and incontestably, reached an understanding with the state, agreeing to abandon the idea of revolution in return for being allowed to keep their wealth and to regain the protection of the state.

With essentially nothing to lose, however, the illiterate masses haven’t settled down yet; they want to hang on to the tiny foretaste of civil rights that they experienced during the revolution – obviously gained at the expense of the elites, and by undermining the power of the state.

The state often enables the masses to express their potential “cruel threats” towards the elites, while at the same highlighting possibly corrupt transactions allegedly undertaken by the elites, thus fuelling each social segment against the other. Maintaining and fomenting social tension, the state applies these same methods to various segments of society; creating fractions among Egyptians helps to empower the state – at the expense of the nation and its citizens.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has never bothered to appeal to Egypt’s elites, is known to be the group that dominates over the masses! It often works on recruiting the Egyptian middle class, which is talented in manipulating the masses, and capitalizes on the poor performance of different Egyptian governments. Potentially capable of using the masses to revolt against the state, the Muslim Brotherhood will therefore always constitute a disgraceful element in the eyes of the elites, and the number one enemy of the state.

Today, Egypt is left with elites that have willingly accepted their own marginalization and who explicitly bless the state’s use of the harsh measures it deems appropriate in dealing with the masses. Whereas the mindless masses, with nothing to lose, continue to grow in number, making it substantially more difficult for the state to again leash out at them with its outdated methods, rigid mindset and repressive policies. This situation evidently detracts from any attempts to democratize and modernize our country.

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).

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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