Wednesday,24 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)
Wednesday,24 April, 2019
Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The chauvinism of Egyptians

Egyptians are proud of their history, their army and their resilience as a nation, and all with good reason, writes Galal Nassar

اقرأ باللغة العربية

Chauvinism is defined as exaggerated belief and fanaticism about something and arrogance in dealing with all things different. It is the absence of rationale and good judgement by being prejudiced, devoted and biased to a group one belongs to, especially when this belief or bias is accompanied with degrading peer groups and holding prejudice against them. It also means blind dedication or excessive patriotism, absolute admiration of one’s country, enthusiasm for its military and historical glory, and passionate belief that one’s country is the best in the world and above all others.

Some accuse the Egyptian people of being very chauvinistic based on this definition. They are always boasting about their historical glories, especially their civilisation, which is deep set in the origins of history for more than 7,000 years. They are a people who are proud of their army, their soldiers and leaders irrespective of the political regime commanding these leaders. For Egyptians, the army is the pillar that guards the country, protects it from harm, secures its sacred borders that have not changed since the beginning of time and were never tarnished by annexing other land.

Most of Egypt’s rulers had military backgrounds and the national army has become the guarantor and patron of the system of governance, and the balancing factor between the people and the ruler. While it is firepower in the hand of the ruler, it is composed of the sons of simple folk, farmers, the middle class, all types and classes of society. It was never the army of a sect or class or elite or specific ruler, and has never turned on the people or was used to suppress or kill.

Regardless of international or academic classifications, the Egyptian people view their army as the best in the world, the strongest, most patriotic and loyal. In recent years, following the Arab Spring, the people are the ones who are protecting the army while other national armies have become targets for terrorists and anarchists. The people have become the guardians of the army against anarchy.

Being unconventional and indifferent to the definition of chauvinism, the Egyptian people believe they are makers of history and civilisation with a trove of cultural wealth. Whatever hardships arise, they are vanquished by the wisdom of thousands of years, stockpiles of experience, joking and a good sense of humour. Adapting to, engaging in and ending crises has occurred thousands of times, and no other people possess these human and civilisational experiences. Any problem is a stumbling block that does not undermine Egypt’s eminence, value, role or the stature of its people.

Deteriorating morals, services, education, healthcare and culture do not disturb them as much as other people because Egyptians view it as a temporary decline that will soon correct itself, and Egyptians will once again rise to the forefront of nations to a place none other can fill — no matter their power and temporary progress. A moment of history for Egyptians could last hundreds of years.

We are currently facing a dilemma by contemporary standards and a setback by the historic standards of the Egyptian people. The 2017 census revealed serious results about the size of the population inside and outside Egypt, of more than 104 million, poverty and unemployment rates, the amount of wasted resources, moral and familial breakdown due to marriage, divorce, street children and underage marriages. These are all indicators that sound a loud alarm that the nation is at risk and needs work and special skills to recover into a better reality.

A tremendous amount of work on the ground is needed despite all the crises, price hikes and inflation, which begs these questions: How can this people who are burdened with major crises and troubles manage their daily lives with this much patience and determination? How did all attempts to destroy them fail, while other people in the region have descended into complete chaos and collapse? How did all efforts to trigger strife between Muslims and Copts fail in dividing and tearing apart the national fabric? How did all moves to put Egypt under economic siege and inflict terrorist attacks fail to trigger a counter-revolution to the 30 June Revolution that overthrew Muslim Brotherhood rule, its president, guidance bureau and followers? How do Egyptians tolerate weekly harsh economic reform measures without rebelling or destroying the temple out of despair?

The answer is this unique condition of chauvinism that makes Egyptians throughout history proud of their country, army and military and political leadership. Both revolutions in 2011 and 2013 are a source of pride and joy because Egyptians made history; they removed one ruler they saw as despotic and another who was a phony and tool in the hands of fascists. No people in the world carried out two revolutions in two years. After the 30 June 2013 Revolution, chauvinism was high and the ensuing siege was fuel for patriotic feelings, confrontation and resilience. Victory is paramount in this war that was waged against the people.

No matter what our view is of the Egyptian people’s chauvinism, once we look at the events and journey of this people we can only confirm it has become a shield and safeguard for them in times of crisis, strengthening their cohesion and unity in the face of challenges. It is not an illusion. Egypt and Egyptians have unique abilities that you do not realise until you leave, if you are an Egyptian; or when you visit after a long absence, if you are a foreigner. The majesty of the land, the historic wealth and magnitude, the warm welcome and hospitality are an unusual blend that is hard to imitate. It carries the secret of happiness, despite the hardships of reality. Long live Egyptian chauvinism.

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