Beginning in late January of last year, the soul of an entire population believed in its strength. Hardly possible by individuals but righteously achievable among peoples, a symbol of all that is wrong with society in Egypt was defeated. The belief that Egyptians have what it takes to build a better country and the determination to seize the opportunity to do so, gave them the chance to do just that. Once that opportunity was achieved, once the country was seen to be taken back from the hands that prohibited progress, the once inspiringly powerful belief in its strength quickly evolved into an uncertain and doubtful skepticism that lacked a clear vision.
When I think about the state of affairs in Egypt, I find myself wondering what vision Egypt has for itself. Without a vision to venture into its quest for a better society, a blueprint to develop that better society remains elusive. Sure, Egyptians want democracy, justice, and a chance at a better life – but what does that entail? What does justice look like? What does democracy look like? In what ways can our society become better?
I hear often from ordinary Egyptians how nothing in Egypt has fundamentally changed – how the ways of old are still so deeply entrenched that any change we see is merely an illusion. I see a politics that is defined by conspiracy and ideology, rather than unity and pragmatism.
What I do not see is a leadership that is based in the strength of the country that only one and a half years ago altered the path of its history. I do not see any vision for what the country’s priorities are, and where it wants to be in six months, one year, five years.
With so much to accomplish, goals for the process of developing a new Egypt must be set. Otherwise, competing priorities and interests will clash and chip away from all angles at the unity of Egypt’s common goal.
A duplicitous military council and a president elected under “less than smooth” circumstances are conducting closed room deals on one hand, and singing to the choir in the newspapers and media on the other hand. The population is therefore left to guess what direction Egypt is being directed into, since it has largely surrendered this responsibility through the less than ideal ballot box.
I want to know where they see Egypt headed in the next few months and years. I would like to hear from elected leaders what they would like to see get done and why – what their vision is.
Will the vision be to first strengthen the judiciary system and the laws for which the following period of legislation will be based? If so, let us hear from the elected leaders what they are doing – and let us see the blueprint for which that vision of the justice system is based on. Let that be their priority and message to the public. Or will the first priority be to manage the fiscal budget in order for the leadership to better manage the economic resources, creating a backstop for economic volatility that will help mitigate economic anxieties and re-focus the political discourse? Or will the plan of action be to first reform the Department of Interior in order to earn trust in the police and bring peace and safety back to the streets – an environment in which trust can then be bestowed into a political process that has at its priority reforming existing institutions?
Whatever the course of action, Egyptians need a vision from their leadership. A vision that Egyptians can give focus to, and summon the strength that proved to exist just last year. Egyptians need to hear from these elected officials, day in and day out, what direction Egypt is headed. All actions, deals, announcements, efforts can then be in a context which everyone, whether they agree or disagree, understands the purpose.
Today Egypt lacks vision and real leadership. Leadership is needed to direct the strength of the population around stated objectives. With so much to be done and so many competing priorities, a narrative needs to be illustrated to give the political discourse in Egypt some direction. We have seen how strong the power of change can be if that change is defined. The hope is that a direction and a focus on clear objectives will result in a renewed effort and renewed belief that big goals are achievable – but if only we knew what they were in Egypt today.