‘Smart’ government, idiotic leadership

Egypt is marked by a profound contradiction which deserves some comment: Healthy rates of economic growth exist alongside a widespread feeling of despair which dominates broad segments of society. This despair is rooted in the declining living standards of many Egyptians, largely as a result of rapidly rising inflation. But what interests me is the other side of this equation: Those who have benefited from economic growth and now want a greater say in politics.

This class is largely composed of people who are connected, in different ways, to the rest of world and, as a result, have become familiar with societies that are more democratic than our own. They feel resentful, not because they are threatened by hunger or poverty, but because they believe they deserve a greater role in determining the future of the country.

The government may start targeting members of this class in the coming period, especially those who speak their minds on Facebook and internet blogs, circulating information and criticism of the status quo at a pace faster than any form of dissent Egypt has witnessed in the past. These (mostly young) people represent a truly frightening phenomenon for the Egyptian regime. They have begun to despise Egypt’s uncredible official media, which increasingly seems to be run by mechanical minds who have lost the ability to see the world outside the confines of their own slogans and fantasies.

Credibility does not concern the state press because truly understanding the world or changing it are not among its goals. Instead, it aims to impose its authoritarian views–which have no basis in reality–on the country. It propagates myths to control society and convince people that the hardships they experience in their daily lives are not real. What the state media sells as reality is the opposite: a fabricated picture in the service of power, control and repression.

Now it seems that the Egyptian regime, which has built one of the best communication networks in the third world, is rethinking how to deal with the repercussions of this success. The regime does not want the world of media and communication to accommodate all people and their opinions. It was easy for the regime to appoint its own experts to develop the fields of information technology and media so long as they stayed clear of politics. Even the greatest minds can become ossified and impoverished when they find themselves, forced by personal interests and the temptations of power, to defend the political, social and cultural status quo. But human societies do not remain stagnant. They change and develop, and this is best done in an environment that respects freedom of thought.

The regime does not invest in Egypt’s intellectual capacities a fraction of what it invests in its sterile and ridiculous media system, or in narrow technological developments. More importantly, some of the regime’s technical achievements have become a burden to which it is unable to adapt politically, usually responding to digital dissent with plain repression. All of these ills are not the fault of "smart government," with its fine expertise in information technology and economics. Instead, blame belongs to the “idiotic guards" who govern this country despite being universally scorned.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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