Egypt’s youth fo­rums do not solve the youth’s chal­lenges

Arab News - - OPINION - MO­HAMMED NOSSEIR | SPE­CIAL TO ARAB NEWS

Get­ting to­gether with the younger gen­er­a­tion for a few days will not help re­al­ize their am­bi­tions — what is needed is for the Egyp­tian state to act on the youth’s ba­sic needs.

ONE of Egypt’s dilem­mas is the men­tal gap be­tween the re­al­ity on the ground and our de­sires. This gap is widen­ing be­cause of our ten­dency to build on our own fan­tas­tic, un­re­al­is­tic ideas while ne­glect­ing the ugly truth that we need to ad­dress. The se­ries of youth con­fer­ences or­ga­nized by the gov­ern­ment sum­ma­rizes this dilemma. The Egyp­tian state is en­gag­ing with our youth to “in­spire” them, while tak­ing no no­tice of the every­day re­al­ity con­fronting them.

Egypt’s youth con­fer­ences are an il­lu­sory idea that has be­come even more fan­ta­sized by be­ing turned into world fo­rums sim­ply by invit­ing youths from many coun­tries. Our youth’s chal­lenges are not re­solved by these con­fer­ences.

The state does not see eye to eye with our youth; it has not even man­aged to rec­og­nize their true needs yet. Young peo­ple’s thought pro­cesses and knowl­edge are tuned into a com­pletely dif­fer­ent chan­nel than that of the older gen­er­a­tion of Egyp­tians that has been rul­ing our coun­try for decades.

Egypt’s key cri­te­ria for suc­cess are of­ten ex­pressed through pro­pa­ganda ac­tiv­i­ties. The bet­ter we are able to run large con­fer­ences — wherein par­tic­i­pants ex­change per­spec­tives, net­work and have fun — the more we can claim that the event is a suc­cess. Not only does the state imag­ine that it can mo­bi­lize its youth by im­press­ing them with a fo­rum, it also be­lieves it can in­flu­ence young peo­ple from other na­tions. The re­al­ity is that each party is de­ceiv­ing the other for the du­ra­tion of the fo­rum.

Ex­pend­ing ef­forts to win our youth over to the older gen­er­a­tion’s out­look is a waste of time and en­ergy; young peo­ple need to ex­pe­ri­ence life’s re­al­ity first­hand, then adapt their think­ing and be­hav­ior if needed. But Egyp­tian youth can­not go through this ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause the older gen­er­a­tion not only dom­i­nates most key po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic po­si­tions, it also — more sig­nif­i­cantly — im­poses its old-school think­ing, hop­ing to en­sure the con­ti­nu­ity of its phi­los­o­phy be­yond the present.

The gov­ern­ment claims it is en­gag­ing in a di­a­logue with youth. In re­al­ity, the state wants to strengthen and con­sol­i­date its pa­ter­nal ap­proach. Egyp­tian so­ci­ety gen­er­ally is not overly skilled in en­gag­ing in gen­uine di­a­logue; it is driven by a top-down ap­proach wherein our youth are of­ten at the bot­tom of the lad­der. Mean­while, in­ter­na­tional celebri­ties or for­eign ex­ec­u­tives can­not help us re­solve prob­lems that we have ini­ti­ated.

Egyp­tian youth want bet­ter jobs, com­fort­able homes, de­cent means of trans­porta­tion and many other ba­sic needs. Get­ting to­gether with them for a few days will not help re­al­ize their am­bi­tions, but it will sat­isfy the gov­ern­ment’s desire to mark a task off its list. The gov­ern­ment’s tac­tic of di­lut­ing and min­i­miz­ing the chal­lenges faced by our youth will do noth­ing to re­solve them.

Be­ing a truly am­bi­tious so­ci­ety is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from want­ing to suc­ceed. The for­mer re­quires a se­ri­ous, ded­i­cated, sci­en­tific ap­proach that could re­sult in true achieve­ment, while the lat­ter is a mat­ter of base­less wish­ful think­ing. Gen­uine achieve­ments do not need politi­ciza­tion; they fly on their own. Spend­ing money to pro­mote a long­ing will not make it come true.

The sub­stan­tial costs in­volved in run­ning the World Youth Fo­rum for al­most a week could have been of­fered to young Egyp­tians to help make their dreams come true. Even if pri­vate com­pa­nies cov­ered the fo­rum costs, re­al­lo­cat­ing these funds to their busi­ness ex­pen­di­tures could have con­trib­uted to ad­di­tional youth em­ploy­ment, which is def­i­nitely more use­ful than gen­er­at­ing false pro­pa­ganda. The state is gov­ern­ing through a path that never crosses the chan­nel its youth is tuned into. Prop­erly read­ing one an­other re­quires good­will, not a large, fancy fo­rum at­tended by in­ter­na­tional celebri­ties.

QMo­hammed Nosseir, a lib­eral politi­cian from Egypt, is a strong ad­vo­cate of po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion and eco­nomic free­dom. Twit­ter: @Mo­hammedNos­seir

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