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