This piece is published in Al-Monitor
Two great losses and one poll summarize Egypt’s current struggle in a nutshell. The widespread mourning following the death of Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm; the sorrow in Egypt for the passing of iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela; and the massive voting campaign that ultimately led Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s armed forces chief, to win TIME‘s 2013 “Person of the Year” poll collectively epitomize the contradicting and often hypocritical Egyptian stances that have contributed to their ongoing misery. A quick glance at the three — Negm, Mandela and Sisi — gives us some insight into the Egyptian inability to overcome the pitfalls of their rough path to freedom and democracy.
Ahmed Fouad Negm
Negm, the legendary “poet of the people,” with his little formal education and his writings in colloquial Egyptian Arabic, clicked with with many Egyptians. Negm became a symbol of what Egyptian identity truly means. Nonetheless, the fascination with Negm did not have a deeper influence on many of his fans.
Negm’s legacy is not revealed only in his revolutionary poems, but also in his non-hypocritical style. He was the poet of the poor who remained faithful to his principles and refused to be exploited by wealth or fame: “No one can co-opt or seduce me, because I want nothing,” Negm said in 2002. However, Negm’s admirers are not all poor; many wealthy individuals adore him, yet they consistently fail to translate their passion for Negm’s ideas into real action that would help alleviate the country’s grinding poverty and inequality. Their support for the revolution’s slogan “Bread, Justice and Freedom” has turned out to be empty — just hollow words used to gain clout and fame. Very few have genuinely believed in these values and tried to translate them into reality. Those few paid with their lives or were seriously injured in protesting for their principles, while others were either preoccupied by political infighting or completely indifferent. To continue reading click here