It irks me so much how some of us Egyptians are sometimes very casual in the ways we infringe on other people’s feelings while becoming overly sensitive when it comes back to haunt us. It is what we call Karma. You get what you give, whether bad or good.
However, we seem to think of ourselves as a Teddy Bear, who is incapable of offending others. Nevertheless, History has shown us that this is not the case. No, we are not a Teddy Bear and yes, people get offended and their reactions can indeed offend us in return.
Talking from a continuous position of power against a backdrop of ancient glory will no longer suffice as an excuse for expressing this level or arrogance. This presumed self-importance and superiority have been costing Egypt dearly in terms of international relations in the past few years.
Several new episodes in recent history come to show us how this Teddy Bear attitude still persists, and how it can easily alienate Egypt while continuously reducing its stature in the region.
Saudi Arabia & El Gizawy scuffle
The arrest of Egyptian lawyer Ahmed El-Gizawy in April 2012 prompted demonstrations by thousands of Egyptians in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy, causing Saudi authorities to close the complex as well as the country’s other consulates in Egypt. Demonstrations have turned ugly with some nasty altercations mounting to profane attacks by known Egyptian activists against the Saudi king. This situation has pushed the Egyptian-Saudi relationship to a dark moment. More than a year later, the dust may have settled, but the rift in the relationship, while not verbalised, still exists. While some might argue that the Saudi regime is generally not overly supportive of regional destabilising movements such as the 25 January Revolution, the El-Gizawy scuffle might be one of the examples as to why Saudi Arabia is reluctant to open up its financial support for Egypt. It must also be understood in this context that Saudi Arabia has over $600bn of foreign reserves on hand as compared to Qatar’s $25bn. So while Saudi Arabia can easily help Egypt out of its financial troubles, it remains not willing to do so.
Qatar & Bassem Youssef
In the spirit of humour, known comedian and satirist Bassem Youssef has aired a sketch poking fun at the state of Qatar. Now that was all fun and games, until Ahmed Ali of the Qatari newspaper Al-Watan caused uproar when he retaliated, criticizing the Egyptian mantra of having long history without planning for the future. Ali even pushed the envelope by saying: “What else are you Egyptians good at other than making falafel?” That did not sit well at all with many Egyptians who were hurt and insulted by those comments. The Teddy Bear in us could not fathom that what goes around comes around.
Ethiopia & the rogue politicians
The recently aired fiasco of Egyptian politicians discussing the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has drawn wide criticism regarding the brash attitude that was put on display. Ideas ranging from threats to sabotaging the dam, to provoking social unrest in Ethiopia, did not sit very well with the local and international communities. It was again a full display of the level of the game we have been bringing to the table as of late. While Egypt’s concern is understandable, it’s as equally important that nearly 90 million people in Ethiopia can also benefit from utilising the hydro-power of water basins within their borders; a matter which can be solved by a dialogue rather than exchanges of blame and hearing one-sided stories. Ethiopia seems to think that Egypt is approaching the issue from an archaic colonial stance, which can no longer be tolerated. The recent events actually validated that notion.
We seem to be locked into a state of mind that people are out to get Egypt, while not paying attention or taking responsibility of our actions at times. Our quarrels are indeed not with what the world thinks of us. It doesn’t even matter. Our true challenge is overhauling Egypt in a way that makes the miserable present comparable to the ancient glories. Maybe at that point, we will get out of the garb and loose the chip on our shoulder. Maybe at that point, the Egyptian Teddy Bear will act as a responsible world citizen.
Mohamed A. Fouad is a global expert on service quality as well as a political and social activist