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Do Egyptian elites represent an asset or a burden to their country?

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Mohammed Nosseir

Mohammed Nosseir

By Mohammed Nosseir

Elites are blessed! A tiny minority in any given society that enjoys great privileges associated with the amazing knowledge, personal status, social recognition and many other fortunate traits that they possess. But are Egypt’s elites using these qualities in the service of their country? Certainly not! Most of them have developed a talent for putting their superior qualities in the service of various rulers in return for preserving their social status and retaining their privileges and, definitely, at the cost of serving their country.

Advanced nations rely strongly on their elites to drive their respective societies. Elites can be likened to locomotive towing train cars towards their destinations.  Advanced nations recognise the role of their elites and enable them to lead society through a fair political structure and the provision of a favourable environment. Regardless of any changes in government, elites in these countries typically keep their eminent positions and are appreciated by the entire society.

Egypt is fortunate to have plenty of locomotives that have proven to be successful. In their respective fields, Egyptian elites possess all the required knowledge and they are often proud to be recognised as being among the best. Their shortcoming is not one of knowledge; it lies in their personalities, in their tendency to compromise to please the rulers for the sake of maintaining their superior statuses and privileges, at the price of their dignity and freedom – and certainly to the detriment of their country’s interests.

For decades, Egyptian elites have been offering their services to the ruler in return for being allowed to preserve their elevated status. They are talented in justifying and validating any issue for the ruler, and they do so to gain a place within the ruler’s recognised circle. The ruler, in turn, manages to manipulate elites by creating unhealthy competition among them, either bringing them closer or distancing them from him. Egyptians value the status that comes with such titles as ‘Minister’, ‘Adviser to the Prime Minister’, ‘Strategic Adviser to the President’, etc. more than they value actual achievements. Thus, rather than accomplish any real achievements on the ground, they tend to seek out, and even beg for, such prestigious titles.

The often-repeated narrative that Egyptians are generally more successful abroad than they are at home is partly true. Since this ruler-follower relationship does not exist in most advanced countries, many Egyptians certainly excel in their international careers. When it comes to their native country, however, they are willing to mold their knowledge to suit the ruler, hoping to break into his close circle. A few elites, such as Essam Heggy, scientific adviser to the past interim president, won’t abide with this procedure and refuse this trade off. To stand by the values he believes in, Heggy had to resign his post and leave the country.

The aim of most Egyptian elites is to be distinguished in society by the degree of their proximity to rulers; not by their respect for ethical values or by any genuine contributions to their country. They take pride in differentiating themselves from the rest of society by using the most expensive utilities; often opting to live in isolated gated communities and welcoming media coverage of their exaggerated lifestyles. The result is that they enjoy privileges and a social standing that they don’t deserve, occupying unmerited importance in people’s minds and in society at large.

Egyptian governments are aware of the selfish interests of these elites. They therefore tend to offer them social standing and privileges in return for obtaining their eloquent justifications of government decisions or stances. Consecutive rulers have habitually created vicious circles around themselves, encouraging elites to work hard to penetrate the innermost circle, closest to the ruler. This is done by creating friction among elites and moving them around like chess pieces. The result is that most elites are more eager to join the ruler’s innermost circle than to contribute towards accomplishing genuine successes for society.

Elites should work on providing solutions to the challenges that face the state, but the opposite is true; the ruler makes decisions that favour him, and the elites compete among one another to justify his decisions, using technical arguments and complicated scientific terminology that are often untrue. While it is possible to make excuses for the tendency to flatter their bosses among the majority of Egyptians (who are lacking in education), such behaviour on the part of Egypt’s fortunate elites is definitely indefensible.

Egyptian elites justify their improper behaviour by claiming that obtaining access to the ruler’s closest circle allows them to contribute to the progress of their country. This is an errant argument; once they get close to the ruler, elites use their outstanding knowledge to justify his senseless decisions. It is widely known that elites who have become close to the ruler tend to validate his decisions and do not use their knowledge to offer sound advice, which may conflict with his desires.

Egyptian elites are apparently a lazy segment of society that feels that it deserves the best without exerting any effort. They distance themselves from ethical values and don’t do their country any good. Egypt is in dire need of internal transformation, one that will avoid this unfortunate fate and create a new social class.


Mohammed Nosseir is an Egyptian Liberal Politician working on reforming Egypt on true liberal values, proper application of democracy and free market economy. Mohammed was member of the Higher Committee, Headed the International Relations of the Democratic Front Party from 2008 to 2012.

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