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The Children

Egyptian children might not be the geniuses that you claim they are, but they are smart enough not to respect you.

Mahmoud Salem
Mahmoud Salem

The Egyptian child is the smartest child in the world, as the widely and wildly spread truism goes. Despite the lack of any real study that proves this (as if it can be proven), our society and our media like to repeat this statement as if it was an undisputed fact. The Egyptian Child is a genius, but we lack the ability or knowhow or tools or educational system or (insert excuse here) to properly utilise and develop such genius, so it goes to waste, as they say.

Parallel to that statement, there is also a widely held complaint that the Egyptian child incredibly misbehaves, and shows very little respect to his/her elders. If we assume that both statements are correct, while – for the sake of argument- casting aside that association is not causation, one has to wonder if there is a correlation between the two statements: is the Egyptian child so ill-behaved or disrespectful towards us all because he is really a genius?

It makes sense when you think about it; why would a smart child respect his Egyptian elders? Because they are older than him? Not a good enough reason. I know many older people whose intellect or conduct or life-work deserve no respect or appreciation.

Because they gave him life? Not good enough either; even cockroaches have children. Because –as my parents argument went- they support him, feed him and sent him to good schools? You mean that the child should respect you for doing the minimal requirements of your job as parents? Is not feeding or educating your child an option? Is doing so brag-worthy? It’s like hearing someone brag about never going to jail. Excellent. Here is some ice-cream. You deserved it.

Why would the Egyptian child respect you? For your excellent work ethics? For your achievements? For the great country that you have created for him? For the fantastic school system that is operated and funded by you, which you use as a place to throw your children into in order to have some time for yourselves and your Facebook activities? For the excellent living environment your provide him? Never mind the lack of parks and public space, or the pollution, or the unsafe conditions of your cities and infrastructure.

You live in a country that has failed in the past 50 years to build decent sidewalks, and yet you have the nerve to talk about creating and operating nuclear power plants. Here is a thought: overcome the fact that you are sidewalk-challenged first, and then we can talk about nuclear power. Baby steps. The world doesn’t need another Chernobyl.

So maybe the Egyptian child should respect your morals? The fantastic way you all treat each other? What is there to respect? What are they to make of your fears, your bullying, your fondly nurtured bigotries? What are they to make of your selfishness; of your fighting; of your violence? What are they to make of your sectarianism? Of your unresolved anger issues? Of your unreasonable demands from them and the world? What is there to respect in your gender double standards? Your daily quest for solving problems with corruption and then complaining about how corrupt everything is? What is there to respect about your behaviour? Why should this genius child, who is born in a barely functional country, and surrounded by such miserable people, respect any of you? How Genius would that child be if he did that?

Respect is earned, people. It’s not given by birth right. It is not enforced by violence or guilt-trips. It’s earned. You have to earn it, and in order to do that you must have self-respect and give respect to others, and all the evidence, from accepting the horrid conditions you live in to the thuggish ways you use to deal with other people, has you wanting on both accounts.

Hell, an illegal constitution just got passed by 63 per cent of 31 per cent of the voting population in widely fraudulent elections, and you just shrug your shoulders and go on with your life, telling yourself that you have done your part by going to a couple of protests and voting. Respect? You think you deserve respect? By what right?

Egyptian children might not be the geniuses that you claim they are, but they are smart enough not to respect you. They are smart enough to seize you and the environment you provided them up and decide that you are not worthy. They are smart enough to figure out that the individuals who accept, nay, enable, a corrupt state and corrupt style of living are corrupt themselves, and there is nothing to respect in corruption. I used to have a friend who used to always say, “You can either be a great role model or a horrible example.” So the only question is; which are you?

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  • Masteroul

    You are the horrible example. It’s easy for you to say that putting food on the table and giving a kid are the basic when there are people who struggle every day to do that because your class of elites has denied them a free, good education and paid them salaries that make it difficult to put a nourishing meal on the table. These things may be the mere basics for someone who was sent to private schools, shipped off to the US for college, never had to suffer because his mother was a member of the NDP, and goes out to expensive restaurants to eat sushi. Oh you don’t know anything about the sacrifices some people in this country make to just give their kids the things you think are basic. When the basics are truly basic for everyone, then you can get up on your high horse and criticize Egyptian parents, until then you are the one who deserves no respect.

  • Maryam

    Brilliant! But! Egyptian boys/men hardly respect anyone but themselves. Not only their elders.
    It is difficult to have a polite and quiet conversation about politics, economics or the like with them (says a Dutch woman living in Nuweiba) The most painful is the absence of responsibility or accountability. From high to low. But bless the women Egyptian AND Bedouin. They are grown up and know things like responsibility or self insight. How powerful Egypt would be if only it would give women the position that could rightfully be theirs…

  • Reem ElMenshawy

    I agree with you very much, actually when reading your article I felt you are repeating the words I am always saying to my parents, thanks, a great piece.

  • morey

    This is a very personal piece obviously. Mr. Salem’s mother was a member of the NDP. Fortunately, it does not apply to the 99% of the good mothers and fathers in this country.

  • Joan

    I am a teacher here in Egypt. I am from the United States, and yes, I think I deserve respect in my class room. Sadly, I get no respect from my students nor their parents who perpetuate violence and rudeness.

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