By Sayed Ghoneim
A few weeks ago, I wrote on my Facebook page about the discomfort I felt at the appearance of someone calling himself an “economic expert”, giving his opinions on the constitutionality of the parliament, the political parties in Egypt, and the new French Mistrals delivered to Egypt’s navy. Professor Abdel-Latif Mahmoud, the former head of the Advanced Materials Research at the Canadian Ministry of National Defence, commented below my post stating:
“This type of ignorant fools is the cause of prevailing ignorance that leads to catastrophic results and undermine people’s trust in their government and in their abilities to change the course of events. It is amazing that many ignorant people take it upon themselves to be so called strategic experts in one subject or another. No one can verify their credentials. Anyhow, we are living in the age of midgets (sic).”
Since we were young, we have read news of the fraudulent or the unaccredited practitioner: men arrested for treating patients performing surgeries without the proper scientific degree in medicine, or men impersonating a police officer or a public prosecutor. The last four years have witnessed a proliferation of these geniuses with their attendant erroneous theories, in disciplines that they seeming invent by whim: the science of the state’s overthrow, the science of revolutions, and the science of conspiracies. This is, of course, not to forget the most capable scientist who calls himself a strategic expert. The new scientists abound; but the supervisory body for their accreditation is notably absent.
Let us remember that the title of consultant is granted to those who have received a PhD or are undertaking a fellowship and have spent a sufficient period in practice to be eligible for the title, in accordance with the rules of every field. The title of consultant should be preceded by an intuitional affiliation.
The title of specialist has a specific descriptive meaning, as well, and is used for those who have received a master’s degree. He or she may be a security, an administrative, or a paediatrics specialist. The title specialist is preceded by intuitional affiliation. For titles within the Egyptian military, a General Staff Officer is one who has received a master’s degree from the Command and Staff College, and the title is issued through a separate order.
As for an expert, it is a rare title that is used to describe a person who has received the highest scientific qualifications and has a wealth of experience in their particular fields, and often denotes that they have made a scientific discovery. A prominent example of this is the South African Professor Christian Barnard, the first doctor to successfully complete a human heart transplant.
It is no surprise that there are those who have received the highest qualifications in their specialties without having read a single well-known book. Some others had no high qualification but they read a lot and deserve to be called “Reader”, which is the top-notch term to describe intellectuals in Britain.
Two question follow from these preliminary comments. First, what causes people to demonstrate their opinions in the media under the banner of false titles and discussing issues that they are not qualified to? The answer may be their belief that this is a patriotic act. Hence, they expect to receive a prestigious position or undeserved glory that provides them with access to a parliamentary seat.
The second question is: What is the real danger of this scientific and intellectual mess? The answer is, of course, that falsely circulated information and ideas strongly impact our righteous mind and our ability to develop and innovate or even change. This causes us to lose confidence in the government. This is a steep price to pay for what they get in return. But how does this happen?
Imagine you flip a painting on its grey back and bring some people to ask them what they see. One says: there is an old man in panic. Another: I see a joyful old lady. A third looks back at you wondering: what is this depressing book, mate? You will consider them all crazy, or rather overpowered by the influence of a drug. That is my first point.
The second point is: does it make sense for a company chairman to say “We are in severe competition and we have a sales problem” and his consultants and some of the volunteers in the company to respond to that with “We are in severe competition and we have a sales problem”?
Of course it does not make sense. The correct response would be dealing with the problem promptly and coming up with solutions for it with the help of all concerned departments in the company.
The third point is: each of us is allowed to read and think about the sciences of medicine, law, antiquities, horticulture, the art of war, and more. And perhaps each of us can also express his or her opinions on these subjects; however, we should not make solid judgments about issues that are outside the scope of our fields and specialisations. For example, how can a human development and body language specialist speak confidently and make judgments before 400 million Arab viewers about fourth generation warfare (4GW), which is one of the complex issues in security and military studies that have baffled experts and theoreticians!
How can a specialist in oncology discuss and even come up with decisive conclusions on the national security situation of Egypt or regional and international security situations without a detailed security and political assessment – the kind of assessment that specialists research for years?
Through the same media channel, a stock market specialist was discussing the French Mistrals for the Egyptian navy and the constitutionality of the parliament.
All the cases I mentioned above, and similar cases, insist on directing discussions to revolve around the schemes and plots we are surrounded with, and they use very weak evidence that is removed from reality simply to consolidate their conspiracy theories.
The final point concerns the 25 January Revolution, over which many were in disagreement, and over which there have been debates about whether it was a result of a conspiracy or a result of injustice; however, this is not the subject of my study.
Any revolution in our third world has its own planners, leaders, and the millions who revolted themselves, declaring their real anger against injustice, poverty, and the lack of freedoms suffered for decades.
Here some questions arise.
When the president says: “We are exposed to real conspiracies from inside and abroad”, does this mean others should stand behind him generously regurgitating those conspiracies and making up stories to exaggerate, or undermine, the truth without any respect to Egyptians’ intelligence, or without offering solutions to these problems—thinking that in doing so, they support the president? Is that their real duty?
Of course not, this is not what the president meant; falsification is the wrong solution.
Did millions of Egyptians feel the injustice, poverty and lack of freedom suddenly on 25 January, or was there something pushing them?
The sentiments of the Egyptian people accumulated over past decades, and they had enough. However, one of the obstacles that blocked their will to rebel was that narcotic consumed by Egyptians to escape reality: namely, incorrect information and analysis. They see a panicked man, a joyful lady, or a bad book when they look at the grey painting. They forge the truth when they exaggerate achievements and undermine failures. They spread wrong ideas based on false analysis. This happens, deliberately, by semi-educated people, in ignorance, without accounting for a future judgment day that will see them held accountable when the people wake up and realise they have been lied to.
Sayed Ghoneim is a retired Egyptian general, currently working as a Middle East and North Africa security and defence advisor. During his military career, Ghoneim held several positions and duties, including director of operations at a strategic department level. Internationally, he served as Chief of Staff of the Arms Monitoring Division in UN Mission in Nepal and Senior National Representative of Egypt to the United States Central Command