As we look across the Egyptian landscape, there is obviously a wealth of important, decisive, and relevant issues that we can and will comment and write about. However, for our inaugural supplement we chose to take a step back and not focus on our differences, but rather focus on an issue that must unite us all, that must remind us that there are matters that rise above even our entrenched differences, that must remind us to come together as Egyptians.
This issue is the Nile, and the absolute recklessness with which this wellspring of life has been treated, managed, and nurtured. Without descending into a litany of clichés about its importance to Egypt, suffice it to say that ‘so goes the Nile, so goes Egypt.’ Not only has the specific management and the treatment of the Nile resource been a travesty, but Egypt’s relationship – if one can even call it that – with the African countries in the Nile basin has been an exercise in destructive negligence. With a wealth of natural resources, a need for expertise, and most importantly a genuinely true shared set of symbiotic interests (unlike the often manufactured alignment of interests “created” by the West), the Nile basin countries should be a primary focus for Egypt and the targeted focus of an active policy to engage those countries and to develop significantly deep cooperative endeavors and active strategic relationships with each of them. We have been so seduced with being some bit player to the West, when right in our own back yard we can create a regional African powerhouse, with significant Egyptian leadership and influence, that can provide food, industry, employment, alternative energy, fossil fuels, water, and independent strength. And the simple beauty of it is that unlike most problems facing us, the solutions to the Nile basin issues can be win-win situations for all parties involved.
The articles in the supplement, written by a group of fiercely passionate and loyal young Egyptians, touch on many of the specific issues regarding the Nile – but each article approaches its topic from a holistic and insightful perspective with a bent to always finding mutually-beneficial solutions for the Nile basin countries. The most crucial step that needs to take place immediately is the creation of, not a Ministry to add more layers of bureaucracy, but rather, a Nile Czar. The person will be a Minister and will have the responsibility, authority, budget, and power to take a broad strategic and holistic view and to coordinate all positions (water, irrigation, foreign policy, defence, etc.) of the Egyptian government vis-à-vis the Nile. Without this, we will continue to suffer from internecine Ministry rivalries and conflicting agendas, with the ultimate victim being the Nile and its Egyptian citizens. Having said that, it’s not only the government’s responsibility. It is not an abstract “them” that will solve the Nile issues, it is also up to us, each individual to take his or her share of the responsibility, play their part, demonstrate their love for Egypt in taking care of this grand gift of the Nile.
We seem to have endless capacity to develop patriotism, indignance, and nationalism whenever it involves a foreign power, but where is that indignance, that nationalism, that anger when Egyptians do bad things to Egyptians? Where is that outrage over the shambolic state of the Nile, the terrible state of healthcare, education, infrastructure, corruption, over the absolute lack of justice for the perpetrators of the murders of the January 25 Revolution? We should expect that foreigners will try to do bad things to us – it’s in their self-interest - but we should be incandescent with rage when Egyptians mistreat, steal from, and abuse other Egyptians and abuse our lifeblood, the Nile. That is the travesty. That is failure.
I’m tired of this mediocrity, you are tired of this mediocrity, we are all tired of this mediocrity, this middling behavior. And while so much can and does divide us, surely there are issues that can unite us, left, right, religious, secular, socialist, farmer, laborer, poor and rich. Issues that transcend all these differences, issues that remind us once and for all that we are Egyptian. Let us finally behave like the proud people we should be. Blood has been spilled, people have died. Enough of this squabbling, this debilitating mediocrity that seems to surround us and characterize so much of what we do and so much of what we discuss.
This isn’t some mythical romanticized vision of Egypt. We have many valid, divisive, and sometimes overwhelming problems to solve. But in all of our decisions let’s take a momentary pause and think, “is this how to be great?”, “Is this what a great people would do?” In everything - trivial and grand - from following traffic lights, to standing in line, to helping someone else - just once a day. Respect every woman, no in fact that’s wrong, RESPECT EVERYONE, tell the truth, make an effort, dream, care, care for others. Ask how?, not how come? Ask why not?, instead of why? How hard can that be? Try it. Just once a day. Who knows, it might be infectious. Imagine what this country would become if each of us did this every day. Will it be that much of an effort?
Let us demonstrate the greatness that will deliver this nation to its rightful status and stature, and make us truly deserving of the legendary heritage of the Nile.
We were looking for a national project to unite us and maybe that project has been flowing below our feet all along. It’s simple really, if we don’t save the Nile, everything else we are debating, discussing, arguing about will be irrelevant. Many things in our history once rose from the Nile. Let our greatness as Egyptians now rise once again from the great river. Remember who we are, we are Egyptians.