Courage, honesty, and truth can now become the pillars of a democracy that might become as stable and solid as the pyramids, yet flexible, subtle, and adaptive to change.
For quite some time now, the world has been looking at Egypt and the great and admirable effort of the People of Egypt to fight for, to achieve, and to install democracy.
In the times of bits and bytes, light fast information transfer, globalization, and almost unlimited mobility, “quite some time” can be translated into weeks and months. In the context of history, evolution, and ontology, this has, however, only been a whisker of time. And in the context of the great and unique history of the famous country alongside the Nile´s shores, the last weeks and months indeed mark just a very, very short timeframe, however reflecting changes of instantaneous significance and potentially far reaching consequences not just for the Egyptian people itself, but certainly for the region and probably for the whole world.
For thousands of years, people on our planet have cherished, valued and admired the outstanding achievements of ancient Egypt and the incredible heights of civilization that Egypt had already reached long before the Persian or Roman empires dominated the world.
The pyramids, to hundreds of generations, have been THE image and reflection not only of culture, progress and civilization, but also of permanence, stability, solidity, continuity, and duration. And now, all of a sudden, the epicentre of solidity finds itself in the middle of rapid evolution, smooth revolution, and transition – the transition to democracy.
The people of Egypt have displayed enormous courage, great persistence, impressive patience, and yet significant momentum and readiness for change. Egyptians have thus provenThe interest to be re-elected, at times, seems to prevail over the interest of the people; the easiest way, occasionally, seems to be preferred over a rather bumpy, albeit more direct route; and muddling through difficulties and grasping situational opportunities is seen by some as more promising than sticking to values, principles, and morality that, even in day-to-day political and societal reality, there is not necessarily a contradiction between solidity and change, between stability and transition, between heritage of the past and aspiration of the future. On the contrary: today´s transition process in Egypt would not be possible without the solid position that pro-democracy forces have maintained in recent weeks and months. Courage and solidity have enabled transition to democracy. This marks another chapter in Egypt´s history that Egyptians should, can, and will be proud of – by the way: ultimately, ALL Egyptians.
But courage will remain to be of the essence. Achieving, installing, and implementing democracy: this, as Egyptians have just experienced (and the global community has stunningly observed), by itself is difficult enough. But it will be similarly difficult to cultivate, maintain and consistently revitalize democracy once democratic structures have been defined, established and implemented. Like its creation, the continuation of democracy needs courage: the courage for honesty, and the courage for truth.
In many highly developed and long-established Western democracies, this kind of courage, step-by-step and hardly noticed, has slightly eroded and partially vanished during recent decades. The interest to be re-elected, at times, seems to prevail over the interest of the people; the easiest way, occasionally, seems to be preferred over a rather bumpy, albeit more direct route; and muddling through difficulties and grasping situational opportunities is seen by some as more promising than sticking to values, principles, and morality.
It is this aspect of courage which I wish the Egyptian people the strength to maintain. Courage, honesty, and truth have led to democracy in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, and all across Egypt. Courage, honesty, and truth can now become the pillars of a democracy that might become as stable and solid as the pyramids, yet flexible, subtle, and adaptive to change.
The courage to always be honest and to always tell the voter the truth, however, is not a given thing in itself, as can be observed every day around the globe. In the short term, it may even lead to losing votes and potentially even elections. In the long term, however, it will ensure that four thousand years from now the concept of democracy is as natural as the existence of the pyramids.
Utz Claassen is an Honorary Professor and Ambassador of Leibniz University, Germany