In his love of Egypt, Salah Gahin in his poem Under the Name of Egypt said: “Under the name of Egypt, history can say anything, Egypt to me is the most beautiful and beloved thing.” The political leader Mustafa Kamel said in one of his speeches in the early 1900’s: “If I hadn’t been Egyptian, I would have wanted to be so.” In my opinion, this seems fake because most people after hearing those quotes will have the idea that Egypt is the utopia. It will appear to them as the disappeared Atlantis or Plato’s perfect republic which he sought all his life which is not true. Egypt is a normal developing country with massive problems, but it is also full of resources. It has a perfect site between two important seas; the Mediterranean and the Red Sea having the Nile River which is the longest river in the world and a huge landscape. Egyptians, nearly all of them, are kind, generous and loving. Kerry McIntosh, a Georgetown student who studied at the AUC for one semester in an exchange program, wrote in her article entitled “Curing Egyptian Idleness” published in The Hoya which is a newspaper for Georgetown University students about her negative opinion about Egypt and Egyptians. She summarized her short experience saying what she did not like and suggesting some solutions to these problems and comparing Egypt to her developed country the United States of America. I found it worthy to write to you as American students at Georgetown University, whom I appreciate, to show you the real image of my country: Egypt. I have to confess that Egypt really does effective defects like the wide differences between the poor and the rich; high unemployment. Also some youth suffer lack of motivation which she related to culture. The worse obsession in McIntosh’s article is that she did not express any positive experiences. Although I agree with her on many points, there are other important positive things that are worth noting: the Egyptian cultural values, the economic development in the past three decades and the efforts exerted by the government to improve the country.
I agree with McIntosh that class mobility has always been a great problem in the Egyptian system since the time of the pharaohs; it became worse in the Middle Ages which had its obvious effect these days. “In Egypt there is an enormous gap between the very wealthy and the very poor.”(Hopkins and Saad, 7). The widening gap between the poor and the rich has a lot of disadvantages as the number of crimes increase due to jealousness and because some poor children are obliged to drop out of school which makes them spend more time in the street and converts some of them into criminals. It also results in the hatred between social classes leading to a fracture in the society. But the positive point is that “the increasing prosperity of Egypt means that the middle class is increasing in relative size, while the gap between the top and the bottom is increasing. One-third of the population is below a poverty line established by the Egyptian government. The growing middle class aspires to a home, a car, and marriage and family life, and increasingly is able to achieve this.”(Hopkins and Saad, 7). This increasing prosperity is logically due to the governmental efforts exerted in the past 30 years. They did not come to a perfect solution, but at least led to improvement. “Egyptian citizens are entitled to free education and health care, in addition to employment guarantees for graduates. Services are poor, however, and there are many hidden costs, such as time spent waitingâ€¦ Part of the social policy includes efforts to restructure welfare, and to help unemployed youth set up their own businesses.”(Hopkins and Saad, 7). In Ahmed Nazif’s reign unemployment has noticeably decreased and is still decreasing which is in the country’s development favour. This shows the effect of the exerted efforts by the government which she says that they did not have obvious effect. “Various government reforms over the past 30 years have yet to see a large improvement in the living conditions of Egypt’s poor, and population increases have contributed to a rise in unemployment and underemployment that only further frustrates the situation.” (McIntosh, 2).
I also agree with McIntosh that unemployment is a massive problem in the Egyptian society. I agree partially with the reasons she gives to this problem. She says that this is due to lack of motivation and laziness. “Yet many Egyptians’ lack of motivation may be less of a cultural attribute than it is a foreseeable reaction to the socioeconomic conditions of the nation.” (McIntosh,1). Maybe lack of motivation is a major reason to the problem but it is not the main reason. One of the reasons she gives for lack of motivation is what Egyptians call “Wasta” which is using connections to facilitate anything as having jobs even if someone lacks qualifications. “At the highest level of Egyptian society, high-paying jobs are often won more through nepotism and connections than from hard work alone”. (McIntosh,1). This problem is widespread in the Egyptian society but it is not dominant that it kills motivation. If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. That’s the base of human’s life and God’s rubric. Lack of motivation is not the only reason for unemployment. There are other reasons such as: The increasing population and the way of distributing university students through different majors which causes the higher demand on few types of jobs and lack in others. I don’t agree with McIntosh when she relates laziness to culture. No culture encourages people to be lazy, especially the Egyptian culture which is based on hard work since the reign of the pharaohs who used to work most of the day.
If you compare things they must be similar in a way. In my opinion, it was not suitable from McIntosh to compare Egypt to the United States of America by any means. It is like comparing a banana to an apple. Egypt is a developing country while the USA is considered a developed country, if it wasn’t the most developed in the world. Although being a developed country, America is not as she describes “the home of rags-to-riches.” (McIntosh, 2). This theory means that anyone can become rich in the United States which is not necessarily true. America is not free of class mobility as it is a global problem. “The growing gap between rich and poor in the United States has been widely noted. To many, it is alarming and calls for strong action to address what is perceived to be an increasingly bifurcated society in which the most fortunate have prospered while the poor have been left behind.” (Sawhil and McMurrer, 1).This disproves the idea that America is the utopia. Class mobility in the United States causes problems in unemployment and quality of education. “In short, education is more than ever the stratifying variable in American life.” (Sawhil and McMurrer, 6) Americans refuse the idea of the underclass which are people stuck permanently at the bottom of the society with a little opportunity. “Yet research completed in the past decade suggests that such a group may indeed exist. It is concentrated in neighborhoods characterized by high rates of poverty, joblessness, dropping out of school, and single parent families.” (Sawhil and McMurrer, 5).
It was not suitable from McIntosh to try to apply the American culture to the Egyptian society. Like when she mentioned the cultural work values. In the United States, as she mentions, people give due care to work which makes it their priority. “This seeming lack of the Western concept of a work ethic is not unique to AUC. Across Cairo, it seems as though many people are making themselves busy by not being busy.” (McIntosh, 1). This has some advantages related to the economic development and increase in social class. It also has many disadvantages as it nearly destroys the family relationships and affects social interaction converting relationships between people into financial ones. Thinking about work all the time makes people away from you. It ruins any period of serenity or enjoyment which causes problems in between family members. On the other hand, the Egyptian society gives importance to the family and the society. It is part of our religious and cultural rituals. A man should give due care to his family and children. That’s why the Egyptian life is balanced between work and social life without having an extreme, most of the time. It’s rare to find workaholics in Egypt but they’re abundant in the United States. This also due to the fact of work opportunities as most people in the Egyptian society work in labor jobs where it is hard to get promoted unlike the United States where many people who work as employees have a chance to get promoted so the consider this their aim.
Work opportunities have been increased in the Egyptian economic system due to the increase in investment. Egypt was awarded the most improved country for investment in 2007 by The World Bank. Jose Daboub, the manager of The World Bank said that the gaps between rich and poor are only a “generation” before the economy growth benefits the poor sectors. In the United States of America which McIntosh considers a utopia and compares it to Egypt “the distribution of income has often been compared to a ladder. Right now, the rungs of the ladder are far apart. Both in comparison to other industrialized countries and our own past history, the United States has a lot of Inequality.”(Sawhill and McMurrer, 3). The perfect view that McIntosh has towards the United States is affected by the love she has towards her country, which can happen with anyone, as it is not “the home of the rags-to-riches”(McIntosh, 2) as she says. We have to admit that we have disadvantages as we have advantages.
From the point of view of cultural values, most Egyptians are known for their hospitality, kindness and generosity. “One important rule of etiquette is to treat guests cordially and hospitably. An offering, usually tea or a soft drink is the least a visitor expects.” (Hopkins and Saad, 9). Not all Egyptians are like this of course. But also not all of them as she says are exploiting people trying to use anyone who has something that can help them as she mentioned that her friends invited her to help them only. In Egypt One of the Egyptian norms is greeting people and respecting them even if you don’t know them. The Egyptian culture and the Islamic religion encourage people on hospitality and treating people in a friendly way.
McIntosh also narrated her experience about the professor who came 20 minutes late(McIntosh, 1). “I arrived 15 minutes late only to find that I’d gotten there five minutes earlier than the professor (an Egyptian) and many of the students.” (McIntosh, 1). Does this mean that all professors come late? I, as an AUC student, see that most professors are on time if not earlier. And she should have asked herself why she criticizes that professor although she was late too for a weak reason. This is a problem of ethics and caring not culture.
Bob Packwood, the American politician, said, “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” People should not judge others without knowing everything about them, living with them and being one of them. McIntosh has only lived in Egypt for one semester which may be 5 or 6 months. I do not think it is long enough to judge someone or judge a culture as a whole. Someone cannot say that the only reason for a disadvantage is his reason. Hundreds of reasons may be the causes. It is not the right way to judge someone saying everything bad about him neglecting all his good qualities. Having a negative tone in judging someone makes your judgment a hatchet job. You should not have a negative tone all the time. Also prejudice to anything you belong to is not the right way. I agree with McIntosh that Egypt has many economic and social problems that need solutions but I also do not agree with her that everything is negative.