Inspired by their own logic and aided by their talent in justifying their sins, Egyptians tend to transform their disgraceful acts into morally acceptable practices. Living in a country where honour and integrity have been declining steadily over the years, has led many Egyptians, unconsciously, to acknowledge immorality as a cultural norm. Unfortunately, this kind of ignorance has led to a situation where many citizens tend to believe that they are strictly abiding by moral values, while accusing others of misbehaving. However, fact is that society as a whole is witnessing a serious decline in moral virtues.
Sadly, immoral conduct is held in high esteem by a relatively large segment of Egyptian society. Immorality helps citizens defuse their daily anger and frustration, and relieve themselves of the burden of responsibility. Furthermore, by not admitting their moral deficiencies, Egyptians completely fail to differentiate between moral and immoral practices and behaviours. As a result, the Egyptian nation today is finding it difficult to identify its mainstream moral values.
Egyptians perceive moral values as purely pragmatic issues, meant to serve personal interests. The observance or rejection of moral values is subject to each citizen’s understanding of “moral value” and their personal view on this debatable subject. Thus, for the majority of Egyptians, virtues and vices are no longer sharply defined. The misperception of moral values, combined with the application of a clear double standard, has produced a society that is living in what may be described as a “state of honourable deception”.
The Egyptian state often indirectly obliges citizens to adopt a harsh attitude that enables them to accept and live with the repressive state policies to which their fellow citizens are subjected. The state habitually attempts to promote the view that while brutal treatment of the opposition may be immoral, it aims to achieve a moral end. This has created confusion among Egyptians regarding the definition of morality. For example, the state dubs the thugs that it often hires to suppress protestors as “honourable citizens”, while any expression of sympathy for citizens repressed by the state is defined as “immoral behaviour” by the state’s affiliates.
Some argue, falsely, that the 25 January Revolution, which concluded in political instability and economic decline, also caused the increase and spread of immorality among Egyptians. In fact, triggered by many factors, immorality among Egyptians has been escalating over the past few decades. The revolution only accelerated the process, making it more noticeable. The evolution or regression of moral values is directly affected by the quality of education and by the state’s advocacy of morality. While the revolution failed to enhance our moral values, the state (for ruling purposes) regularly contributes to the spread of immorality.
Egyptians refuse to be objective about acknowledging their virtues and vices; they insist on asserting that they are abiding by moral values—which, in reality, are rapidly declining. Once people engage in immoral behaviour, they are somehow dragged into endless sorts of misconduct that they eventually come to accept as the norm, which could lead to engagement in various forms of illegal activity. Consecutive Egyptian rulers, who encouraged immoral behaviour during their eras, eventually became the victims of immoral treatment by society. However, they were probably unable to comprehend that this ill-treatment was a consequence of their own initial immoral conduct.
People who are not able to distinguish between virtues and vices won’t notice the difference between moral and immoral values. Attempting to persuade them to abide by moral values is therefore futile. Moral values shouldn’t be an issue that is subject to negotiation, justification, or compromise; citizens either believe and abide by moral values or they are basically amoral, lacking in moral sense. Having a gift for justifying our immoral behaviour certainly does not make us a moral society.
Mohammed Nosseir is a liberal politician in Egypt, and was a member of the Higher Committee, and headed the International Relations of the Democratic Front Party from 2008 to 2012.