“I am willing to die for my country” declare many Egyptians to convey the extent of their love for their country. Another group of citizens believes that an alternative way to express patriotic sentiment is to continuously heap praise on the president. I certainly don’t intend to question the integrity and honour of any citizen. However, I believe that citizens who have the best intentions and who are genuinely emotionally attached to their country and its president are, in fact, unintentionally and unknowingly self-centered.
Sacrificing their lives is not the most beneficial action citizens can take. On the contrary, they can better serve their families and country if they are alive. Expressing love for the president is a hypocritical gesture—the president may introduce policies that serve the interests of a segment of society, but these same policies are certainly perceived negatively by other social segments. Actually, the relationship between any given president and his fellow citizens should have nothing to do with love or hate; it should hinge upon citizens’ demand for an effective leader, armed with an efficient policy.
Presidents usually symbolise the performances of their respective states. Wishing to sustain the current status quo, citizens who are happy with their state’s policies and services often express their love, while those who don’t have decent jobs, live in poverty, and suffer from the lack of proper medical services are, by default, less appreciative of the country and its ruler. It is not a coincidence that the segments of Egyptian society who loudly proclaim their love for the president are those that occupy key positions in the state and enjoy comfortable lives, while others are marginalised. Their declarations of love are therefore insincere, engendered by their appreciation of the opportunities and prospects given to them—that are usually more than they deserve.
The vast majority of Egyptians assess their president based either on self-interest or on the emotional bond to him that they have formed, irrespective of his performance. Former president Gamal Abdel Nasser best symbolised how a segment of society sincerely adored their president, while another segment strongly believed that his policies were the primary cause behind all the fundamental problems we have faced over the past few decades. Again, it is not a matter of love and hate per se, but a question of policies that promoted the well-being of one portion of society at the expense of others.
Being in love with Egypt or its president doesn’t automatically qualify citizens as being more patriotic. I worry about those citizens, wondering if they will be able to “walk their talk” in difficult times. To verbally express love and devotion, while substantially benefiting from our country’s resources, is an act of pure flattery. Many Egyptians who truly love their country are working, in their respective fields, to promote progress—without making media appearances to express their love for the president.
People who are proud of having donated part of their incomes to the state in response to the president’s calls should look into the part played by the state in the acquisition of their wealth. Even so, had they not been cornered by the president, most of them would not have made their donations. Furthermore, their financial contributions to the state come at the cost of attaining further opportunities from the government. Meanwhile, the government often highlights the few cases of poor citizens who have made donations to the state in an attempt to demonstrate that even miserable, impoverished people love (according to the state’s definition, obviously) their country.
The “love metaphors”, in their entirety, are meant to manipulate citizens who are by default self-centered. The state needs to mobilise citizens towards certain goals, and it is easier to do so in compliance with a key cultural trait. Hence, the concepts of love, belonging, and patriotism were introduced. Citizens in general will love their country better, and value their president more, when we have a functional economy wherein the state’s facilities and resources are directed to the service of the entire society, rather than only to those who claim to “be in love”.
Mohammed Nosseir is an Egyptian Liberal Politician working on reforming Egypt on true liberal values, proper application of democracy and free market economy. Mohammed was member of the Higher Committee, and headed the International Relations of the Democratic Front Party from 2008 to 2012.