Saturday, 16 April 2011

Politics Begets Reputations

Politics covers many aspects of life, from armed rebellion to outcomes of football games (mainly in Italy, where politics and women’s breasts are synonymous). Basically everything and anything these days has political stench.

Virtually all universities in the world offer at least one course that is related to politics; whether it’s political science or political economics. According to Google – I’m conniving with Google because I’ve never enrolled in a politics course – courses include international relations, elections and voting, delegated governance, you know, nonsense.

I think the underlying issue with politics is that it’s more subjective than objective, contrary to the way it’s being taught. Essentially, you can’t touch it, it’s not there – and I’m guessing if it did have a physical form it might look like Rihanna’s forehead, in which case you wouldn’t want to touch it. I think politics courses at university level deal with politics as an entity.

This might be the reason why all politicians are, how do I say this, sh**. A politics course should essentially include law, history, geography, psychology, philosophy (only for students who have developed a fondness for marijuana or similar substances), and some economics too. All these topics have major parts to play in real life politics.

I know it seems like I’m here to start a revolution – I use this word way too often these days – against the elites of political academia, but no, again, like always, I have an issue to discuss. Only this time I’m not here to complain, just to point something out that I think has been profoundly overlooked.

It seems the only thing more global than inhaling oxygen is gaining a reputation. It’s not something you choose to do, it’s inadvertent. Reputation has become a national insignia; it might as well be included in travel documents along with the name and date of birth.

Now, we – people with common sense – are all aware of the fact that everything has a root cause. Reputations are not begotten by chance; they are a direct consequence of sequenced events that precede them. We all know the Japanese are stoical, the Americans are expedient, the Italians have formality issues, the British are dull (unless inebriated), the Nigerians are loud, the Chinese are a lot and the Indians smell wonderfully not wonderful. These are reputations.

Reputations lead to people using words like, naturally or congenitally, when describing another people. This is false of course, because you are never born with a certain non-physical characteristic, you are born into it; you unconsciously embrace it and eventually become it.

While historical, cultural and geographical issues have a major say in the reputations that people eventually develop for themselves, I personally think politics plays a bigger part. A quondam generous people can become exorbitantly frugal depending on political trends in the country, and vice versa.

I’m going to be casing my point on Egypt.

Unfortunately, Egyptians’ reputation precedes them more than any other nationality in the region. They are known to be extremely obsequious, fawning and unprincipled; they are labelled as crooks, sweet-talkers and are not to be trusted. (There are exceptions of course. If you are Egyptian and you’re reading this, you might think you’re the exception, you are, just don’t report me).

For the simple minded these characteristics are central to everyday interactions with Egyptian people. This is wrong. It is actually bordering on the immoral. Egyptians don’t like being not trust worthy, and they don’t choose to be deceitful. They are, put simply, desperate. They are 80 million with over 40% living with under $2 a day. Most of them barely make ends meet. The lucky ones escape, but abroad they are eventually treated with contempt based solely on reputation.

The reason most Egyptians are in the dire conditions they’re in is because the Mubarak regime, which ruled for 30 years (you can raise an oak tree during this time), was corrupt beyond measure. I don’t think I need to outline the short comings of Mubarak’s regime, if you don’t know them by now you ought to stop introducing yourself as human.

The effects of such profoundly flawed distribution of wealth in a country have developed an ever increasing cohort of desperate individuals. This financial divide conjures up blemished aspirations, where the poor want to be like the rich, and since their daily jobs will never make that happen they resort to unorthodox means like deceit.

Other reasons of course, which are more troubling, are the inability of the average Egyptian to provide for his/her family; the inability to provide a decent education, health care and food – which are basic human rights. This feeling of impotence leads to a life of “by any means necessary”; where earning a living is relieved from the burden of having principles.

I, personally, respect that. When people are dependent on you, you leave yourself behind, you become selfless. After all, having principles is a luxury (this is my quote, I made it up, and if I knew how to make that c in the circle Copyright sign I would’ve, so don’t use it unless you ask my permission, otherwise I might cry and tell on you; and as far as I know, the WIPO responds swiftly to crying cases).

Eventually, this strife for wealth or survival becomes a foundation of society. The more people are born into this society, the more people inherit this unfortunate habit.

So the next time you meet someone who tries to trick you for a couple of extra pennies or works a job where he/she is excessively sycophantic, just remember that they most probably need the money.

*Note: Egypt’s troubled southern neighbour is following the same trend. I have noticed this personally. It’s ominous to see “a quondam generous people become exorbitantly frugal”.


badro96 said...

I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading that.

Omer said...

So did I. Although the reasoning seemed a bit raw. You could do with more time contemplating the issues before venting.

Moez Ali said...

That's what I thought too but I think it's already too long.

ThoeY said...

So true; I mean Sudanese gained reputation for being lazy long time ago, although I was born just a little before the 1989 military coup but I'd like to believe we had a better label before that!