Why Do I Write?Posted: 2011/07/13
Essay by Tarek Heggy
I have been writing for a quarter of a century in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that we are, first and foremost, Egyptians. Our identity is shaped by our geographical location on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. We have Muslim, Christian, Arab and African ties, but none of them can replace our only identity as Egyptians.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind the fact that although the outside world will harbour animosities towards us at times, and will work to further its own interests most of the time, our problems, in their entirety, originate inside our country and can only be solved internally. We alone are responsible for those problems and for the fact that they remain unsolved. The excessive belief in the conspiracy theory is a confession of our impotence and an admission of the supremacy of others in the face of our ineffectiveness.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind the values of liberalism, democracy, general freedoms and human rights as the most noble, sublime and civilized achievements of mankind.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind the value of civil society, as the most effective mechanism for public participation in public life.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that the negative perception of women in some cultures is disgraceful. Not only do women constitute half the population but, far more important, they are the mothers who rear future generations. As such, they are a valuable societal asset, and a society that does not grant its women full rights in all fields cannot hope to realize its full potential.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that effective and creative modern management is the only way to achieve progress. The sad reality, though, is that there is a dearth of human resources trained in the techniques of modern management.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that Anwar Sadat’s historic choice to move the Arab/Israeli conflict from the battlefield to the negotiation table was the only way to reach a reasonable settlement of a conflict that has been used for too long as an excuse to delay democracy and development.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that our educational system is in need of an overall revolution. As it now stands, the system only produces citizens who are totally incapable of facing the challenges of the age. Repeated claims by some that a process of reforming Egypt’s educational system is currently underway are grossly exaggerated, as borne out by the quality of graduates produced by the system.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that the tolerant and peaceful brand of Egyptian Islam has been subjected to attacks on many fronts. The attacks came from a trinity made up of the Wahabi faith, a doctrinaire approach to religion, and the omnipotence of the petrodollar that has funded an Islam fundamentally different from the gentle Islam practiced in Egypt and which has enabled us to coexist with others over the years.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that Egypt’s Copts are not second class citizens, that they are as entitled to full citizenship rights as its Muslim population and that all the problems they are facing can and must be solved.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that there are shortcomings in Western culture, but it is an essential rung on the ladder of human civilization. To oppose Western culture is to oppose science, development and civilization.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that we have to curb our tendency to indulge in excessive self-praise and to glorify our past achievements. We have to learn to criticize ourselves and to accept criticism from others. We have to try to break out of our subjective culture into a more objective one. And I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that the deification of officials is one of the major sources of our problem-filled reality… and the responsibility here lies with us as individuals.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind that our media institutions need to be radically reformed in line with the requirements of the age. The changes required are not in the formal aspects or the number of television channels operated by our state television, but in the substance of the media message. If education is the reform tool in the long-term, the media is the ideal tool by which awareness can be raised in the short-term.
I write in order to instill in the Egyptian mind (especially in the minds of the young) that where there is a will there is a way and that, armed with a solid formation and determination, they can achieve anything. The future does not exist as such; it is the product of what we create today.
These are the messages I have tried to convey in the hundreds of articles and the thirteen books I published over the past quarter of a century. Skeptics may consider that my voice, like that of John the Baptist, is a cry in the wilderness. They would do well to remember that the words of John the Baptist were far more than a cry in the wilderness, that they were, in fact, stepping stones towards a noble and glorious path.