A Great Deal Lies Between the Black and the White

You can reject practices which contravene democracy, the domination of the military and security components of the state over public and private life, violations against rights and freedoms, the violent dispersal of sit-ins and demonstrations, the use of excessive force by the state, and the promulgation of the fascism of collective punishment through executions, imprisonment, and repression.  At the same time, you can also reject the involvement of some right-wing religious groups and others who are affiliated with or sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood or other groups in inciting and perpetrating violence, and you can demand swift, effective accountability according to the law for all who are proven to have been involved in such violence.

You can condemn terrorism and reject the bloodshed that has spread throughout our nation as a result, stand in solidarity with the martyrs and victims from among the ranks of the armed forces, the police, and ordinary citizens, and expect the ruling regime to pursue terrorists and other criminals and bring them to justice.  At the same time, you can also reject the limiting of counter-terrorism strategies to security measures, the flouting of guarantees for rights and freedoms, the failure to enact political, economic, and social measures which would help ensure security, the disregard shown for the negative repercussions of injustice, accumulated grievances, and the absence of civil peace, and the refusal of the military establishment and the security apparatus to apologize when innocent citizens fall victim to counter-terrorism efforts.

You can acknowledge the utter failure of the political process in Egypt, refrain from engaging with political parties and other people and entities which do participate in politics, boycott elections which lack seriousness, competition, and fairness, reject the unilateralism that has once again come to dominate the executive branch, and denounce the undemocratic nature of the system of rule in Egypt.  At the same time, you can also continue to stand by your principles and convictions and to search for new opportunities and ways to advance them, and you can seek to attract others to your views without adopting an air of condescension by claiming a monopoly on the right to speak in the name of democracy and human rights or by blaming the people for being concerned with their living conditions and with the social and economic situation in which they find themselves.

You can express your rejection of the undemocratic nature of the current regime, refuse to tire of pointing out recurring violations to rights and freedoms, remember detainees and prisoners without discriminating between those with particular ideologies or political affiliations and others, and appeal to public opinion to reject the dearth of information and facts and to demand guarantees for fair, swift, and effective trials.  At the same time, you can also monitor the political and social positions and steps being taken by the current regime and evaluate their results in a constructive – rather than destructive – manner.

You can intensify your efforts on a personal, voluntary, or professional level to defend victims of violations to human rights and freedoms, to provide legal and humanitarian support to these victims and their families, and to continue raising public awareness about the need to put an end to such violations, provide reparations, and ensure societal reunification.  At the same time, you can understand that the human rights system extends to include living conditions and social and economic concerns.  You can also believe that the responsibility for improving the lives of the majority of Egyptians lies with the state and also with the private sector and civil society – which undertakes small, medium, and large-scale development initiatives to which you can contribute – without accepting the delusion that by doing so, you concede the agenda of democracy, rights, and freedoms.

You can believe that a strong nation-state is a fundamental condition for the establishment of democracy and  that the cohesion of the state’s institutions and bodies allows for the application of rule of law and for the values of rights, freedoms, and equality for all citizens to be upheld, and you can be convinced that the Egyptian state faces major challenges related to the current social and economic crises, the lack of civil peace, and repeated regional flare-ups – the likes of which either lead to the fragmentation of nation-states or threaten societies and peoples with violent transnational terrorism – and that defending the Egyptian state represents an existential necessity.  At the same time, you can also emphasize that the nation-state achieves stability by upholding justice, ensures the cohesion of its institutions and bodies by genuinely establishing democracy, and preserves national security in volatile regions by internally addressing grievances, putting an end to violations of rights and freedoms, and achieving justice, development, and civil peace.  Similarly, you can assert that the state wins legitimacy and public support by enabling citizens to peacefully participate (both individually and collectively) in the administration of public affairs, not by expelling citizens from the public sphere, and that the possibilities for saving Egypt from the disintegration of neighboring nation-states – as well as for succeeding in countering terrorism – would increase if the principles of rule of law and transfer of power were applied and if the military establishment and security apparatus were to perform their designated roles.

You can adopt all of these positions, defend them as being in line with your principles and convictions, and seek to approach, coordinate and collaborate with individuals and groups who believe in these same principles, even as you refuse to join in the rejection of the “others” who hold different values, ideologies, and political orientations, and as you refuse to stop paying attention to the actions, work, and results – and even innovations – of these “others”.  For example, reading the works of Bahaa Taher and Abdel Rahman el-Abnudi remains a life necessity, like water and air, and any differences between how you classify and assess the current situation in Egypt and how these writers do so should in no way prevent you from reading their works.

You can think about all of these things with the intensity that you deem necessary, and you can peacefully undertake the civic, intellectual, cultural, or societal work that you feel appropriate, even as you – at the same time – continue to normally experience the private, familial, and professional aspects of your life without fear, frustration, or despair.

Amr Hamzawy joined the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the American University in Cairo in 2011, where he continues to serve today. He is a former member of parliament, former member of the National Salvation Front, and founder of the Freedom Egypt Party. 

This article originally appeared in Shorouk 

Image: Photo: Ahmed Abd El-Fatah (Flickr)