Monday, July 31, 2006

Individualism Will Leave Societies "On the Ash Heap of History"

Two articles were published by the Washington Post on Egypt during the month of June that I would like to refer to here, not only for their content but for what they represent. One is “Democracy Policy in Ashes” by Joshua Muravchik and “The Wrong Way to Sway Egypt” by Jon B. Alterman. I am by no means not putting the two articles for comparison but rather examples for my blog post. I am sure that you will also enjoy reading them.

Think tank institutes or centers regardless of their affiliations or orientations are a culture that really does not exist in the Middle East countries for reasons that are related to the exiting political systems. These think tanks are powerful places that influence the decision making process in the United States. Because people find several ways to express themselves at the different levels, think tanks are just a natural emergence to the general atmosphere of freedom of expression that takes a political nature. You may agree with their political orientations or not, but their existence says something.

We sing the song of the empowerment of the civil society in Egypt and how essential is it for the development process. Think tanks are another face for a very active civil society that represents a sector of citizens that are efficiently and highly engaged with what is happening in the U.S and worldwide.

In the Middle East countries as the decision-making process takes a centralized form, peoples of the region tend to believe that the same system is applied everywhere. Their analytical skills tend always to pinpoint one sole person as a responsible which is true for their cases but not in the western world. They fail to dig deep enough to analyze systems or political ideologies created by parties or powerful groups that know how to lobby and sell their ideas in their countries, something that never happens except under clearly defined political systems.

Another different note that I would like to point to here is that the Washington Post despite its fame worldwide, it is a controversial paper in the U.S, in a positive way. Some Americans in some instances tend to like it or dislike it according to their political affiliations. Egyptians tend to read the articles in the Washington Post as if they represent the opinion of the entire United States. The reality is completely the opposite. Another important difference that I would like to point to here is that in the U.S, the individual attains a very important status. It is the culture of the individual. Political life in the U.S. unlike the Middle East countries consists of layers of very precious individuals to their country that tend to group, de-group and re-group to serve their agreed upon goals that should serve the United States’ interests at the end. The common notion among most Egyptians is that one sole person who rules the United States which I consider a projection to the reality of the Middle East countries in general. The President of the United States acts within the consititutional rights bestowed upon and exceeding his limits might put him into trouble.

I believe that there will be no true understanding between countries of different economic and developmental positions except with bringing the political systems a bit closer bit by bit to avoid these halos of hatred and aggression that continue to grow among countries. Hatred that mounted to the levels of terrorism.

Muravchik is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is writing a book about Middle Eastern democrats.

Alterman directs the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.


At 5:51 PM, Blogger Kheris said...

Girlfriend, you are so right on about the USA. We are as myopic as the next guy, and it helps to know that the next guy is as myopic as we are.

Did that make sense to you? I know what I meant.

In any case -- there is always more than meets the eye about any culture or country. I am glad you were able to cut through the BS that sometimes surrounds us. Now if we could be so smart!!!

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Charles N. Steele said...

I find very interesting your observation that Egyptians see the Post as definitive of American opinion. A Brazilian friend of mine says that a very similar phenomenon occurs in Brazil, where any single American policy or position is commonly seen as definitive of American, or even worse, free market or classical liberal thinking.

He has an idea to develop a think tank/policy institute there that would in part work at dispelling this view. I've talked with him about the feasibility of taking a more international (not just Brazilian) approach, since I noticed similar tendencies when I lived in Ukraine and Russia.

At the moment, his idea is an idea only, but it's worth some thought, and I suspect he'll actually develop something real eventually.


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