By Mohamed Karrem
After the first world war and before the 1952 coup, this era was viewed as the sophisticated era. In order to identify the Egyptians’ identity thus, Mirrit Boutros Ghali points out that in early nineteenth-century in Egypt, Egyptians were essentially in a state of “cultural ignorance” and owing to the detached nature of foreign rule, they had practically no sense of national identity. Instead, they identified as Muslims, Christians, or albeit infrequently as Jews. In contrast, the social classes were more noticeable, composing of three social classes, whereas, the peasants which resembled the majority of the population. Second, the bourgeoisie, or the middle class as we can say, and they resembled the second biggest sector of the population. Third, the upper class which was the minority and they resembled wealth, power and domination over the Egyptian interests, in addition to the peasants who were illiterate at that time. Undoubtedly It was one of the darkest ages in Egyptian history, but only at the darkest nights, the stars are clearer.
The ideological pillars of gen. X
When the 1919 revolution erupted, it brought the rope of hope to the Egyptians, formed in “Al Wafd” party that was established in the 1919 and led by Saad Zaghloul, the Communist Party in 1925 and the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, but with the leadership of Saad Zaghloul and thanks to the constitution drafted by “El Wafd” party in 1923, Egypt was transformed into a politically democratic country with laws and a constitution that served the Egyptians. So all these milestones drew the road signs to the 1952 coup and “the free officers” to declare that Egypt became an authoritative republic, rather than a monarchy. That’s why we can’t blame this generation for being diehards and too skeptical because you will witness how much they had suffered from the fire of change through the years.
Gen. X and the first impression of military service
The first notions they adopted were “Nationalism” and “Anti-Imperialism”, but before we get into this era and mentioning what president Nasser has done, there’s a need to highlight a specific event that was about to collapse and end before it even began. Kafr El Dawar strike was the butterfly effect that would be the reason for the first Egyptian civil war, but we are not going to discuss what happened during this strike because it’s full of lies and rumors, instead, we will focus on the consequences and decisions that led to Mohamed Naguib stepping down.
The hidden secret behind Mohamed Naguib
Most of the generation X after Kafr El Dawar strike, found themselves surrounded by a bubble of uncertainty towards the military force which initiated a conflict between Mohamed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser. Briefly Naguib claimed that Egypt needed a president without any military intervention, because what applies to soldiers will never apply upon citizens, and he advised the free officers to get back to their previous positions leaving a room for democracy to the Egyptians and their president. In contrast, Nasser thought that people weren’t ready for a full democracy and there’s a need for the military control over Egypt. It’s a well-known story and most of us are aware of what happened next. So let’s focus on a different part in this era that played a significant role in shaping their mentality.
Nasser, the father of gen. Xers
The official ideology of the Republic after 1961 was unequivocally socialist. This was carefully differentiated from Communism and Marxism and was described as a ‘middle solution’ between the extremes of the political spectrum, and this can give you a hint of why generation X believes in leaving the wheel to the government to take control of the country to ensure equality. The political life at the 60s was so restricted and full of unexpected decisions that entitled Nasser’s opinion to be the one and only, so he started by the dissolution of the political parties in Egypt in January 16, 1953. He then arrested most of them, especially the Muslim brotherhood who attempted to assassinate him in Alexandria. To legitimize the coup, and to establish his undisputed authority to create a unified national identity built on the principles of Arab nationalism.
Reshaping the priorities of Gen. X
Nasser had to restructure the field of Egyptian historiography altogether, so in terms of Egypt’s positions of leadership, Nasser identified three circles of influence, published in his book, “The Philosophy of the Revolution.” In order of importance to Egyptian policymaking, these were the Arab circle, the African circle, and the Islamic circle. I think it now makes perfect sense and became much easier to get why this generation is so rooted in our Arabian and Islamic culture, convinced that Egypt is the last hope to the rebirth of Arabism, but this actually caused one of the unplanned decisions that led Arabs to admire President Nasser just for a while. When he set-up a campaign to promote pan-Arab unity, most visible signs of which is brief United Arab Republic unitary state including Syria (1958-61). He also supported friendly elements in Lebanese and North Yemen conflicts, but it ended up with undesirable results that drove to the 1967 war. Even Nasser couldn’t expect such a dramatic end to his era.
How did the stepfather deal with Gen X?
Similar to the ancient Egyptian kings, president Sadat erased Nassers’ heritage and planned to establish his own policy, thus he shook most of the Egyptians by dismissing many of the most powerful figures in the regime and imprisoning them at the same time. This led the Nasserists to initiate some movements and revolutions against Sadat’s decisions. However, don’t think president Sadat had won only one war, aside from winning the 1973 war, he either won his war with Nassers’ supporters and changing the country from communism to capitalism, because he was smart enough to fight thoughts by thoughts through opening the door again to the Muslim Brotherhood, with many privileges to become his own supporters indirectly.
Islam vs globalization
Generation X during the late 70s was under the influence of the “Open Door” policy mixed with the Muslim Brotherhood lifestyle, which justifies the generation’s suffering from the paradox of identity. Simply, generation x is able to impress you by their conservative lifestyle and how much they are rooted in Islam, but at the same time they can’t hide the enmity of the western culture.