Many times guests have asked me the differences between Western and Egyptian ways of life, thinking etc. and it is a subject one could talk about and analyse for hours.  But today I found this on the net and I think it answers part of question – differences between the societies brilliantly and concisely in the broadest aspect of differences between democratic and non-democratic societies.  

I must confess it also presents the reasons behind our different behaviours in a way I am happy to understand at last!  For example I have never been able to understand here in Egypt why people drive through the streets at night up to 2 or3 in the morning – honking their horns (when there are no people on the road ), with total disregard to the fact that other people are sleeping – a situation that we don’t have to deal with in western society where we consider the feelings, comfort and right of our neighbours to a good night’s sleep.

“The citizen in a democracy imposes upon himself a strict etiquette: not to push; not to steal; not to harass women and girls; not to harm or insult others; to stop at a red light, even if it is three o’clock in the morning; not to cheat in business; to hold the door open for the person behind you; to stand in line; not to behave in a socially unacceptable manner; and other such dos and don’ts which the citizen in a democratic society feels obligated to abide by at every moment. He upholds these rules not out of fear of the regime, which is in no way intimidating, but out of self-discipline and conviction that only thus can a society run smoothly.””Thus, a democratic society is one that is based upon the self-restraint of its citizens, and this self-restraint allows society to live a life of freedom and comfort.”

“In Egypt, however, he said that there is no such social contract – no rules, no laws, no restraints and no self-dictatorship. Each person does as he chooses at any given moment, with no self restraint or consideration for others, unguided by even the most basic rules of conduct. A red traffic light is a mere recommendation; bribery is the norm; anyone can build what he wants where he wants; any manager can appoint his sons, daughters and brothers-in-law to any position under him, irrespective of their qualifications; and resorting to violence against the weak is widely prevalent. The individual feels free to act on his impulses, and is not required to answer for his actions and misdemeanors.”

“The reasons for this are clear: When the individual lives under the pressure of a dictatorial regime, he seeks any outlet – legitimate or otherwise – to act as a free person, unlimited and uninhibited. An individual living in a free state, however, does not have a similar urge to break free from the pressure of the regime. Therefore, he develops a system of self restraints that allow citizens to live side by side, taking care not to step on one another’s toes.”

“The same is also true of group behavior. In democratic societies, groups develop codes of conflict management through legitimate means such as debate, public organization and peaceful demonstration. Everyone abides by the same “rules of the game” which enable all groups, even if they differ in worldview and agenda, to coexist and conduct open, fair and nonviolent public debate among themselves.”

“In contrast, in a society lacking democratic experience there are no political rules, no limitations, no restraints or constraints. Groups tend to enter into violent confrontation on every issue. In fact, the Egyptian regime executed heads of the Muslim Brotherhood, while the Brotherhood and other organizations assassinated president Anwar Sadat, ministers of the interior and police officers.”

You can read the full text here

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