On January 20, 1961, during his inaugural address, JF Kennedy’s said his historical words, “ Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Today, the words of JFK are resonating in my mind. Who gives first? My country or I?
A few days back, after Egyptians, and Cairenes, in particular, had suffered electric shortages throughout the blistering summer, President Mohamed Morsy asked Egyptians to be patient and encouraged them to ration their consumption of electricity. So far so good.
Morsy also suggested turning off power for a couple of hours, one in the morning and one in the evening. He guaranteed that if every Egyptian did that, enough electricity would be available to go round. http://www.shorouknews.com/news/view.aspx?cdate=03082012&id=57479182-758c-4b31-b1e1-3ed8068a9ab7
Then he told his audience that this is what he did himself in his own home: switched off power for a couple of hours a day. Hmmm. Honestly?
Though Morsy’s intentions are honorable, I don’t think Egyptians will follow suit and turn electricity off when the temperature is 40 degrees and above. How can one convince Egyptians to sit in dark, toasty homes for two hours a day because it is for the good of the country?
Before President Morsy asks Egyptians to give, he should make sure that they are given something in return. Impoverished Egyptians are tired and exhausted. They have yet to reach that level of fortune: to be able to give. They have lived tough lives, and their circumstances are dire. Don’t expect these people to give without return, to give when they’ve been giving all along.
Of course, some may opt to do just that but the majority won’t budge. However, Morsy’s words did resonate with some. On Twitter some have started tweeting methods by which Egyptians can consume less water, electricity, and power. Good, I say.
Still before President Morsy asks for sacrifice, he needs to comprehend a few issues. First, one cannot ask the forlorn and the suffering to give unconditionally. According to Maslow, you need to reach a higher rung on the ladder before you can give. You need to achieve the basics: shelter, love, food, etc., to be able to give. Only then can one do that. It is utterly unfair to expect someone to give while not receiving anything in return. Hence, the famous JFK saying cannot apply here.
Second, disappointingly, I cannot believe President Morsy when he says he turns the lights off for two hours each day. And no Egyptian would believe it either. If the presidential palace is at a gridlock for two hours a day, then something hugely wrong is happening. And if President Morsy himself and his family find this acceptable, no Egyptian would find it so. They want a president who can work for them 24/7 not turn the lights off to save a few kilowatts.
Fair enough, President Morsy, say Egyptians condescend and turn off power for two hours a day. How long a wait is there before things get better? What are you doing to fix this perennial fiasco? As an Egyptian I’d be happy to help as long as you tell me there is an end in sight, but disappointing none was mentioned.
Having read the president’s words, I’m a bit perplexed because I don’t expect any Egyptian to comply. True, during the revolution, and while everyone was in Tahrir, one would have expected huge sacrifices from Egyptians, but today, I doubt if Egyptians are willing to give any more.
I suggest President Morsy talk to Egyptians radically and logically. He needs to explain to them in a heart to heart speech, not one that is speedily shouted as one is leaving a mosque, the dilemma Egypt is facing. Egypt does not have enough power—period. We need to ration or the shortage will grow even further.
I’d also establish awareness campaigns that assist simple Egyptians in understanding how to preserve water and electricity. Television is a great tool to reach a broad spectrum of Egyptians.
I’d also explain what I plan to do so that Egyptians don’t face yet another summer, or Ramadan for that matter, similar to this one. When one is expected to go up ten floors walking, when one is cooped up in an elevator for three hours, when an urgent surgery is stalled midway, when children can’t study, or elderly parents can’t breathe, I wouldn’t expect Egyptians to give.
But give Egyptians, and they will give back wholeheartedly and unreservedly.