“ I’ll tell you a riddle. You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter.”(Inception 2010). Sadly, this rings a bell; this rings a bell to most of us, the Egyptians. In Egypt, our hope is not getting to our destination on time; our hope is to make it, alive. But it doesn’t matter, because if you have a family member who was deceased in a train accident, there is a good chance the government will compensate you with money; money that is nearly enough to buy the latest iPhone. In fact, we should look at the bright side. We have a president that appears in short videos to sooth our agonies. We have hospitals not ready with medicine but ready with broadcasts and tweets to ask for money, volunteers and supplies. We have government officials who refuse to resign or take responsibility, but are humble enough to apologize. The current situation concerning how crisis is being dealt with in Egypt can be described in one word, “insanity”.
Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity? Insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting things to change. Every single catastrophe, the one’s responsible think “this time it is going to be different”. As a side note, I have asked myself how vague I was, when I attributed the blame on “the one’s responsible”? I found that my description was too vague and that’s when I realized the actual tragedy.
Heartbreakingly the amount of people who are responsible is indefinite; there are several people who are considered to be responsible. Consequently that brings us to a psychosocial phenomenon titled “Diffusion of responsibility”. Basically, Diffusion Of Responsibility occurs when a person is less likely to assume responsibility for an action when there are others who share the responsibility. In Diffusion Of Responsibility, the individual either assumes that other people are responsible for taking action or assumes that other people have already taken action. In other words, have you ever passed by an accident and made the assumption that somebody else has called for help? In a perfect demonstration of Diffusion Of Responsibility, everyone assumes that the other one has called for help and the ending result would be no one calling for help. I see that this is fairly analogous to the situation in Egypt. The time we start pointing fingers is also the time when we realize that we do not have enough fingers.
I remember around 7 years ago, my school implemented a method called “ the call chain”. The call chain is a cycle, where each student is accountable to inform another student about class information. Each student had a back-up plan if the person the student was trying to call, did not pick up. If the student did not deliver the message, he or she is responsible for all the other students who did not get the message and that student faces consequences. A call chain system would look something like this:
Teacher → student 1→ student 2→ student 3→ Teacher
Only now I have comprehended the importance of this system. Unlike the Egyptian governmental system; in the call chain, responsibility is not diffused; responsibilities, roles and consequences are explicitly assigned and well explained.
Sometimes individuals don’t want to be liable for failure, so they force the responsibility to be diffused by placing the blame on anything but them. When a person succeeds, he or she attributes that success to their personality; however, when a person fails he or she attributes that failure to the situation. For example, if a beggar approached a man walking on the street and the man decided to give him money. The man’s first thoughts may be “oh! That was kind from me, I am generous because I shared my money with someone who needed it”; however, the man ignored the fact that the beggar asked him for the money several times before he decided to give him the money. Days later the same man goes to a restaurant and the waiter mistakenly forgot to bring him skimmed milk with his coffee, so the man starts shouting at the waiter in anger. After the man calms down his first thoughts may be “ I knew this day was going to be a bad day since the moment I saw that black cat in the morning ” or he may think “everyone was getting on my nerves today and that waiter was not professional so he deserved it anyway”. Contrary to the preceding scenario, the man’s first thoughts were not “ I am ill tempered, that’s why I shouted at the waiter”; the man simply attributed success to his good nature and attributed failure to the surroundings. This response is somewhat similar to the response of the Egyptian government officials, when they succeed they praise themselves and their far-sighted planning, but when they fail they blame it on “the third party”.
In Egypt, one of the major flops is management. The government provides short-term solutions, rather than preventive measures. What we need is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). A business continuity plan is a map for continuing procedures under adverse conditions such as a fire, or excessive rain. BCP minimizes risk and saves lives. In other words, it is not only expecting the unexpected, but also having a plan to deal with that “unexpected”.
We need government officials on the streets doing audits, not in their office all the time doing only paper work. The process of reforming supervision needs to be top-bottom. If the supervisor with the highest rank was doing his job, the worker with the lowest rank will be also doing his job. Just like the call chain, responsibility should be assigned specifically to prevent diffusion. Also the government needs to have incentives of safety and freedom to work efficiently. For example, the government should have a wide time frame to fulfill certain goals, and at the end of that time frame, the government can be judged fairly.
I am not here to judge governments; I am here to raise ideas to be further developed. I dream of the day where we know for sure where the train will take us, a day that we no longer witness insanity; I dream of the day where every Egyptian receives fair education and has equal rights.