Egypt is going through an extremely painful re-birthing process, and almost everywhere you turn the pundits talk of the political, social and religious challenges the nation and her people face. Respectfully, I have a different view of both the original crisis that removed Mubarak from power, as well as the core crisis that envelopes the nation and her people today. And that argument centers around the economics of Egypt, and her people.
When Mubarak originally took office in Egypt the population was approximately 30 million. Today the population is nearly 90 million. And while the economic indicators supposedly suggest that the nation continued to grow in GDP consistently during Mubarak's reign, I would suggest that this so-called economic growth centered around the tight-knit Mubarak regime associated elite itself. Meanwhile, literally millions of young, increasingly educated, aspirational and Internet-connected Egyptians found themselves without either job or opportunity -- sitting outside that bandwidth of so-called economic growth. Put another way, Egypt had become a nation within a nation, or worse, a rich nation operating alongside another one called everyone else.
What I think Egypt and Egyptians need most now are JOBS. Why, because any society without a strong, aspirational and growing middle class population is a society at risk. The middle class is not just an aspirational dream, it is a practical and necessary stabilizer for a real democracy.
Middle class people don't want to riot, and they don't want war, they want to go shopping.
And any society without at least the potential for a stable future middle class, poses a challenge to itself. Without that stabilization, a fear would overtake the rich that pushes the rich to clamp down on and to otherwise oppress the poor -- in an attempt to survive and to control. Without that (middle class) stabilization, the poor can become overtaken with an absolute loss of hope, which also breeds fear. Likewise, in this environment the poor can rise up to challenge the rich, taking from others what they might otherwise simply aspire to own for themselves through hard work.
But when the ladder of opportunity breaks down, or the ladder is replaced with a winding road or a maze leading nowhere, then democracy takes a dangerous off ramp onto a one-way street.
Even worse, when people believe that the system is rigged against their own success, against their own self-determination and inclusion, then at that point -- all bets are off. And this is unfortunately the reality in Egypt today.
People didn't just want Mubarak gone, they wanted a restoration of the dream that leaders professed and promised -- the freedom of voice and self-determination for all.
What Egypt needs almost more than anything are jobs. Good jobs. Because when people don't have jobs, when they are poor -- everything is bad.
Your healthcare will be bad.
Your housing will be bad.
Your social environment will be bad.
Your relationships take a turn for the worse.
Your attitude will be bad, and most everything else you value will be bad too.
Or as was said in my neighborhood growing up, when you're poor 'everything sucks.'
If we want to create stability and sustainable change in not only Egypt and the Middle East, but other challenging locations around the world too, we have to unleash the power of the new 21st century version of freedom -- self-determination for all.
That starts with financial literacy for all, teaching everyone the global language of money, and then creating an environment where people can act on their dreams, and not just have them.
When you do this, a new era of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship flowers.
When you do this, ideas that only grow in the garden of freedom take root, in a new and healthy societal soil. Those ideas in turn become what most of the world call or refer to as patents (all patents are ultimately 'monetized' ideas), and those patents in turn grow businesses, and those businesses in turn create jobs. And jobs, good jobs, solve a whole lot of problems that almost nothing else can.
A movement of civil rights and social justice, must be followed in turn and time by a movement of silver rights and opportunity for all.
John Hope Bryant is an entrepreneur, author, advisor, and one of the nation's most recognized empowerment leader. He is the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, The Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S.
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