Op-ed: Transparency first
BY REHAM BARAKAT
Mark Twain once said: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything,” reflecting that once we are guided by honesty, we can live in peace because we don’t have to worry about following up on what we have said. It makes perfect sense, and you would think that this would be the premise upon which politicians would build their communications strategy — truth and complete transparency. But somehow this doesn’t always appear to be the case.
Why this issue matters is because despite Egypt having a democratically elected president, we are evidently still going through a period of severe turmoil. What would benefit all of us members of civil society is a philosophy of transparency that can help guide and strengthen us through this period of change and transition.
As a member of civil society, I am exhausted from receiving countless versions of the “truth” about certain incidents from more than one place and having to sift through and analyze aggressively to understand what is really going on. Facebook posts say one thing, then the Twitterati say something else, then the mainstream media projects a different image, whilst independent or international media portray another series of events. It’s a tiresome process that leaves us in most cases in the dark, subjected only to rumours, opinions and biased “truths.” As a friend of mine eloquently hinted at today, “the spread of rumors will only make this country burn, let us all just get back to work.”
Exactly, let’s all get back to work and work begins at the top. It’s time our newly elected president and government attract all members of civil society to get back to work (or continue working) on building this nation by telling us the truth about what is really going on. It’s time for transparency even if the picture is a dismal one because the absence of facts makes us only see it that way.
I am tired of being unable to project a vision for the future of my country. I am tired of not knowing what policies will be put in place, what plans are being developed, what segment of society is the priority and what truly matters.
I am not a politician, and I have no qualms declaring that I am completely crippled when it comes to the subject, but what I do know is that I am an eager member of the society who would like to know where we are going because someone honest has told me the truth.
I want to know the truth about what happened in Sinai. I want to know the truth about the Nile City events. I want to know the truth about the power and water cuts. I want to know the truth about the constitution and where it stands. I want to know the truth about the budget plans. I want to know the truth about our international relations. I want to know where we have problems and what aspires to be achieved to alleviate those problems.
But most importantly, I want to know that those who have been selected to propel this country forward are actually telling me the truth.
I know that I would respect any version of it even if it involves us as a generation having to sacrifice and be sacrificed for the greater good of this country. Why? Because it is ours. Because it matters to me as I know it matters to so many other members of civil society. Because with all its flaws we love it and we love its people and I think this was proven by the mass attendance of the military funeral following the abhorrent Sinai murders as well as the support of the Egyptian Olympic team in London.
I want to be able to wake up in the morning, flick through the newspapers and read the transparent and lucid thoughts, plans and vision for this country. I don’t want a handful of rosy scenarios and unrealistic rhetoric designed to either curb my fears or silence me. To achieve this, our leaders need to map out clearly a fair and balanced assessment of the country’s situation, with both good and bad so that we can know what is expected of us all as civil society. We need to be able to look out across the horizon at our nation and know what work needs to be done and where. Tell me the truth about the economic situation, foreign investment, tourism, infrastructure and everything that matters to us.
I might be jumping the gun here as our government is hardly two weeks old but to me the beauty of transparency and honesty from our leaders is that as Mark Twain said, they can forget about everything because they don’t have to frantically attempt to conceal fabrications. Neither do they have to worry about having to consistently quash rumours.
And if the truth is that they don’t know and don’t have transparent answers to our questions and concerns then let them forever be silent and hold their peace.
Reham Barakat is a Cairo-based commentator and creative writer.