There are two reasons why this man is important for you to know:
1. For the sake of Egypt’s democratic development
2. So you can be a better citizen of the country you live in (wherever that may be)
Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Knowing about this guy will give you the proverbial two birds with one stone. You’ll be helping others as you’re helping yourself. It will turn you into an uber-citizen of the world, an almost-superhero! How cool is that?
So lets get this transformation of yours started. Why should you check him out? The first reason requires a bit of background. In Egypt this man’s name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. He’s been a hot commodity ever since the revolution began two years ago, and he’s been controversial this whole time. His words and actions have brought certain aspects of democracy’s development in Egypt to the fore of conversation.
Pretty much everything in the news regarding Egypt lately has been focused on the mass protests and the violence they tend to spawn. Yet so much of the revolutionary movement is actually about the interpretation of ideals. Bassem Youssef’s situation crystallizes the challenge Egypt is facing in the hearts and minds of its citizenry. If you learn about what he’s been doing, and how it’s affecting Egypt, you’ll be knowledgably supporting Egyptian efforts to move towards democracy. That’s pretty cool.
But even cooler still is the second reason. Bassem Youssef generates controversy because he’s blatantly pushing the boundaries of traditional comfort zones regarding freedoms. “Freedom” is a heavy word with fuzzy edges. It’s a word that even after hundreds of years the citizens of western democracies are still trying to sort out. Its definition in the dictionary may be black and white but its implementation in active societies is very much about shades of grey.
Balancing rights and responsibilities is tricky-sticky. Observing and recognizing the struggles that Egyptians are going through to find their own community’s sense of balance will give you a fresh perspective on your own country’s challenges. If you think the west has figured it out, take a look at the current debate on DOMA in the States, or religious headwear in France, or medical abortions in Ireland, or media rights in England. All of these issues represent communities attempting to fine-tune the definitions of freedom as it relates to their culture.
This is what’s going on in full force in Egypt right now. Bassem Youssef is forcing an entire country to determine how it will define freedom of speech: a core freedom of all democracies, yet one that has its own unique history of shaping and being shaped by cultural ‘norms’. This ‘Arab Spring’ that Egypt is a part of isn’t taking place in a bubble. Struggles to self-identify have been going on for thousands of years under all forms of government. Egyptians are joining an ongoing party. Their efforts represent all of us: past, present and future.
So who is this guy exactly? Look him up. Do a search. Read and watch and listen to multiple sources as you develop your opinion. Be an active participant in the democratic process. Support Egypt’s efforts. Engage in respectful discussions. Represent for your community. Become a citizen of the world who acts globally AND locally.
Your Batman cape is waiting.