The 25 January Revolution, which led to the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak, followed by the 30 June 2013 mass demonstrations against Islamist president Mohamed Morsi both reflected and contributed to the current state of unhappiness among Egyptians. The uncertainty of the future — in the coming months, Egyptians will see the drafting of a new constitution, as well as new parliamentary and presidential elections — also adds to anxieties and limits contentment in the present.
“We are barely surviving — how can we be happy? While I work, my two elder sons, both graduates, are at home unemployed,” lamented Afaf Abdel Messieh, a fatigued Egyptian widow.
The failure of the state to address economic woes, which instigated the revolution for many, has lead to disappointment and hopelessness.
“Many Egyptians feel depressed because we have not achieved the goals of the revolution: social justice, equal access, better education and healthcare,” Henry explains.
Essential staples of basic survival, such as food and clean water, have been increasingly affected by the economic downturn since 2009. As a recent World Food Programme report reveals, approximately 13.7 million — 17 percent — of Egyptians suffered food insecurity in 2011, a three per cent rise from 2009. This has led to increased malnutrition and higher rates of anaemia among children.
A lack of personal space, high population density and sense of suffocation in Egypt’s major cities are also significant sources of Egyptians’ widespread discontentment. Egypt’s population now boasts 85 million people, with an increase of one million every six months, according to CAPMAS.
Cairo, the capital city, is one of the densest cities in the world, with an average of 47,097 people per square kilometre.
Unwanted social contact has been associated with an increase in stress and aggression. According to Nafei, population growth, environmental degradation, and urban violence can all be attributed high population density, which has resulted in lower standards of living for many Egyptians.
Poor education services, high rates of illiteracy, and deficient health services also contribute to Egyptians’ lack of contentment, particularly since informal social support networks have deteriorated amidst economic and security concerns. “Egyptians have been forced to change their social lives. They do not meet family and friends often like they used to,” explains El-Kot. These changes in social patterns are a result not only of economic constraints, but also the national curfew that has been in effect since 14 August, preventing Egyptians from socialising at night. El-Kot also claims that the psychological trauma of the last three years has caused many of his patients to withdraw from relationships and social activity and exhibit disinterest in life. He asserts that such discontent in personal relationships is reflected in increased divorce rates.
When forecasting the future of Egyptians’ happiness, many believe that it will increase once political and economic stability are restored. The recent emergence of General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the head of the Armed Forces who supported the mass uprising against former president Morsi, has spurred new hope for many.
“El-Sisi has renewed hope; he is more popular than King Farouk, Mohamed Ali, Nasser or Sadat. Contentment requires stability and a strong state, not democracy,” exclaims Henry, refering to the inherently patriarchal nature of Egyptian society, while conceding that his standpoint may be perceived as controversial to some.
How can the Church show the way to real life and fulfillment in this scenario? Pray for the nation and for the Church as it shows the way to the future.