There are 45 million young Egyptians who are under 35 years of age (including the largest group of adolescents in the country's history). More than a million Egyptian postgraduates now live in Europe and the United States; the vast majority will most likely never go back to live in Egypt—and increasingly have very tenuous links to their original country. The millions of young Egyptians entering the country's public life needed to reestablish these links in order to make sense of their lives and their society. With political participation at a dismal low, they turned to other outlets, with thousands expressing their dynamism and activism as writers, filmmakers, singers, and musicians; through a wave of innovation in Egypt's business and finance scene; and in philanthropy and social investment. While most of this activity does not touch the vast majority of young Egyptians, whose main concerns are surviving in daily life, finding work and social opportunities, and acquiring skills, there were some positive trends: a shift from whether to how the private sector and its agents will transform their economic power into political power; a revival in the role of (and respect for) civil society; liberal sparks in music, films, and literature, and in attitudes, styles of living, and tastes; and, most important, the exposure to the world of millions of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds in ways that expand their aspirations and ambitions. There is a chance that the new dynamism that Egyptian society is currently experiencing, after the turbulent times of the past 60 years and especially with the momentum that the 2011 uprising gave rise to, will bring about development and progress phases that Egyptian society has not yet undergone. But the same interactions and dynamics could prove to be false promises. The detachment of the majority of young Egyptians, amid crushing living conditions and the disenchantment with the uncertainties and disruptions that have accompanied Egypt's new political landscape, could rouse a tornado of turmoil in which chaos trumps hope.


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pp. 299-322
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