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In the opening of her book “The Premature”, in which the late Arwa Saleh recorded her autobiography, the biography of the student movement in the seventies of the last century, and the biography of their aborted national and personal dreams, she stopped a lot when she said: “After years of these events and activities, she felt alienated from national concerns.”
This means that she felt alienated from her time and place, and a sense of absurdity, loss of meaning, and the futility of caring about public affairs and pursuing national dreams, and everything that was the basis of her existence and life.
That is why it was understood at that time that Arwa Salih put the end word for her life herself, after she was unable to criticize herself and her experience and benefit from it, just as she was unable to coexist with the variables and transformations of her time, so that her suicide would be a witness to her psychological defeat and disappointment, and a testimony to her era and its transformations and defeats.
After that, I began to compare the situation and fate of Arwa Saleh, with the situation and fate of committed intellectuals from the generation of the sixties, after the defeat of June 1967, whose national and personal dreams were overthrown by the defeat.
Their story was brilliantly embodied by the late Professor Bahaa Taher in his novel “Love in Exile”, through the Egyptian protagonist who emigrated after the flood of transformations in Egypt in the seventies, to a northern European city, as well as his friend who, like him, escaped from his personal and national defeats, and resides in Beirut.
In the novel, we find the hero, the narrator, describing his condition and that of his friend, saying: “He is like me, clinging to his certainty so that his world does not end, so that a dream for which we paid the price of an entire life does not fall.”
This means that together they practiced a form of self-deception, living in delusions, instead of self-criticism and experience, in order to know the extent of the devastation and failure that befell them and its fundamental causes, so that they may catch up on what has passed and correct their mistakes.
After that, I began to compare the story and predicament of the generation of the sixties and seventies, with the story and predicament of the people of subsequent generations in Egypt up to our present moment, especially after the violent transformations that took place in Egypt, the Arab region and the world in the last quarter of a century, which almost completely changed the concept of the homeland, and the function of the state. The meaning and purpose of culture, and the meaning, status and function of the intellectual.
Through that comparison, I found that the situation was not much different, and that most of the children of those generations of committed intellectuals had entered early in the stage of apathy and aging of thought, awareness and will, and a sense of indifference and futility, and they became living in a zone of nihilism in which beginnings and endings are intertwined.
This means that the predicament of the committed intellectual in our country transcends generations, and it is he who makes the intellectual alienated, defeated, and an inactive or influential force in society.
The committed intellectual that I am talking about is not the educated person, or the one who has obtained the highest academic certificates and degrees, but rather the educated person who carries a critical historical, political and social awareness, who bears his responsibility towards his society and his country, and is keen to make his contribution in public affairs, and to announce his opinions publicly. About the society and country in which he lives.
I think that the first step in his future success in doing so is for him to benefit from the experiences of past generations, to practice the greatest amount of self-criticism and experience after the defeats that befell the dreams of committed patriotic intellectuals, and to try to renew his thought and discourse, and to understand the changes that occurred in his era, And in the awareness and thought of the audience receiving his speech.
Without this self-criticism after all these defeats, the intellectual in our country will remain screaming in the wilderness, and will become similar to the hero of the Greek myth “Sisyphus” in his journey and his futile efforts to raise the rock to the top of the mountain, to no avail or benefit. Because she always rolls from him to the foot of the mountain again.