Egypt: Additive and Subtractive Thinking

Additive and subtractive thinking is the topic of today's translation from Arabic. Do we pick and choose the values we like from ideologies or do we simply ‘subtract’ them from our consciousness because there are aspects in them we don't agree with?
This post written by Egyptian blogger Eyad Harfoush in his blog Lel Fagr Noghared (Singing to the Dawn), compares ‘Additive Thinking’ to ‘Subtractive Thinking’.

Eyad writes:

فكما نعرف جميعاً أن الجمع هو عملية حسابية تؤدي للنمو عن طريق التراكم، و أن مقابله الطرح هو عملية حسابية تؤدي للضمور عن طريق التناقص ، و بنفس المنطق تقوم ثقافة الجمع بمراكمة المثل العليا، حيث يمكننا أن نرى في كثير من الناس و المجتمعات و التجارب الانسانية عناصر ايجابية و مثالية ، و ليس في كل الناس لأن بعضهم يكون كالكائنات الذبابية لا خير و لا ايجابية فيه على الاطلاق ، ثقافة الجمع تتميز عن ثقافة الطرح أنها لا تحتم علينا أن نقسم الناس بتقسيمات حادة الى خير مطلق و شر مطلق، الى نور و ظلام، فالحياة خليط بطبيعته

As we all know, addition is a mathematical operation that leads to growth by the accumulation of its components. Subtraction, on the other hand, leads to decay due to becoming less. Based on this logic, additive thinking tends to add the various morals we meet in our lives to each other. We may see many positive attributes in many societies and characters – for sure not everyone has such positive attributes, as some are like flies which are totally useless. Anyway, additive thinking is the opposite of the subtractive one that tends to divide people into either absolute good, or absolute evil, and nothing in between, absolute light and absolute darkness, while life by nature is a mixture of this and that.

The point is that, when people who believe in subtractive thinking meet others with various good characteristics and morals, they may just ignore them because they find some other characteristics that they may not like. For them it's either take it as a whole or leave it, even if they are going to miss much by doing so.

Eyad
further elaborates:

فمعتنق ثقافة الطرح مثلاً، سيتحتم عليه أن يرفض و يكره جمال عبد الناصر بسبب الممارسات الدكتاتورية، و يكره جيفارا لكثرة مغامراته النسائية، و يكره نصر الله لعقيدته الشيعية، و يكره محمد عبده لهجومه على الفكر السلفي، و يكره مارتن لوثر لتجاهله تعاليم الاباء الاوائل للكنيسة، و يكره غاندي لأنه فضل القومية الهندية على الانتماء الديني بما في ذلك دينه الهندوسي، و يكره محمد علي باشا لطموحاته الشخصية الامبراطورية، و يكره ماو زيدونج للمآسي التي سببتها سياسة القفزة السريعة، و هكذا نخرج في النهاية بلا حصاد من التجارب البشرية بعد أن طرحنا المثل العليا لوجود نقائص بها، و هذا خطير، و لهذا اعتنق بثبات ثقافة الجمع، و هنا أذكر للتوضيح ما أتفق فيه و أختلف مع كل من الرجال الذين أضعهم فوق رأسي، فليس معنى حبي لهم أنهم فوق النقد أبدا

People who believe in subtractive thinking will sure refuse and hate Abdel Nasser because they believe he was a dictator. They will hate Guevara because he was a womaniser and will hate Hassan Nasrullah because he is Shiite (nearly all the Egyptians are Sunnis) and will hate Muhammad Abdou because he was against Salafism, and will hate Martin Luther King because he ignored the teachings of the old church, and will hate Gandhi because he gave priority to his Indian nationality more than his religious doctrines, including his Hindu religion, and will hate Muhammad Ali – he ruled Egypt in the 19th century – for his personal ambitions to become an emperor, and will hate Mao Zedong for the side effects of his economical vision. At the end of the day, they will not get any benefits from any of the experiences that mankind has passed by, as they prefer to ignore all the ideals just because they see some negative aspects there. This is really dangerous, and that's why I believe in the additive thinking and I'll try to mention the positive sides and the negative ones I see in the characters mentioned previously. Those characters that despite my great respect to them – I still believe that I have the right to criticize them.

أحب جمال الرجل و الزعيم، أتفق معه في رؤيته للزومية الكرامة الوطنية حتى يعيش المواطن سعيدا و أتفق معه في حتمية الحل الاشتراكي لمجتمعنا، كما أتفق معه في استراتيجية التعاون و التنسيق العربي كتوجه استراتيجي اقليمي كالاتحاد الاوروبي و الولايات المتحدة و ليس كنعرة قومية، أحب فيه الشرف و نزاهة اليد عن مال الدولة و الالتزام بتمثيل الطبقة الوسطى التي انتمى اليها ، و أحب فيه العزيمة و صدق الهمة التي مكنته من تحرير الوطن و الغاء الملكية و هو أصغر مني سناً ، كما أحب فيه أنه أحب العرب فبادلوه حبا بحب ، … لكل هذا أحب جمال و أضعه دوما نموذجا للبطل و الرجل و الانسان جميعا
و أختلف معه في سياسات القمع، فقد كان مثول تجربة الدكتور مصدق في ايران امام عينيه هاجسا مخيفا ، حين استطاع الامريكان ان يجهضوا ثورته، و غاب عن جمال ان مصدق لم يكن له الرصيد الشعبي في ايران كالذي تمتع به جمال في الشارع المصري بعد حرب عام ست و خمسين ، فلم يكن جمال يحتاج للقمع للاحتفاظ بقوة الثورة و سلامتها، كما أختلف معه في تطبيقات الاشتراكية الثورية التي تهدف للحصول على تأييد طبقات بعينها بغض النظر عن الاضرار بالمجتمع ككل، و أختلف معه في تأثره العاطفي بصداقاته في اختيار القيادات و الذي تمثل في خطيئتيه، عبد الحكيم عامر و الذي
اجهض انجازات الثورة عسكريا و أنور السادات الذي أجهض باقي الانجازات في كل الميادي

I love Gamal Abdel Nasser as a person and a leader. I agree with him in his vision towards national dignity so the people can live happily. I agree with him that the ultimate solution for our society is socialism. I also believe in the importance of strategic cooperation and the coordination between the Arab nations, like that between the members of the EU and the United States, which is not based on nationalism. I like his honour and his lack of corruption when it came to the State's coffers and his insistence on representing the middle class he belonged to. I love his strength and strong will, which enabled him to liberate the nation and end Royalty when he was younger than me. I also like the way he liked Arabs and how they liked him back. And for all this I like Gamal and always put him as an ideal hero and person … While I disagree with his policies of repression as Dr Mossadegh‘s experience in Iran unfolding in front of him was a scary obsession, when the Americans were able to foil his revolution. What Gamal didn't see what that Mossadegh did not enjoy the support of the Iranian masses like he did on the Egyptian street after the war of 56. Gamal did not need to resort to repression to maintain the strength of the revolution and safeguard it. I also disagree with the way he implemented his revolutionary socialism, which sought to ensure that he got the support of certain classes at the expense of society as a whole. I also disagree with his emotions that affected his choices and led his friends to occupy leading positions in Egypt, which represent his downfall, such as Abdel Hakim Amer, who ruined all the military achievements of the revolution, and Anwar El Sadat, who destroyed all its other achievements.

أحب جيفارا الرجل و الثائر الذي نبذ زخارف الوزارة و الحكم بعد تحرير كوبا و فضل عليها الموت مجاهدا لعدو بلاده و مدفعه في يده ،… ، أحب فيه مؤسس استراتيجية الغوريللا التي تعتبر عماد حرب الضعفاء ضد الجبابرة، و التي أخذت منها كتب التسويق استراتيجية تحمل نفس الاسم دون ان تنسب الحق لصاحبه، كما أحب فيه ميله للفقراء و توحده معهم
أختلف معه في المذهب الشيوعي الذي أراه غير مناسب للطبيعة البشرية التواقة للتميز ، و أفضل عليه مذهب الاشتراكية العلمية التي تعطي مساحة للتميز و السبق مع ضمان الحد الادنى من الحياة الانسانية غذاء و كساء و مأوى و علاجا للمواطن بمجرد كونه مواطنا

I like Guevara as a person and a revolutionist who left the ministry and the governmental position after liberating Cuba and preferred to die fighting his enemy. I like his establishment of the Guerrilla War strategy which is considered the cornerstone of the wars between the weak groups and the tyrants – a strategy that marketing books borrowed and made Marketing strategies based on it without giving credit to him. I also like his bias toward the poor.
I disagree with his communist vision, which I believe is not compatible with the human nature that is eager to excel. And I prefer practical socialism which gives people a chance to excel while guaranteeing the minimum levels necessary for human life like food, clothing, medicine and shelter to citizens to it.

Eyad then continues to point out the positive as well as negative sides that he sees in the examples mentioned above.

Disclaimer:

  • I may not agree with every single point written by Eyad, and so do you, but you know it's the additive thinking that makes you try to pick positive values there regardless of those points that you do not like or agree with.
  • I am not professional interpreter, and sometimes some phrases and expressions are not easily translated into English, so I try my best to pick phrases from the English language that give the same meaning.

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