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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

84                     THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM                CHAP.
of ancient traditions and prejudices rooted in the race and creed, of a mentality and psychology which often escape analysis, but of which the antagonism is none the less real because it is imponderable. It cannot in any case be the work of a few years, even in our rapidly moving times, nor is there much hope of carrying it through when practically no help can be looked for from the other side. And with few exceptions there were scarcely any influential Egyptians who were prepared to assist and not to obstruct such efforts as Lord Cromer could make for the regeneration of the Egyptian people. For most of the very measures taken to restore the material progress of the country placed increasing restraints upon the old despotic and corrupt methods of government. The enforcement of equal treatment for rich and poor in the matter of taxation and of water rights, the abolition of the corvee, even judicial reforms, meant so many attacks upon the vested interests of the old ruling classes—interests far more precious to them than the moral regeneration of their nation, even had they believed in such a thing.
To those ruling classes belonged for the greater part, by birth or by common traditions, the official hierarchy from which under a hybrid system, which still vested all executive authority in Egyptians and assigned only advisory functions to Englishmen, Ministers and provincial governors still had to be drawn. Few of them were in principle inclined and competent in practice to cooperate with the British controlling power. The Armenian Nubar, who had played an honourable and often courageous part under the old regime, stood in many respects quite apart from the rest, in culture and intellect as well as in character. The sufferings of his own race in Turkey had, he told me on one occasion, taught him to sympathise with the sufferings of the fellaheen in Egypt, as both were due to the cruel and irresponsible selfishness of arbitrary power. The reforms which appealed to him were, however, those of which he could clearlynterested, are devoted to purposes which are of real benefit to the country ? If all these, and many other points to which I could allude, do not constitute some moral advancement, then, of a truth, I do not know what the word morality implies."