Monday, September 29, 2008

In All Fairness

A commentary on Ibrahim Eissa's court sentence

I never understood why people always felt it apt to say, "We can't comment on the court's ruling or Egyptian judicial system." It's a bit for show, because in the end, why is that the only thing we can't comment on or rather, what else are we even allowed to comment on. I think it's because the rulings represent justice, and to comment on the ruling would be to accuse the whole system we have in place of injustice. If that were the case, then I think we should all be commenting on our judicial system.

Yesterday, Ibrahim Eissa's trial ended with a 2 month sentence that he was to serve. Unlike the rest of the country the real question that concerns me is fairness rather than justice. I have not followed the case in a legal manner that qualifies me to make a comment on justice, nor have I studied law to give me a unique perspective as to what has really happened. Like all of us, I believe that there was a grave injustice, not by the laws of the country, but by the laws of humans. A prison sentence for the truth delivers a message smack across our face to tell us what this country really values. Egypt values the games of the jungle, survival of the fittest. Morals like truth and integrity are always on the losing end, and lies and deceit is what is preached. Our country is telling us that you can't win by being truthful or honest or straight. Our judicial system is like a game with rules that don't necessarily reflect morality.

I've commented on justice, but like I said, I'm not the right person to comment on this fully, but as a human I have the undisputed right to comment on fairness. I suppose speaking out for fairness will be something I can get imprisoned for, so I'd better hurry up and speak now before the government realizes that there remains some sort of virtue in the country.

Assume for one fraction of a second that you're as blinded by laws and bias as government and the judiciary. I know it's difficult, but you need to pretend you do not have a brain and that you are in your safe place. Of course it would involve you to pause reading this and pretend you're a vegetable, but it's doable, believe me. Some people have been doing this all their lives. With that in mind, invoke a small piece of your brain to think for a little as to the fairness of passing a judgment like this. I say imprison Eissa, but bring to trial all those in government that have cause our economy to suffer blows more than that day when Ibrahim Eissa wrote what he wrote. If we do that, I believe half the government will be in prison for more than a hundred times the duration of Eissa's sentence.

Assuming Eissa was lying, then give him a year or two, but only if you sentence every government official to seven times that much. I guarantee that if this was applied, we'd have a great government for a lifetime to come. I think much much more than half the government will spend the rest of their days in a prison.

If justice was to fine someone for double parking, then fairness would be to fine everyone for this. Picking just one person to fine for double parking when all others have is crooked, but fining that one person for parking correctly is a complete disaster.

I'm all for justice, but apply it fairly. Apply justice to those who deserve it. Our country deserves a justice that has not been served.

In a movie called Night at the Roxbury, two brothers had an idea for a night club. They'd call it inside out where the streets would be the inside of the club, and fancy cushions and red carpets would be on the outside. It's a very stupid movie, with an idea so ludicrous that it can only be in a comedy movie. Are we in a comedy movie? The good people are inside prisons and the crooks are on the outside. The crooks are running the show. This can't be a comedy though, it's far too tragic.

The government has written a coded letter to all of us, and being sort of science man I've decided to decipher it for all of us.

"Dear citizens," it says, "we're glad that you found the accommodation with us very disturbing, we target your discomfort in every possible way. Don't try to leave the country, you're our prisoner, any such attempt will be swiftly reprimanded and punished, and don't forget the drowned youth, and the victims of 'Al Salam'. If you have any valuable possessions like morals, ethics, or virtues, you are to deliver them along with truth, pride, courage and dignity to the corrupt officer nearest to you. They will be thrown out to sea and can never be reclaimed.

"If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to discuss it with us, after which you shall be beaten or imprisoned depending on your social status and our desire to teach you a lesson."

Forgive the rush job, I'm still new at this and still deciphering the code. Believe you me, there are more messages, more codes and they shall be soon translated. It's a sad shocking message they send to our children, but the children will be even more ruthless than their parents I suppose.

In all fairness- . There's just no way I can compete this sentence. There's just no fairness in a Mafia that intimidates a neighborhood. There's no fairness in a country that masks its bullying with a façade of legal actions.

The Eissa trial sends out a message, like Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York. It sends a message from our very own Vito Corleone (without the charm). It's a message of hope, a message of love, a message of justice, but above all, it's a message of fairness.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thrown in the Water

I'll make my point concise. The people in Egypt are bad, but the government is worse. The government says that the people aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing, and they're right. People have become lazy, irresponsible, selfish and just plain ill mannered. But the government took every measure to make absolutely sure that this is how people ended up, and they've succeeded and that's why they're worse.

The plain truth is that no one has a sense of responsibility, no sense of ownership, and the government wants people to have all this at their own will, when it's convenient. People are told to step up to the plate. That is the equivalent of throwing someone in the water, who had barely ever seen in his life his reflection upon its surface. And worse yet, expecting him to swim.

We're told to swim by a government that has denied us water to bathe with. We're told to rise from our wheel chair by a government that made sure we're paralyzed. We're told to fly off a cliff without the wings that could have been.

The average Egyptian man is taught to be spoon fed, and never to take responsibility, both by his family and the government.

Momma's gonna check out all your girlfriends for you
Momma won't let anyone dirty get through
Momma's gonna wait up until you get in
Momma will always find out where you've been

In short:

Momma's gonna make all of your nightmares come true
Momma's gonna put all of her fears into you

… and the horror of it is that the man starts a family, holds a position in the government and in life and is asked to be responsible. Even a dictionary can't help begin to explain what it means to be responsible.

But even worse off are the women, they're the closest thing to puppets in our society. From birth they're told what to do, and how to be. They can't even begin to comprehend a life free of slavery, so much so, that they don't feel they're enslaved. They become programmed like robots. This is 'Haram', a sin, or this is right. By the end of their grooming they'll tell you all the Haram/Halal things as if they were printed in their DNA, but they will not be able to disclose as to why, they just know it. They're responsible to be what is expected of them, the picture perfect girls that society expects them to be. They can do whatever they want however and as long as they're not caught, that's no problem. There is no responsibility here, just an image to be kept.

When they grow up it really turns worse, so much worse. That girl turning into a woman is asked to start a family. The already clueless husband expects his wife to be some way or the other. It's a disaster though, because the girl find herself in charge of a family together with a pampered man who doesn't know anything either. They both create the cells of an irresponsible society.

The true disaster is yet to come, when the woman, who has known nothing of responsibility so far, is almost solely responsible for her children. That's all the water you can ever get thrown into, and judging only by history, we can see that she's no swimmer at all. What kind of things does the woman teach them? She has had no experience of her own, she really knows nothing in the world and she's expected to pass down that knowledge to her children. She becomes the new Momma, and so it goes.

This is as concise as it gets. Each point alone is an expandable disaster. I haven't even mentioned the incompetence of people at the jobs they do, the kind of education that abjures responsibly. I haven't even mentioned the selfish manners, or what happens when irresponsibility is present in those who are theoretically responsible for the rest. The point is simply, how do you expect to make someone a swimmer if they've never been near the water? Why blame them when they drown after you've thrown them in the water?

In the words of Kurt Vonnegut… So it goes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Another Malesh

Phone call to Alpha Scan

Me: I'd like to come in for an MRI on my shoulder, when can I do that?
Him: You have to come in and schedule an appointment?
Me: Do I have to come in personally?
Him: No you can come in or you can send someone to make the appointment for you.
Me: Can't I just book by phone?
Him: No, because we have to get a deposit and schedule a time.
Me: But I have medical insurance, I won't be paying anything.
Him: But we have to see the approval form.
Me: Why do I have to come in two times in order to get the MRI prescribed for me?
Him: (pause) Malesh.
Me: Malesh is not an answer, I'm asking why I have to come in twice needlessly.
Him: These are the instructions left by the administration.
Me: Thanks, goodbye.

Phone call to Cairo Scan

Me: I'd like to come in for an MRI on my shoulder, how can I do this?
Another Him: Can you come in tomorrow?
Me: Yes sure, what time?
Another Him: Come in at 3:15, and you'll be taking the test at 3:30.
Me: That's all?
Another Him: Yes…Which insurance company? Name? age? Which shoulder? Etc…

Which of them should I choose to go to I wonder…


Don't be too rigid, lest you break...

Saturday, September 06, 2008


This post has been a long time coming but had not materialized till just now. Maybe I just wanted to make it super clear, to make sense of those irrational things that keep happening, but have failed and that's why it took me so long. It started out as one story I wanted to tell, and then I wanted to write another, and then another and I realized that they were all related and have something to do with one another. The thread that ties them all is 'Acceptance', or perhaps rather, the lack of it.

It's about the different worlds we live in contained within the same one. They are different worlds because they have different rules and sadly focus on our differences. It's easier now to blurt out my conclusion before conveying the facts that lead me to it, but even with a conclusion some questions remain unanswered and I've yet to experience more so as to determine their answer. The conclusion is simply this, I find myself belonging to a different world and I find no arms extended from other worlds to accept my own. I'm not talking about the usual alienation I feel in the presence of those around me. Those around me belong to the same world I'm in no matter how remote they seem. We can communicate and feel that remoteness, and that itself is progress and there's always a chance that there will be some kind of common ground.

What I'm talking about are those people who live in different places with an entirely different education and background culture. There are no bridges between us and we're not living in a Utopia where communication is possible. It's not that anyone's better either, it's just that we're different. The way of life we have now has turned our worlds into a jungle of many species. We cannot say that Giraffes are better than Elephants, but they just don’t seem to mix. The sad part about all of this is that this is against all civilization stands for.

Okay, I'm rambling, but why shouldn't I when everything has gone crazy anyway? … The dogma and culture around us has alienated us from one another. We've concentrated on tribalism, on the differences that separate us rather than the similarities that join us. We've worked so hard in making our similarities negligible next to our differences.

The key is acceptance of which I've found none. There is no acceptance between us anymore, even between one street and the next. Who can accept the other these days? Good people; but not all people are good. Not all people can see past their tribalism and their fixed notions.

We live in a world where the first one to say something automatically becomes right, and the next few in line have difficulties proving themselves right. As children we're taught not to question though our questioning would have been our strongest asset. We're taught one thing and then taught that all others are wrong. The child's mind has become a competing ground in a race to corrupt it. Adults are passing on their corruption to children and sealing off the intake.

I was downtown a few weeks ago to buy something. The store had faulty equipment and after examining it I decided not to buy it. An old man in a Galabeya was sitting there. He seemed to have observed my untrimmed big hair and my casual wear. Apparently the owner of the shop and he said, "Why don't you buy that you Khonfos." Khonfos means Beatle, which is what they called funky kids back in the seventies on account of the Beatles and their hair. I thought he was joking but I didn't smile. People around were smiling… almost waiting for my reaction. I was calm. I asked him why he said so… he told me because of my big hair. I realized he just wanted his goods sold and might have interpreted my careless appearance into some kind of weakness that he could bully into buying his goods. I told him that at least I was wearing trousers, and to look at himself. He sort of got irritated; he said that he was dressed like a man. I told him his Galabeya looked like a woman's night gown. Men that I know wear trousers, so he shouldn't really be talking about how I look.

I think the man was too shocked and annoyed that I'd answered him back and he lost his temper. He started shouting and screaming at me saying that I wasn't a man and that I was gay and so on. I told him that if he didn't want to be insulted, next time he spoke he should watch his mouth and talk with some respect. He was about to assault me, and the workers tried to push me out of the shop gently as the man was coming at me, then we shouted and pushed each other. The people in the shop weren't smiling anymore… no one was smiling, no one but me.

Looking back on this I realized I hadn't gone the best way. It's easy to get someone angry and it's real easy for someone like me to calmly return an insult, but I didn't want anger to be the reaction I invoked. After I'd gone out of the shop I realized I should have aimed for shame. I should have told the old man in a Galabeya that a true man would not insult his guest. I know that this would have sort of shamed him, because that's how people are, extremely rude but would not ever acknowledge it.

Anyway, I realized that it wasn't his fault that he could not accept anyone else. His idea of a man was entirely skewed. He didn't realize that to be human, one must accept those around him.

It's not just him that's so remote… which brings me to the next set of incidents. There were people who wanted to do charity by filling bags with food for the poor to hand them out during Ramadan. The best prices were things that were unpackaged and so we decided to get together somewhere and do the packing ourselves. Some guys did not accept that guys and girls work together. It was something entirely dogmatic and counter productive, especially that logistics needed to be altered to accommodate for this change. I fought against it for a while, I tried to point out how ludicrous it was to alter all the logistics just for something that didn't make sense. It was entirely meaningless specially that all those people worked together in the same company, so it made no sense to consider this to be wrong.

My main problem was that men, as they always did in the past, were alienating women. "It's a man's world," they declared and that was just something I found unacceptable. I gave up fighting when the women agreed or rather demanded that this be the case. The women decided to alienate themselves from the men as well. There was just no point in fighting for something that both worlds agreed to. I'd have to move the fight over to education and culture and it's not something I'm capable of doing at the moment. The problem at the heart of it all was acceptance. The men didn't accept the presence of women in their world, not in an innocent way anyway, and the women didn't accept men in theirs. They were women hiding behind veils of senseless perceptions, and the men wanted them to stay there. They accepted only their alienation and nothing more.

Things didn't get better with the next incident. During handing out of the charity bags to long lost neighborhoods, one of the guides, a Muslim sheik was supposed to point those organizing the charity to the homes of poor folk. Some of those participating in the charity were Christian. In fact one of them was an initiator of the whole motion. When the young Muslim Sheikh got in the car with that Christian who was driving, he stormed out refusing to show the organizers where those homes of poor people were on account of that one Christian.

Is that not the heart of acceptance, to accept a human being in a common cause? Charity!! What could be more common to people than that? It's not that everyone didn't accept, other Sheikhs apologized profoundly condemning that action. One of them, an old very kind man, proceeded personally to point the rest as to where those poor people were. But what if he hadn't? Why should people suffer on account of one person's bigotry?

Going through these poor streets, that made those in Heena Maysara look like a luxury resort, I realized how alienated we've become from one another, how distant we've become and how different we've become. Is there any possible bridge?

As I got on the pick-up to help deliver those bags, the young kids looked at me like I was some kind of exotic animal, with my big hair and my jeans and T-shirt. I didn't mind, they weren't taught to accept anyone else. To them it was like bringing the zoo to them.

Now I'm someone who has dealt with numerous worlds throughout my life. I've dealt with people who are very poor, and some who are very rich. I've managed to gain a lot of friends whose status varied along a vast spectrum of wealth. Some were poor, and some were rich, but I think even with all that experience, I've never been thrown so hard into the sea of alienation. It's not that we were only different, it's that we have so many different standards and so many different rules. Goodness is different, evil is different, even madness is different.

Which brings me to my unresolved question, what do I do? I'm against change. I won't cut my hair or dress differently just to belong somewhere if I don't have to. I mean sometimes it's needed, but I don't have to, and so I won't. But what do I do? Do I try to bring myself closer to their world by at least not pushing it? Do I try to bring my world closer to others so that they can accept me or just learn to accept?

After the incidents I had almost decided that it was better to steer away from worlds that were not my own. I'm not a snob, but I don't need to pretend that I can belong to some people who are really poor or those who are filthy rich, it just won't work out. Do I just stick to safe places? Like those princes and princesses who shop only at Gucci who would pay 2000 dollars for hundred dollar shoe. Would that be me being a snob, saying I'm better than everyone else, or is it just self preservation, preservation of my way of life?

There are no bridges that are apparent, that's for sure, that's the fact… but do we build one? What has happened to have us all drift apart? Not just rich and poor, men and women, those of faith and those without? They've said that Arabs have good morals and ethics, but I've never seen that. We're taught to lie to ourselves, never question, never accept. That's more adulteration than not preserving our chastity.

I've yet to answer the question in my mind, but I do know that there's no tolerance around me. But it never really was easy to attain this, because the hardest thing in life remains to accept.