Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Relationships Not a Destination

Why start a relationship if it’s going to end we often ask. If people aren’t right for each other, why even bother. To tell you the truth we have a point. What use is going down a dead end path, where the end is near and you can see it from a distance. Why take an unknown road that leads to the same point. Why be with someone you can’t be with forever.

The reason is because there is no forever. Nothing lasts anyway and every relationship is temporary. What makes 10 years more permanent than 2 years is because we choose to label it so. For some, 10 years is temporary and 25 is permanent. But the point is that it all ends sooner or later. It’s understandable that people want things to end later rather than sooner but the point that people miss out is that it’s not about the end.

Relationship ends make no sense, it’s all the in between that makes all the difference, yet the way people analyze it is as if the journey doesn’t affect you, as if the quality of the relationship has nothing to add to you and nothing to give you. They skip forward in time and see its demise and judge a relationship based on that, but by the end of a doomed relationship you can actually come out a better person, bettered by the person you were with or by the experience. The real question isn’t how long this relationship will last, but how much it would give me while it does.

To shift the paradigm, is it better to be in a bad relationship that would last or in a good one that won’t? Ideally one would hope for a good one that lasts. For sure a bad relationship is not worth anything no matter how permanent it is. The good relationship needs to be assessed. Will it give me more than it’ll take? Would the journey through it give me something, give me joy.. as permanent as the volatile things in life?

Being with someone is very dynamic, it changes everything about yourself and about the other someone, you get entangled and you take a piece of that someone with you as you go along and they take a piece of you. The worst relationship is when you lose parts of yourself without gaining anything of worth. Good people are hard to find, those who share a good part of themselves with you, but should you try and grab a part of them even if it can’t last? If people give you a lot you can always win, and the reasons things don’t work out could very well be external reasons beyond your control. Why give up on something good if you can’t have it for longer? The entirety of life isn’t long anyway.

A relationship doesn’t exist for the sake of the relationship but for yours. What I mean is that the purpose of the relationship isn’t where it’s going to take the relationship itself, but where it takes you. You may see the end from a distance, but you can’t know the route you’ll take to reach it and much more, you can’t foretell the person you’ll be when you reach it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


When I first watched the ‘Avatar’ trailer I thought the movie would be a complete disaster and that I wouldn’t enjoy it one bit for a variety of reasons. For starters, the name Avatar sounds like some geeky internet word that can’t be taken seriously. The blue cartoon like creatures didn’t help either and only served to remind me that the last time James Cameron made a movie was in ’97 with Titanic. Sure it was the most successful movie ever made from a box office point of view but I didn’t care very much for it. Visions of a movie stuck in the nineties with old concepts flashed through my head, not to mention a cliché plot. The trailer told me all I needed to know about the story. A sort of teched-up version of Dances with Wolves meets Pocahontas.

Having watched Avatar in 3D, everything changed. Perhaps it was because this is my first time to watch something in 3D and have nothing to compare it with but I truly doubt that. The verdict is that Avatar is a movie that’s worth watching in 3D. (In 2D it wasn’t as impressive, which I simulated by watching with one eye closed through the 3D glasses) The first hour was an introduction to a colorful brightly lit new world in three dimensions and Cameron took his time drawing out the details of the new world with meticulous precision and fantastical imagery. The reason why it was very enjoyable and entertaining extends to more than the beautifully crafted scenery. James Cameron did a fine job transporting us to the planet Pandora surpassing so many of his predecessors that have attempted to take us to their own worlds. The creatures lived up to their name of having been created masterfully on the screen. It was as if we were looking into a glass box where everything was happening live before us, into a luminous exotic forest that was out of this world.

That’s not to say that the movie’s story line was profound or original. In a way it did mimic Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas in that the modern humans intermingled with an alien culture and one of us fell in love with one of them, but not in a cheap manner. The characters were taken seriously and Cameron took the trouble to write up their scenes from scratch rather than rely on ripped recycled scenes from previous movies (ala 2012). The movie itself is not a mindless action flick of action and sci-fi clichés and that’s was what won me over. The themes were not of the American patriotism and supremacy for a change; on the contrary they were quite the opposite which is rare to find in American blockbusters. It had some socio-political themes entwined with green and nature.

The aliens were not alien in their values and their ideas, they had a deep connection with their forest and every living thing around them. Their tribes worked in harmony, the women and men equally vital to their community with deep respect for the greater force of nature that binds them all. In a way the Navis of Avatar resembled the native Americans whom the Americans slaughtered, whose lands were stolen in order to serve the great and sinister ideal of capitalism. The Americans resembled, well, hmm, Americans and even in a futuristic movie on other planets they haven’t changed their locust-like nature of devouring everything in their way. The businessmen causing wars and milking us dry won’t stop.

In this movie it’s like the true alien to the humans is humanity. We’ve become so alienated from our roots that we don’t recognize them when we see them. We destroy everything in our way for insignificant profit and we've distanced ourselves from what truly matters. We’ve severed our connections with our surroundings, our nature, our climate, our environment and what’s more with one another. As a story, even with all the repetition in the ideas presented, everything is as pertinent as ever. The natives or Navis are referred to as hostiles and the American are still using the phrase ‘fight terror with terror’ even though they’re the aggressors.

The sky people (humans) moved back to their dying planet; something along these lines was said. We have killed our planet, but worst of all we’ve let our greedy politicians and businessmen do it, but unlike the movie we don’t have the power to tell them they can’t have everything they want, we have to watch our own planet being depleted for ink on paper they call money and for luxurious polluting vehicles and machinery.

The mandatory action sequences were there, but beneath their usual shallowness, I was filled with an underlying sorrow to see that beautiful scenery that Cameron had built being destroyed by heinous gun fire and explosives. It’s sad to see something beautiful destroyed, and Cameron created something very beautiful.

Those I’ve been with hadn’t experienced 3D in the manner presented to us in the film and according to many reports, Cameron revolutionized 3D. Cameron aimed to bring people back to attending movies in the cinemas. In my view, he succeeded.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Miracles and Realism

"...in my experience miracles never bother a realist. It is not miracles that incline a realist towards faith. The true realist, if he is not a believer, will invariably find within himself the strength and the ability not to believe in miracles either, and if a miracle stands before him as an incontrovertible fact, he will sooner disbelieve his senses than admit that fact. And even if he does admit it, it will be as a fact of nature, but one that until now has been obscure to him. In the realist it is not faith that is born of miracles, but miracles of faith. Once the realist believes, his realism inexorably compels him to admit miracles too. The Apostle Thomas declared that he would not believe until he saw, and when he saw, said: 'My Lord and my God.' Was it the miracle that made him believe? The likeliest explanation is that it was not, and that he came to believe for the sole reason that he wanted to believe and, perhaps, in the inmost corners of his being already fully believed, even when he said: 'Except I shall see...I will not believe.'"

~ The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Has it been that long?

I saw a young kid listening to Metallica's Load album. It seems ancient now, but he seems to be a fan of the classics. I realized how much of a classics it is. Even Nirvana now is a distant past, and is as old to the new generation as was Pink Floyd or Zepplin to me back at the time of Nirvana.

Has it really been that long?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weary to my Bones

The starting lines of Paul Simon's American Tune never fail to move me. I think constantly of my friends when I hear the lines: "I don't know a soul who's not been battered, I don't have a friend who feels at ease."

Yet with all this sharing, there might be something redeeming...

Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
or driven to its knees
but it's all right, it's all right
for we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly..

From Paul Simon - American Tune

Monday, December 14, 2009

First Editions can be Dangerous

Serbia made it to the world cup. In celebration of their victory the Serbian president Boris Tadic celebrated by opening a bottle of champagne and proposing a toast. Apparently it is illegal to consume alcohol in sports venues and so the president was fined.

When I heard the news, it made me really sad to think that even in such an event the president could be accountable for his actions when breaking the law. Needless to say, it's sad because of our current situation.

In contrast, our government has done something quite ridiculous, this same piece of news was published in Al Ahram newspaper's first edition (see below).

In the second edition, this piece of news was removed (see below)

Is there someone in charge of looking at all these first editions and removing any threat to the presidency and the government? Why would they remove such a piece of news? It's already known that our president is above the law. What does the removal of this piece of news say about our own government? I think it just means they're afraid and that it must not be ingrained in the minds of Egyptians that the law applies to the president. It's almost funny that there's someone with enough power to influence a newspaper going through silly pieces of news to identify threats to national security.

The act of removing news items and images in the second print is a common practice, which means that all newspapers are closely monitored and that there is great interference in what is published. Instead of all that energy to monitor the news, why doesn't the government do the multitude of jobs where there is obvious dereliction?

The bottom line is to watch out for first editions and enjoyEgyptian lunacy...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Survival Skills

It's odd how humans are taught skills that are necessary for the prosper of business instead of survival nowadays. You're being trained as a machine, not just to survive but to make money for someone else. Are we being taught the right things in school?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Waiting for Govot

It's time for a balanced view. There are just too many extreme reactions to Algeria's attacks on Egyptians in Sudan. While it's infuriating, the proper reaction isn't to 'hate' the Algerian people for a variety of reasons. First, hate is a very personal emotion and it can't be applied to Algerians as a whole, secondly, it's not helpful at all or can be quantified and most of all, hate is not an action at all, if you hate the Algerians in your heart then you've become nothing but a bitter imbecile who has just waited for an excuse to use that dark emotion having not been able to apply it where it matters.

And no, we don’t want Alaa Mubarak to be president, one phone call cannot erase all that’s gone wrong, that’s an extreme we have to avoid at all costs. We also can’t kick all the Algerians out like we did with foreigners and Jews at the time of Nasser and look what it cost us, we’d be fools to repeat the same mistakes twice. Not that I mind the action much in my fury, but we cannot set such a dangerous precedent and the fury will soon die down and I already know Algerian individuals who have nothing to do with this.

The reaction must be balanced, because Algerians have hurt more of their countrymen celebrating in Algeria than they have to Egyptians in Sudan. What would we do if they'd killed some Egyptians? (Which I'm sure they would have had they lost) What if it were Algerian fans that had done this to Egyptians rather than cowardly criminals? There are many extremes that would warrant an extreme reaction but this is not one of them.

There are mixed opinions about the facts and the evidences. Many people with little understanding of Egyptians and Algerians have thought that we were quick to exonerate Egypt from any mishaps despite its guilt. I and many friends would be the first to condemn Egypt if it made sense from a logical point of view. We condemn Egypt for being incompetent in providing protection to its citizens. Our ambassadors in either Algeria or Sudan are practically useless as an extension to the government that sent them. But we know that our supporters aren't creative enough to make this up nor are they violent enough to truly wish someone dead. And we know that the Algerians have the worst history of violence and lies. All evidences must be examined with care with all the lies around.

On the one hand people are exaggerating about what happened, on the other some don’t believe anything that happened, but not just because it’s an exaggeration means that it’s not a big thing of its own. But even if some people don’t think it’s worth our efforts we'll always have no value if we don't stand up for our rights, and we really have been squandering those for much too long. What happened in Sudan remains unacceptable.

I think that people's emotional and illogical reactions of hate are due to the implicit realization that our government will do nothing. We have become a weak country; weak in its people, with a weak government that's only strong enough to suppress its own. It’s a government strong enough to oppress its people but too weak to stand up for itself. People hate Algeria because they hate their country and with the impossibility of expressing this against their government they have reflected it on the Algerian people. People are mad, but not at Algeria although they may think they are, they're mad at themselves and at their government. They feel betrayed by the symbol they thought would give them victory, strength and pride. They gave their energy, which is not a small feat by any means, to a flag that hurt them in every way; a flag that lost, got them beaten, got them defeated and got them humiliated. They're mad that the government doesn't care. They didn't care when they sent in the Egyptians without adequate protection and they don't care to give value to the Egyptian life and they won't care for any future failures they or their people encounter. The only thing they care about is staying in power and they are a species that fight one another for that power.

Wouldn’t it be great if the government took the proper action? It would really make a difference, but the government has been so inactive for so long that I doubt it can take a creative action even if it wanted to. People are waiting for the government, but in effect it’s like waiting for Godot.

In any case, this is great news for Israel. And no, I'm not a conspiracy theorist at all and don't have to drag Israel into everything. Today we realize that not one Arab country likes us and that we're so apart in reality. We've done everything to provoke them and anger them and they didn't do much to win our favor either. Each disruption with an Arab country pushes us closer into Israel's bosom, for with them comes economic support. Israel actually wants Egypt to be powerful unlike what the conspiracy theorists say, because it would mean that its only ally in the Middle East would be a strong ally.

I'm not inviting people to hate Israelis, for some are people without a choice of where they were born. I'm not inviting hate at all in any case, I'm inviting resentment. I'm inciting everyone to resent the things that should be resented. I'm hoping for a balanced opinion amidst those moderate few. Let not the anger blind you lest you end up where you don't want to be.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


If you want people to unite and sing the same tune, find a common enemy. If the real enemy is too strong to fight, find another. If you were the enemy, fight with the people.

Well done gov..

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The sheer sight of those NDP guys attending the match really got me thinking. Do I really want Egypt to win and for those tyrants to think that they can actually do something good through their corrupt system? Part of me really wanted Egypt to win, but the other part could not really conceive of such a thing happening.

After my last post, I realized that we were destined to lose. I alluded to it and I think it’s the only thing that makes sense. As I was writing what I wrote before, I knew I would also have to write what I write now. I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but according to all my analogies, we had to lose because we don’t know how to keep winning and because it wouldn’t be fair to give people false hope, that they can do one thing right when everything else has gone wrong.

Defeat might sometimes be a good thing. Maybe the people in Algeria were spared, and maybe we now know that we have very few friends in the region, and maybe now people can pay attention to all that’s gone wrong with the country. We don’t deserve to lose, but we should. As a country we should lose, not as an isolated team. They played well, they had the most horrible of luck. Sometimes your best just isn’t good enough, you really need other people’s best too.

It sounds pompous to say that I had a strong feeling we would lose, specially now after we actually did, but I suppose I didn’t really want to jinx it. That hope and energy that I had the first time round wasn’t there anymore, like I didn’t care or didn’t believe, like the spirit died down. I suppose we’re like the seed that lands in the path, we don’t have enough roots.

But if it’s any consolation we were defeated a long time ago and even if we had won we would have been defeated, not for losing a ‘friend’, Algeria, but for having lost ourselves sometime back. We had our chance to say that we’re alive, but we have demonstrated what we do with second chances.

Defeat stings if you put your hopes up high enough. I felt defeated before the match for so many reasons, the spirit died down and victory was intoxicating. Isn’t it safer just not to hope? It is, but I suppose you may get some joy out of it and as CS Lewis says in the movie ‘Shadowlands’, “The pain now is part of the happiness then.” I accept the loss, it’s part of accepting the victory.

To those who were perplexed by the spirit in the street thinking it’s stupid, well they’re spared and they won’t have to listen to my reasons. I’m not going to South Africa and Egyptians won’t be able to unite for any cause even if it’s as silly as football. There’s much sadness in defeat, but luckily in this case, it’s only a game.

Please jump for Egypt's National Anthem

We sometimes have our moments

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We're Alive!

"The best thing about attending the game at the stadium was when people chanted ‘Kaas El A’alam’ just a minute before the goal"- Ahmed ElShentenawy, an Egyptian who flew in from Kuwait to watch the game.

We’re alive, that’s what the game said in the end, we’re not dead yet. We’ve had to battle hard for a chance to live, we’ve had to wait till the forth watch before finding our salvation, but we’re alive. Despite our slim chances of survival and our poor history with the world cup we’re alive. Despite how everything around us is set up to kill us, we’re alive. That’s the message of the game, we’re not dead yet. The 14th of November of 2009 gave us a chance to say that in our game against Algiers that ended with a 2-Nil victory that gives us another chance to enter the world cup.

We live in country that has set us up for failure in everything we do. The talented don’t get their chance to be all they can be, the money goes to the wrong places and pockets and no one really cares about people’s quality of life, or their hopes and dreams and aspirations. We’re in a country that’s been abused for so long and with everything that’s happening, it’s dying a slow and painful death. The word ‘Masr’ or Egypt has been since some time back used in a negative manner. It has come to denote a place you want to leave, you want to get out of, you want to be disassociated with. The only mention of patriotism is fabricated through cheap drama writers who are induced to do so by an oppressive government as propaganda.

Our ancient pharaonic symbols have all been over-used and have long been anchored to mediocrity. The flag with its colors has become depressing to look at, depressing to salute, obligatory in schools as another form of oppression inflicted on us by a tyrannical government. Our hopes are dying and our culture is dying and our dignity is dying. We’re fading away, silently into a darkness, worn down, run into the ground.

But then comes something of a phenomenon, football. It strikes me as odd that this may quite well be the only thing Egyptians have in common, that is the one thing for which we will stand shoulder to shoulder. It’s slightly sad that this may be the only thing we have left and yet with all the sadness of this realization, it’s hopeful that we still have that. We have one thing that brings us together. That is why even though I don’t believe that a football match should be treated with this much excitement, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with people and will get excited and will be part of the whole. Even if you don’t watch or like or care about football, you should stand shoulder to shoulder with your fellows. Don’t you understand? This might be the only thing we have left with one another.

This game mandated by an international body FIFA has fix what the local government has broken, pride in a country. It has given meaning to the word ‘Masr’.. Egypt.. chanted willingly by the people who have been most abused by it. The flags voluntarily hung up everywhere a symbol of a revived faith in a seemingly lost and dying cause. We’re being told by the world that we’re the pharaohs and we don’t seem to mind it now.

We’re in search of hope. We’re in search of hope in something greater than a football match. We’re in search of hope of a common cause, of some kind of collective victory in some kind of salvation from the darkness we’re plummeting into. We are trying to answer a question of whether after all our failures we had hope to survive. We failed in Egypt to beat Zambia and that was the failure we were trying to overcome in this game. It is a bit symbolic of all our failures and this match was to ask if we could overcome our history of failures.

The way people have said ‘Masr’ over the past few days could almost move a mountain. The faith and conviction was beyond words, carried stealthily with the word ‘Masr’ and sent out as so much energy. That’s how we scored twice, each time through this energy and this faith.

At the start of the game, the atmosphere was electric, it was phenomenal, and with all this energy from faith and hope, it drove the ball into the net. It wasn’t Sakka or Treka or Zidan or even Zaki that drove it in, it was that momentous energy. ‘Please God, let us win,’ said everyone in his heart and out loud. Even those who don’t believe in God said that to the energies that be. Let us not die today, give us hope in a future that is seemingly hopeless. We can’t afford to lose hope, not till the final whistle, we have to go down fighting at least.

I had to struggle with myself to keep that hope alive, till the very last second. Do I just accept defeat and spare myself the agony or do I keep fighting even within myself, for keeping faith consumes a lot of energy, it’s not as simple or as easy as giving up or losing faith. I decided not to let go of hope and kept it till the very last second, but I wasn’t the only one. I don’t know how difficult it was for others to keep that hope for a country that is almost destined to lose, that in fact has done so consistently over the years. I don’t know how they all got the energy to do that, while I, considering myself a person full of strength, struggled so damn hard with it. But they did, amidst all the darkness and the hopelessness they did.

In the very final minutes, where most would have been content to leave and say, ‘Forget about this whole damn country, it’s not worth a shit’, when people could have said, ‘It’s the same way always, nothing will ever change’, when people could have thrown the towel in and accepted their failure and their fate, they hung in there. They hung in there just like they have been hanging in there after our life line in Zambia when we scored a goal in a very difficult match; just like they have hung on to the hope before the match with our very slim chance of making that two goal win; just like they stopped criticizing and attacking our players and our coach and keeping the faith in them despite their near impossible mission.

A minute before the goal, the entire stadium chanted ‘Kaas El A’alam’ (The World Cup). In unison they chanted as a reminder to all the players playing on the court that this was our dream, that this is what they were fighting for till the last minute, that these were the last minutes and that victory could be at hand, that we could still play on as long as it wasn’t over, as long as we had a chance to live. How they could have fought with all their might to keep that faith is slightly incomprehensible for we are not the breed of fighters that fights till the end. We’re quick to lose hope and we have a long history to back it up and explain it.

‘Kaas El A’alam’, they chanted, taking every bit of energy to keep up the faith, to believe in the possibility of change. The players, reminded of a dream that has been almost forgotten in the entirety of the second half, rose up again. We have a dream to be part of the world, to compete, to understand that we can live. It was these chants that pushed the ball in, we’re not completely dead, against all odds, we’re alive. Those who were in the stadium were moved by the words before being moved by the goal. They were there, all of them, to remind those who were in a position to give us some sort of life that they should do their best till the very end. They were there to demand of our representatives that they not forget about us and our dreams which should be their dream too. They were there to remind the few who had the power that they were playing for us all, and the few who were in the stadium knew very well that they chanted this not just for the players, but for the 80 million others who were not able to fit in the stadium.

There are far too many emotions to describe but the temporary verdict of this match is that we’re alive. We live to fight another day. I say this before the final match that really determines if our dreams come true because it’s relevant whether we win or lose. We were given a victory out of almost nowhere at the fourth watch and I can't but be thankful. We might lose the next match and not realize our dream, but we’ve conquered the odds nevertheless. If only we can extend this to the next match, and not just our next football match, but our next fight for a better us.

Those that don’t choose to share the value of the word ‘Masr’ on this occasion, miss out on the one thing that currently brings us together. I know it’s not much, it’s a game, it’s a sport, it doesn’t give us much and I understand that there are too many more important impending issues at hand to be concerned with a game, but still, I’d rather have this than nothing at all. I will scream and shout and cry not just for the game, but for the chance to hope and fight and win, and to be able to say we’re alive.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Vice In Disguise

There is a huge contrast between Egyptians and Saudis that struck me with much irony just as I was about to depart Riyadh airport. It is no secret that the Saudi Arabian notion of virtue is one where free will hardly exists, that is to say, you should be good because your choices are limited. It is a kind of enforced virtue like that of a child who is well behaved only because he is chained and gagged. If we are to call things by their true names, it is just a hypocritical appearance of virtue which is in fact not virtue at all. The repercussions of this veiled vice are numerous, one of many being that the absence of choice leaves one unable to choose when choices appear and the time comes to make a decision. That is why Saudis when given a choice, their desire to experience something of their own choosing leads them only to the things they were never allowed to choose. It is an overwhelming desire for the forbidden fruit, which is not just the vice they were forced to stay away from, but in this case the power to choose. The desire for this kind of freedom to choose is so much more powerful than their conditioning.

It strikes me as almost futile to point out the ills of the Saudi system, for it would take too many words to state what is obvious to the average thinker and yet despite the simplicity can end up meaning to those who cannot see.

There exist within Egypt such poor thinking individuals who are mostly working class people who have lived in the gulf for some time. Escaping an unjust, tyrannical and poor Egypt, they travelled to the gulf in order to make a living. Many in desperation have adapted to the gulf manner of seeing virtue, as something that must be enforced. They have managed to acquire a foolish lesson that even the Saudi residents have had too much good sense not to learn and not to preach. Saudi residents are not too keen on spreading their way of life to other countries. When in foreign countries they embrace the freedom these countries allow to the extent of abuse.

In their blinded conditioning, Egyptians try to bring in the vice of hypocritical virtue camouflaged as piety into their country. In a way they don’t fully realize the full extent of the harm they would cause if they were to succeed. To comply with their desire of enforcing a narrow minded perceived goodness would be to take away any real goodness that Egyptians might possess through the power of their choice. In trying to fix they actually destroy.

To enforce this notion of goodness would be to force our youth to follow all the wrong paths when given a choice, would diminish their feeling responsibility for their actions more than it already is, would take away accountability and would deprive them of any learning opportunity they might come across. Worst of all, it deprives them of the pleasure experienced when one chooses to do good as opposed to being forced to doing it.

This is why I’m against insincere virtue, for it is volatile and can’t stand the test of real hardships. I’m aware of the counter point that might be raised, namely our need to prevent harm resulting from other people’s bad choices. This is absolutely valid, but how much protection do people need?

The problem is that gulf wahabi ideas are dogmatic without having much intent. It is not a matter of stopping harm; it’s a matter of stopping choice. Perhaps that’s why even with the choices Arabs might have they don’t choose well. They buy a phone every few months and stuff their garages with all the cars they can amass. They follow the golden rule, when in doubt, choose everything.

While Saudis try to escape the vices of their system by accepting freedom they find in other places, Egyptians are trying to introduce an evil into their own world by rejecting the real virtue we had in our country. Sadly those wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing are contributing to the deterioration of real virtue and replacing it with the ugliest of all vices, hypocrisy. Freedom, the greatest of human ideas which is one of the few universally accepted causes to fight for, is being replaced by the most debasing of ideas ever known to man, slavery.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Niqab: A Veiling of Humanity

I came across this article about the niqab in The Daily News Egypt and was very surprised by the content and arguments presented. The article says, “Unfortunately, most debates revealed prejudices and an unwillingness to accept differences.” I found that very naïve because the case against the niqab isn’t as simple as just prejudices, it’s about the welfare of a society. The simple logic of just comparing the niqab to the hijab unfortunately doesn’t quite cut it.

To tell you the truth, I don’t even know why the issue of ‘niqab’ is even being discussed amongst educated thinkers. It makes sense if the educated try to argue with the ignorant in order to make them see the errors in their logic. It makes sense if the poor and the ignorant debate it amongst themselves all year long, after all, it is these kind of people who end up embracing such an idea.

There are only a handful of reasons why an educated person could argue for the niqab in the modern day, and the reasons are rather subjective. The main arguments are driven either by ignorance or fear. There are other sub reasons but they all relate to either one or another. One such example is the desire to appear neutral or open minded to all ideas by hiding behind a fake pretentious façade of liberalism or human rights advocacy. This relates to ignorance because all the principles of liberalism can only be misapplied if they were to be used as an argument for the niqab. That’s to say that a person chooses to be ignorant of meaning of the principles when applying them to the niqab.

Ignorance is the easy route out in a view supporting the niqab. Unlike its counterpart, the hijab, there doesn’t exist the same distant suspicion that the niqab has roots in the original Islam, nor is it suspected to have been expected of all Muslim women. Hence, anyone arguing for the niqab from a religious perspective has no ground to stand upon. Usually those who know about the niqab know it from extreme preachers on television or are handed it down from others in poor places. It’s easier for someone to listen than to read, and those lazy to read will probably be too lazy to think. We’re faced with the impossible situation of trying to change someone’s thoughts, and the irony is that it hasn’t entered their heads through the natural means of thinking.

Most educated arguments sprout from a human rights perspective. Those who make this argument have missed the important points completely. Needless to say the argument is that it’s people’s right to do as they please, one’s dress style relates to their personal freedom and their choice can be considered freedom of expression. This argument while at first glance seems liberal and seems to make sense, it fails every kind of objective test. The first thing to point out about a right is equality. To claim something is a human right means to give it to everyone. If women have the absolute right to dress as they please, then it should follow that just as a woman should be allowed to cover up all her skin, so too should a woman be allowed to bare all her skin. As one extreme shows, both are unacceptable. The sophists may argue that showing all the body skin is indecent, but I would also say that covering up your identity is unfair, indecent and rude where manners are concerned. It’s not only rude but pretty terrifying too. The idea of big brother watching you from under the niqab is a horrifying prospect. So just as no clothing violates people’s sense of decency, the niqab threatens people’s sense of security.

Don’t get me wrong, people can do whatever they want in the privacy of their properties, cars, houses, spas. They can wear the niqab or dress up as super heroes for all I care, but that doesn’t include public places where others can’t help but be there.

While on the subject of equality of rights, would society allow men to go around in ski masks with their identity concealed? Would we allow our doctors, our butchers, or our waiters and cooks? Do we protect the right of men to hide behind the niqab thus concealing their identity and allowed in places they were never meant to be? We actually seem to be doing just that, but it doesn’t make it right. In terms of equality the argument for the niqab fails and serves only to violate people’s rights by giving a group of people unexplained and unjustified privileges. It not only fails to give equal rights to women on the opposite side, but it also fails across genders.

Let’s say we can ignore all this, let’s think of who and what we’re fighting for, if it is even conceivable that this is a human right. We’re fighting for a group of people who want only their way. If we guarantee them this as a right, we forfeit others’ rights. What I mean to say is that those who choose the niqab probably don’t believe in the rights we’re using as an argument and while some might say that this is not relevant in theory, I say that in practice it is. It doesn’t appear likely that people for whom we will ensure the right to wear a niqab would start fighting for other people’s rights of freedom even if they got what they want in the name of human rights. It would be like democratically electing a leader who doesn’t believe in democracy and would abolish it whence in power. It’s like an inciter of hate demanding freedom of speech not recognizing the limitations of his right.

The hijab managed to sustain itself because it’s a dress code that doesn’t hide the facial features that identify a human being. It can’t be used to commit a crime, can’t be used to disguise men as women, can pass as an expression of faith, and if men wear it, it’ll be weird but acceptable.

The niqab needless to say is full of problems absent from the hijab. So why then don’t the more knowledgeable, non ignorant people speak up and state the obvious as vehemently as I have just stated it? The answer is fear. It’s not easy describing the exact quality of fear that inhibits speaking up about this matter, but I can attempt to flit around it. The fear might be of being criticized for appearing less zealous over Islam than others around, for the niqab has come to symbolize piety. There is among many a trend to call people infidels for no particularly good reason as excuse to get their way, much like people were called enemies of the revolution when their views were in conflict with the leaders and the person along with his views was disposed of by mere accusations. In our descent into the abyss of extremism it has become harder to tell the truth without fear. It may be fear of a damaged reputation or sometimes fear of acquiring a damaged body part. And in our world of extreme political correctness and human rights advocacy it’s becoming harder and harder to be logical for fear of appearing less humane and more of a bigot.

There’s always a fear of being accused or misunderstood and in our effort to survive we let extremism drag us further down the bottom of an endless ocean. There’s a fear of going against the flow needlessly and there’s a fear of losing popularity if you are in the position to have your voice heard.

It’s hard to pinpoint what scares each person, but there’s a cloud of fear hovering over our heads. Even the all mighty government is afraid of touching the subject for the repercussions and retaliation against any action it might take and that’s why it’s approaching it indirectly by allowing the educated to voice out their concerns. The hijab managed to become quite near our holocaust, untouchable despite previous debates around the subject. You might think that the niqab is far from sharing this fate but one need only take a look at Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia to observe how instilled a meaningless tradition can become.

So is it possible to accept the niqab under the umbrella of human rights and freedom? I’d be a fool to pretend that we could if we are to be honest with ourselves. Under the umbrella of extremism it is possible whether it be religious or pretentious human rights. However, it’s impossible to integrate with an alien watching from behind a screen interpreting my every expression and keeping his to himself. The whole quality of human interaction is compromised much less human rights. So the question becomes are we ready for humans to give up on their humanity?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Truth or Dare

It's simple, if we assume people usually choose between extremes, they can choose between not believing almost anything they're told, and believing almost everything they're told. While both extremes are horrible there is a rationale behind each of them, an empirical formula that can help you decide which to choose. When you don't believe everything, judging by the ratio of lies to truth, you can be right about a the thousand lies you reject and wrong about the single truth you reject along the way. When you believe everything, you're wrong about lies and correct about the truth.

The alternative is simple, either be right about all lies you reject and risk rejecting the few truths that come across your way, or risk being wrong about all the lies you accept and be certain of truths you accept.

In a way those who don't dare believe anything cannot take the risk and for this, they are rewarded of not being wrong most of the time, but the real question is, does truth deserve the risk? If we don't dare to reach the truth, what should we dare for?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Worth an Answer?

Is it worth it to answer a question honestly if the answer won't be enough? I'm really wondering about this now. If you know that someone's looking for an answer that isn't true, do you tell them the truth anyway or save yourself the hassle and not give an answer.

The problem with answering truthfully is that you're effectively a liar if you don't provide the answer that someone is looking for. The problem with not answering is that you're held at fault without a chance to explain something that might make a difference.

At first I thought it was best to answer, but now I don't think it's worth my breath.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Prison Inside Out

Riyadh is a city that doesn't inspire, but it doesn't inhibit inspiration. It has its own way of making me see things. I go to work 7 days a week. I wake up at 8 to have a car pass by at 8:30 even on weekends. It makes life tough since I don't get this release at the end of the week. It makes Riyadh seem to me like a giant prison. Even without that prison car, it's a giant prison. It's not so much like Egypt, where everyone is watching you, where your freedom is inhibited by those staring eyes. It's a kind of modern day prison where you're allowed to do everything within the confines of that prison. Why does it feel that way? Is it because of the absence of alcohol and women? Though these appear to be important aspects of life, specially the female sex, yet the reason can't be this shallow.

I think it's the fact that rules are imposed, whatever they may be. And how is that different to the rest of the world? Maybe it's just that the values differ from place to place. I think at the end of the day it's the fact that these values are being enforced, and I find them meaningless and stupid. The difference between one country and the next is the degree of freedom to do what you wish, is it the degree of freedom to do what's wrong? Perhaps, but one man's wrong is another man's right. It's the certainty, that fake certainty that disturbs me the most. The air of unquestioning ideas and values.

I find this land skewed, different from what I see in other countries. In other countries, the outside is freedom and the in confines of walls and fences dwells imprisonment. But in Saudi Arabia, the outside is the giant prison, and if you manage to escape to the confines of an American compound then inside what you get is freedom. Maybe like peace, freedom also comes from within. Maybe you might find freedom within a prison of some sort. That might be the general explanation to explain this anomaly.

In compounds people act freely, there are women, there are drinks, there are pools, there is everything you may wish to find in a free society. Is Cairo a lot like Riyadh? I don't know, there's a prison within Cairo.. people, families, reputations and doormen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An Apology for the Detained

A very worrying phenomenon has started to be observed. More and more people are denied entry into Egypt, most of them foreigners. First there was Manal Timraz, next Travis Randall and now Per Bjorklund. These are people that I know from 0 - 1 degree of separation. It follows that there are tens of others that I don't know about that have been treated similarly.

It's infuriating being denied entry into an allegedly touristic country without being given a reason. It's annoying that there's nothing we can do while some idiots control our borders. It's our country damn it, you don't represent us. Remember when the British controlled our country and we had no say in what happened? Well guess what, we're in the same position, only that this time there are no uniforms or physical features to identify our enemies. On the contrary, many of the foreigners are on our side.

So what can we do when our friends are denied entry for no other crime than perhaps trying to expose the injustice in our country? What can we do when our friends are mistreated for no good cause?

I have no answer, I pose this question hoping for answers better than ones that have come up. I'm almost tempted to say there's nothing we can do, but I know better than to blurt it out. The one thing that concerns me though is the dire consequences of such actions by a power drunk government. The current actions that possess so much obscurity and possibly foul play can leave us stranded. They are reminiscent of the persecution of foreigners at the time of Nasser, when they were all driven out despite being more Egyptian and more loyal to Egypt than many without foreign roots. The consequences back then is what we reap today, we have no culture of work and we've managed to fall behind almost everyone we were ahead of.

But even if not all foreigners are expelled, think about how we're going to be treated at embassies. I think if we treat them this way, then they're kind to us at their embassies even with all the bullshit we have to do in order to get a visa. Despite how angry I am at having a hard time, I know deep down that we deserve it. We deserve it because our non elected government has made us cheap. The Egyptians have been devalued and we're letting them get away with it, we're proving that we really are cheap because some minority with either low IQ or an intoxicating power trip are in control and we don't question them.

It's a government that protects itself and not its people and so, it becomes us and them. I can only hope that someone out there has enough courage to take action. I never thought of pursuing a foreign nationality, and I never thought I can ever be ashamed of being Egyptian, but you know what, maybe we ought to be ashamed, maybe our fake patriotism doesn't have place while our name and our heritage is being defamed and corrupted. I'm proud to say that I'm ashamed of being Egyptian now. I won't escape it, I will bear the shame that my alleged countrymen have incurred upon us.

If I can do anything to fix things, I would, but I feel helpless. I'm not a man of apologies, but I apologize to those mistreated by Egyptians. I apologize for our stupidity, and I apologize for our helplessness, but we too are prisoners in our own house and we're worse off, we have no home to return to.

Monday, September 28, 2009

World Cup Trophy Denied Entry - Egypt Pleads Stupidity

In the latest joke, greedy ignorant Egyptian customs officials refused entry to the eminent FIFA World Cup trophy. In the habit of detaining things first and asking questions later, officials detained the FIFA World Cup demanding a sum of 300,000 L.E as customs, implicitly voicing their concern that the FIFA World Cup was being smuggled into the country to be sold to a wealthy Egyptian (noting that the law exempts trophies and medals from customs and taxes). The crisis was finally resolved when someone coming in from the Egyptian Football Association and signing a pledge not to sell the cup in Egypt (despite having a wealthy buyer lined up).

The news is so absurd and so stupid that I can’t even begin to comment on the amount of its sheer idiocy, and I won’t. However, after I had my share of laughter, I was filled with shame. Why are Egyptians becoming so stupid? I’m serious, their IQ is dropping. At first they were implementing the law stupidly and now they’re not even implementing the law, they’re just stupid.

It’s not like this was an isolated incident, to top things off, the opening was a complete disaster. It’s not just that the stupidity private cars were prevented from parking in the designated parking zone within the stadium, and if that weren’t enough, the area surrounding the stadium was a no parking zone too. In the end supporters had to park in something of a desert and walk a couple of kilometers in the sun to get into to their designated entrance gates.

And if you think the story ends here, you underestimate the Egyptian stupidity that I speak of. In all their wisdom, the organizers closed all the gates that the spectators were instructed to use on their tickets save one. All the spectators had to proceed to that gate in order to enter.

In isolation that would have been a scandal, but we’re talking about a disaster here. It follows that even after proceeding to the gate around 30,000 spectators possessing valid tickets were denied entry into the stadium. Furthermore, many who did not purchase tickets were allowed entry through deviant means.

It’s needless to expand by describing the ease through which NDP members and their families got in to watch the match (balad abouhom aslaha).

We were shamed, and right now I’m just thankful we didn’t host the 2010 world cup. By 2010 we will be so stupid that we would tax the trophies and medals and awards and even the Calvin Klein underwear. We’ll be so stupid that we might not even let the players in. We’ll be so stupid that we might put the trophy behind bars, electrocute it and try shoving a stick into it. We’ll be so stupid that it’ll be much more creative and much funnier than anything I can say.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Life of Promises

And all the promises and their fulfillment are symbolic of the great promise, made to him by everyone, that he will grow and change. This great promise he takes into himself in the form of a pledge - made to himself and to everyone - that he will grow and change for the better. He takes it into himself too in the particular form of his vision of time, in which the future is always brighter and more spacious than the present. How the mind of the fortunate young man is presided over by the future! It is his mark, his Muse – for it is feminine in its seductiveness- and sets him apart from the young men of the truly lower class and from the young men of the truly upper class.

What happened to Laskell, all at once, was that he realized that you couldn’t live the life of promises without yourself remaining a child. The promise of the future might have its uses as a way of seducing the child to maturity, but maturity itself meant that the future and the present were brought together, that you lived your life now instead of preparing and committing yourself to some better day to come.

His new perception of the nature of time struck him with very great force. Yet it was not specially startling. The only thing that was startling about it was that it came so suddenly…

It was not painful – or no more painful than the change that had taken place when, at a certain age, the special and mysterious expectation of Christmas and birthdays was no longer appropriate and his parents began to give him his gifts quite as a matter of course, most affectionately still, but without their eyes shining in excitement of seeing their son’s wonder and impatience being now satisfied and even exceeded by reality; or just as going to the theater was no longer a matter of waiting for that blessed Saturday on which would be revealed Annette Kellerman in the tank or Charlotte on the ice but became a simple transaction, a call to the ticket agency, with no interval, if one didn’t want an interval, between the decision to go to the theater and going.

It was not a gay feeling, this change in the character of the relation between present and future, but it was certainly not an unhappy one. The well-loved child of the middle class had always done everything with an exemption granted, for the future was made not only of promises but also of opportunities for forgiveness and redemptions, and second or third chances..

… he found that his odd idea about the future and the present brought its own heroism. It had a kind of firm excitement or excited firmness that was connected with his feeling that at this very moment he had the full measure of existence – now, at this very moment, now or never, not at some other and better time that lay ahead. If at this moment he did not have the simplicity of character he wanted, he would never have it; if he was not now answerable for himself, he would never answer.

Lionel Trilling - The Middle of the Journey

Monday, September 21, 2009


Driving through the barren streets of Riyadh, I saw a police car parked in a manner to control the flow of traffic in the service lane. I drove by and, as a force of habit, expected a policeman to be looking intently in on the cars in order to stop one and harass its passengers. As I looked into the car, I saw that the officer had reclined his seat and was talking on his cell phone comfortably in his air conditioned car. I think he was enjoying himself more in that position than he would have been if he pulled someone over and tried to mess with them.

Needless to say, my thoughts wandered off to our own officers who would probably pull someone over and mess with them out of sheer boredom. I felt that it was more entertaining for them to mess with people. I thought to myself of how no one put those cops to shame. There is too much fear and too much reverence for people in power that it’s almost impossible to even attempt it. Is that why people in positions of power behaved better in other civilized countries? Because their free press puts them to shame? Because people read and do not hesitate to point a finger at culprits without fear of being imprisoned, arrested or harassed?

For a few seconds I thought that this could be the way to fix things in Egypt, to have people read and know so as to put people to shame, to have people point at them and condemn them for their evil acts. Everyone wants people’s acceptance in some way or another, so if they felt rejected due to their actions they would cease to overindulge in them.

In those few seconds, the time it took me to get off that side road, I realized I was right about one thing and wrong about another. I was right that people needed society’s acceptance or at least needed to avoid its rejection, but I was wrong to think that such a method can work in our own society.

I realized that the people I’m talking about, the people I want to put to shame may very well be some who have already been rejected by society, more rejection won’t help at all. It might be that their actions are simply a reaction to the rejection they’ve suffered. The irony of it is that it works, that people revere those who don’t respect society. But even if they did reject them some more, what would that help?

Our society is xenophobic, it rejects everything foreign and not just to nationality, but to norms. These norms are getting narrower and narrower and it ends up alienating those who are slightly different and causing those with any kind of normality to venture into the extreme. In fact norms have deviated so far from the word ‘normal’ which I suspect to have been its root, that I doubt I should even use it .If our society was more tolerant, we wouldn’t have to deal with those psychologically imbalanced. We would have been able to balance people’s act by putting them to shame, but these days no amount of talk penetrates the thick rhino skin of those in power or politicians. They accept it and laugh, because of the way our society operates. Society has developed something like autoimmunity failing to distinguish between the body and the disease, using its natural line of defense against itself. It fails to recognize its constituents and so becomes a tool to destroy the vehicle of its survival, its giver of life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Hate Poor People

I hate poor people. Does that make me classist and politically incorrect? Maybe, but I really don't care. I hate poor people for what they've become on account of poverty. I hate how people can be so stupid when they've lacked education. I hate how you have to deal with certain people possessing fixed dogmatic ideas that make no sense. I hate how poor people can lack humanitarian values because their search for survival is more impending. I hate how I can't blame them for how they've become.

I hate that poor people are in my life and that I have to deal with them. I hate how there's so many of them and it's inconceivable to instill in these masses better ideas and more understanding. I hate how they corrupt their young children with extreme ideas and misinformation. I hate how they ruin the chances of these young children of breaking away. I hate how they throw their children out into the street because they won't afford to feed themselves if they don't.

I hate how poverty has driven people out to the gulf oil-rich countries. I hate how their constant need for livelihood and their country's impotency has often times stripped them of their dignity. I hate how the country's greed sacrifices the lives of its poor and allows others to kill them, jail them, whip them and degrade them. I hate how the working poor in their weakness were forced to adopt the closed minded Wahabi ideologies from an ignorant people that know nothing of civilization. I hate how the gulf gave them a wealth of money and instilled within them a poverty of thought.

I hate how the poverty in knowledge of others has lead to xenophobia and rejection of others. I hate how superficial people have become. I hate how those poor people comment on women, judging them and treating them as a sex doll they want to purchase with a few crude words. I hate how judgmental they've become about everything. I hate how poverty leads them to frustration, and frustration leads them to think of nothing but a woman's body and what it means. I hate how their innermost desire that comes from frustration has mutated into a fake religious piousness concerned with what a woman wears and how she appears. I hate how a man would opt to destroy a woman if he can't have her. I hate how I have to suffer in everyday life when having to deal with some poor bastard who became a cop and feels the need to go on a power trip; or another who's at a government desk delaying the mandatory bullshit you need to go through in order to get anything done in this forsaken country just because he’s underpaid, needs a tip or doesn’t feel like working.

I'm not certain that I personally hate every poor person but what I am certain of is that I hate what poverty does to people's minds. I would probably hate a poor person, not for what they are, but for what they've become.

It's funny that the powerful and tyrannical rich don't give a damn about the poor and yet they have the audacity to hate their own creation. They didn't think, did they; that taking so much from others would deprive them of a better life in their own country. Because they take away everything, the country they live in has deteriorated. They use their expensive cars over poor and crooked streets, their poor gardeners and servants need much more work to give off that wonderful image they hope to reflect. They have to deal with so much more stupidity whenever they interact with the public, more than they would have if their fellow countrymen were more educated. Their liberated daughters are judged by the ignorant dogmatic views of the poor, and there's nothing that can be done. How many can you arrest or hurt? How many wicked glances and foul words could you stop after all has plummeted to the abyss?

I hate the rich and powerful too; those in a position to make things better for poor people thereby making things better for me but choosing to amass more wealth. Is it not clear that everyone's lives are affected? The poor are part of the community, an ugly part that's getting uglier. You can't really blame the poor for being the way they are, perhaps you can even love them for their flaws, for the injustices they've suffered. But you can really hate those greedy rich for making a mess of things and loathing the Frankenstein monster they created.

I would like to destroy the poor man by giving him wealth. Poverty in terms of money means very little, it's the poverty of heart, compassion, mercy and most of all understanding that I truly despise.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Moments of Travel

Moments of travel are the most nostalgic, like you haven't done enough where you were at. They make you feel as though one needed more time or perhaps desired more events to have taken place before you were to leave where you were at. It's mostly a feeling that you are parting with someone or something you've come to know; something you've experienced firsthand, something you've examined up close. No matter where you're heading, that feeling of some sort of slightly palpable but deep sorrow generates a cloud around you much like invisible vapor droplets that occasionally stimulate your skin with a sense of touch. It's this parting that I dread and which weighs on me heavily even when the destination is desirable.

Yes, even when the destination holds brilliant promises of great times and unforgettable experiences, I can feel that weight, for even with the splendor of a promise it remains lacking in one aspect when compared to reality, in that it remains unfulfilled. The smallest bit of reality can conquer the greatest promise by exploiting that weakness which all promises are fated with. It is this contrast that causes the dilemma predominantly for a materialist. For reality manifests itself through everything that can be seen, touched, heard or smelled but promises manifest themselves in the realm of imagination drawing their images from fragments of memories combined with many thoughts and mixed by brain churns that place them in their proper place inside that jigsaw puzzle offered by promises. The reality of parting is ever so present at moments of departure when you can see all you left behind and can only imagine what's ahead.

But despite the weakness that each promise possesses, it can offer something beyond reality. It can create a better version of something experienced, perhaps even a version that cannot be imagined. Certain promises rely only on faith; faith in something beyond creative imagination; faith in the limitations of human abilities; faith in experiences and words of others. Even when reality is at its best, promises combined with faith can overturn it, can change all of its sweetness and take away its bitterness. But even then how can you overcome the feeling of parting?

I guess that's the way it is with journeys, even death the journey of the greatest distance in perhaps the least amount of time. Parting is almost insurmountable and even the best of promises cannot change that. The promise of an afterlife can only rely on faith and fragmented memories of the happiest times magnified to trigger the imagination. While the imagination can take you far away places, it can fail to reflect what’s to come, offering far better alternatives to reality. Yet to wait a lifetime for a promise is a little too much, and some will choose this moment over a promise that might not be fulfilled.

Once you’ve made the journey, things start to change, when you're en route or in the air you can only attempt to focus on what's to come. You look to fulfill the yet unfulfilled promises relying on faith to turn these promises into reality. But once these promises are fulfilled, they disappear and the faith that brought them life dissipates.

Note: Written BR (Before Riyadh)

Thursday, September 10, 2009


It just hit me now that it's better to fail than to succeed. It's even better not to try your hardest to succeed in everything new that you encounter. It's best to accept that your trials will lead you to failure.

It's nothing groundbreaking to say that failure can lead you to success, but the way in which it hit me was rather interesting. I thought about when I tried playing games on the computer, and I really am not that good at games, but whenever I start playing them, I try my absolute best not to deviate from what I perceive is the best way not to lose. In my first efforts I manage to do better than most, but as time progresses, I don't improve much. Sometimes it's because even though I've perfected what I aim to do, it's not the best way to do things.

There are others who don't care so much to do things right the first time round, they try different things and fail in so many ways, but what they end up doing is having more experience and really grasping how to work through a situation where they failed. In the end they end up succeeding in exploring more details of wins and losses than I encountered. They will probably be much more skilled than I am at playing the game.

When we aim to succeed we don't see that our perceptions are the boundaries of our success. When we don't explore the things that could have worked better than our perception. We base our vision of success on the past, that's the only way we plan for the future, but what if the future isn't a lot like the past? Logic cannot replace experience completely since there will always be something new to experience. Experience is what can give you better logic in the future. Failing is what gives people experience. Any professional at any job is one who understands what to do in difficult situations either because he tried and failed or tried and succeeded.

Honestly I was only thinking about playing computer games, about how skill is built based on failures and tough situations. But with games you get many spare lives I suppose, when you're doing something in real life, you don't have that many lives to spare. Still, there's something appealing about failure, for personal experiences it outlives success.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Blogging Ain't What It Used To Be

I used to post things whenever I felt like it, banal thoughts don't come as easy as they used to. I mean they do, but maybe there's pressure not to think about them anymore, or at least wait till they formulate into something bigger before sharing them. Pressure, expectations and some sort of desire to conform seem to inhibit forms of expression. The worst thing about it is that these inhibitions is that they're self imposed. I hate to admit it but I must; each blog has a sort of style, where most posts follow the same theme. It's like the design of a site, too many variations in color and you may get visual pollution (this blog has been accused of it).

Is that what happens to us when we grow up? The child feels the pressure to conform even if it doesn't come from outside? Do we sometimes stop things we enjoy doing just because they're childish rather than them ceasing to be enjoyable?

Must I make a metaphor out of everything? I write this now from Riyadh, one of the most uninspiring places in the world. It's not that it's boring like it's reputed to be, it's just that it has no potential promise of fun. There's a big difference.

That's the thing, I feel there's so much I think about that I need to write, but they're all disconnected thoughts. Part of me wants to wait until they crystalize into something meaningful, but I don't think that will ever happen; Riyadh is meaningless.

I find my thoughts scattered in words across emails... I find myself describing time in Riyadh :

The days don't pass with ease despite the virtual comforts of cars and air conditioning. It's not that they're difficult days, but it's as though time doesn't want to move forward because it has nothing to look forward to. It's not the same as time passing slowly in wait of great things ahead. Time is a little tired, with nothing to do, no rush and no patience.

There are a thousand little things like that and had I just started writing I imagine I would have took note of them. I think there are so many different things that go through my mind...

Too much freedom or too little freedom can deprive you of control. I think that we need a little bit of constraints to understand what we really want, not like the ones here in Riyadh, but something to get you to understand what you don't want at least.

They don't really matter, but I should write them anyway.

Monday, August 24, 2009

To Confer Status

He found it painful to reflect that in our day intellect and sensibility, thought and art, had been made to confer status and to generate snobbery.

Lionel Trilling - The Middle of the Journey

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Best Vengeance

Wherever you go, everyone wants to control you and belittle you even or rather especially when they are half as competent as you are at doing anything. They anger you, boss you around, tell you off and explain mundane illogical things as though they are the rulers of the earth as if they were gods and you were born into their small and petty world. They want to infuriate you, make you feel helpless, make you feel small, they play a dirty game of withholding that which they could give you because it's that which you desire. They feel they are better people for degrading better people, and they smile at your frustration and your agony.

There is a way to take revenge other than blowing up the places they work at, or ridiculing them (although both ideas sound great). The most effective way is not to let them get to you and not to let them frustrate you or annoy you and even if you want to fight them, fight them with peace, fight them with an understanding of their sick and cruel nature. Fight them as you fight a disease within a person, with abhorrence to the disease rather than the person, with knowledge that sometimes they are victims and that's why they cause these casualties. Fight them with the knowledge that if they do not get to you, it makes you better, and disables the disease.

If you can control yourself and smile upon their cruelty rather than have it get to you, and be immune to their mindless game plays even if it costs you time, even if it costs you something, then even if you've lost, they've lost as well which means you've won something at least.

One thing remains, and it is perhaps the most difficult to accept even for me, as I have been targeted by these kinds of people numerous times. Whenever you're in a position of power over people, do not be the same way they were with you, even if they themselves make way into your world and you have power over them. You must treat them with fairness and kindness and be a just god in your world unlike they've been. It is the only fair way to take revenge even if they do not understand it and even if you yourself do not understand it. By logic, it would take thousands upon thousands of words to express why this would be a victory, and even then it might not seem convincing, but there's a feeling I have within me, that words do not describe well, that tells me that this is the way to win if it were a competition, this is a way to repay their evil.

A feeling like this can be ridiculed, debated, rejected or even neglected, but the one thing going for it is that it can be felt. It can be felt by someone who doesn't understand how it all adds up, who can see a victory in retaining goodness when all others have failed to and cannot recognize it anymore. It's a feeling that's so deep that not even the greatest can reach it, not even the most evil can beat it, it's their ultimate enemy, and all their actions are determined to reach that core and tear it down, but just like the good man cannot explain it or reach it by any logical means except by feeling, so also the evil ones cannot destroy it by actions if we do not let those actions get to us.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Right Car

The other day I was asked by a recently engaged friend coming from Dubai to hang out with him and a few friends in a place called Katameya Heights Club. I took one wrong turn somewhere and ended up going in circles to find the proper entrance.

After visiting a few incorrect entrances and being told to go around in other kinds of circles, I imagined I found the right one. I parked my car outside the entrance next to a few others and made my way to the gate in order to make sure.

I approached the security guy and asked him, "Is this the gate to the club?"

He answered,"Be7'soos aih?" (What's this about?)

I said, "My friends are in there and I was making sure."

He said, "You need booking in order to get in."

"Sure," I said, "my friend has already booked."

He hesitated for a while, and I wondered what was going on with him, I suspected it, but it was a little far fetched.

"Where is the club exactly?" I asked.

"It's right there," he said, pointing to a place that seemed like a minute's walk.

He then asked, "Did you come by car?"

"Yes," I answered, expecting him to tell me instructions on how to park there or something of that sort. But then he said the improbable.

"What kind of car is it?" he asked.

"What kind of car?" I asked in disbelief, "I don't see how it's any of your business."

I'm not one to get annoyed too quickly, otherwise I would have really burst at him, but I was actually marveling at the question.

"You want to know if I'm of the right class, right?"

"No," he said, "you look like you're of the right class, but I think you should just take your car and drive inside, there's a parking in there."

It was almost unbelievable really. By then I had decided not to take the car. As I walked towards the club, it appeared he was still having doubts and asked me to call my friend before going in. He wasn't worth my breath apparently and I told him he can take his comments and shove them somewhere.

Have we come to that, a car brand being part of entry criteria? The place wasn't even crowded, it was silent, and the last order was at 10 pm, and the service was abysmal and yet they care about the type of car?

Egypt is falling victim to an ever growing divide, and the irony is that the gatekeeper is of the kind that he won't personally allow to get in. Later on in the evening, we were discussing that Egypt is more than just one country, it's countries within a country, at least Cairo seems to be that way.

In the words of Batman, “It’s the car, chicks love the car.”

Friday, June 26, 2009

Death of a King - Michael Jackson

There are very few who would not appreciate nor understand the indescribable feeling of loss concerning the death of arguably the greatest musician of our time. No matter what you might think of him, there is no way that anyone who understands a thing or two about music or dancing cannot but admire Michael Jackson’s talent.

Michael Jackson caused a great deal of commotion because he was different and didn't belong anywhere. Ever since his youth, it seemed as if everyone loved him for his talent and uniqueness but rejected him for the same reasons. There is a lot of contrast between MJ and Peter Pan, effectively they're both kids who never grew up and they have their own Neverland. Jackson would visit his Neverland and bring us back the most unique, beautiful and amusing ideas, songs and dance moves. It seemed he had a bag of ideas like Sport Billy's out of which he would dig in and bring out something marvelous. Could it be that MJ will find immortality like that of Peter Pan through his music?

But what am I really trying to say? I think that many were afraid because Michael Jackson was so different. The trouble with the human race is that we want to belong and not just that, we want others to belong. Michael belonged to childhood, and the adult world could not accept that. He belonged to Neverland, but that was so inconceivable. It was as if everyone was fighting, and needing him to belong. The black people wanted him black and got angry when his skin color underwent changes. Didn't all our ideals in this modern age revolve around the insignificance of skin color?

"Dont tell me you agree with me,
When I saw you kicking dirt in my eye"

~Black or White.

When his skin color changed, he actually did prove that skin color doesn't matter, but the world would not accept what it had preached. They did not accept that it didn't matter what the skin color really was because there was the same human underneath.

"Im not going to spend
My life being a color"

Even MJ as a white man wasn't welcomed. He was much too different, he was from a different world, and quickly the controversy of child molestation started taking form. There had to be something wrong with him. I know and confess he was indeed different, his whole body structure, his face, and everything in him, but did we really have to reject him for it?

He was different, he had to be something we understood, otherwise we could not accept him. He had to fall into a mould otherwise we wouldn't know what to do with him. His creativity was marked as eccentricity, and he was ridiculed and mocked in an age that advocates freedom and equality, yet when it comes to something different, how quickly we return to being conformists. We want freedom boxed by a set of boundaries we understand.

"You talk about equality and the truth either you're wrong or you're right."

If Michael Jackson taught us anything, he taught us that we can sometimes be the biggest hypocrites, advocating one thing and doing another. He taught us that there is great music that can be created, new ideas and he taught us that people differ.

Michael Jackson was an alien, but while our tolerance might have not been enough to accept him for all that he is, our emotions were enough to love him and admire his work.

This is a tribute to the man who brought me Billie Jean, Black or White, Liberian Girl, Smooth Criminal, Little Susie and so many more; someone whose musical genius moved mountains, forced people to respect him; someone who’s dance moves inspired millions; someone who suffered the scrutiny of a world that did not want to leave him alone in peace; someone who has been grabbed by fans, harassed by reporters, crucified by the media and disdained by people. This is a tribute to a legend who despite how different he was, despite how confused he might have been and made us feel, earned our love and compassion and our best salutation.

“Neglection can kill, like a knife in the soul”

I’m sad and sorry that he’s gone, but I pray that the King of Pop receives in death the kind of peace he was never able to attain in life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fair Game

It's fair. It's absolutely fair that we should lose to the USA by three and that the USA should qualify. It's not just fair, but right because of the great many differences between not just the two teams, but the two countries.

How can you expect a country to do something right when everything goes wrong? I mean with Africa, it's okay, because most of the African countries are as messed up as we are or even more, and the mentality is similar, so there's no difference between one underdog and another. But when we're playing against the USA we have to understand that it’s not the American team but the American attitude that’s difficult to defeat.

America is mostly despised but perhaps also loved for the same reasons it is despised, not the least of which is its winning attitude that is so fervidly despised in Europe. But to be honest, America is a comeback junkie, with a great thirst for winning and most of its citizen think they're in a Rocky movie, expecting a comeback at any minute. They believe anything is possible till the last minute, and while they might be wrong sometimes, this attitude enables them to do all that is possible for them to do. In the end they go down fighting. Despite their sometimes annoying positivism, I'd always want an American on my team because the general attitude is not to quit.

In Egypt however, the loss is symptomatic of a country where good things are accidents. Like all accidents that happen in Egypt, even the good ones are plentiful. Did we really think that things were doing things so right so as to actually make it to the second round? No, we’re just a first round kind of people. It's just not right that we should do something contrary to our nature, and unlike matters within the country where doing things the wrong way gives you the greatest rewards, the world does not recognize nor accept this way of life, and for this reason we lose when we don't do things right, as it should be within Egypt.

I'm not one to change my point of view overnight like most people who will suddenly see Egypt's team as having no potential; on the contrary, we played great previously, beating Italy and giving Brazil a run for their money. We have some world class players occasionally and I don’t mean that we have a good player once in a while, but rather a player that does well once in a while. The point I mean to make is that we're consistent in our inconsistency. We're too mercurial (as is evident from FIFA stats) and it’s in our nature to let go once we imagine success. Our standards are so low that we don’t care to keep giving it our best shot. Doing well is not a way of life; it's an activity that we practice once in a while albeit a very long while.

In this game the nature of the countries collided with one another and if there’s one thing we ought to know, it’s that our nature can’t win. A country with talent and history was defeated by a country with less talent and less history but so much more will and enthusiasm. A mentality of losers was aptly beaten by a mentality of winners. A country that lost its ability to resist was beaten by a country that never quits. In short an enslaved country was beaten by a free country.

Is that too much philosophy for a football game? It might be, but I think we don't have enough philosophy to win as much as a football game. If we talk about the concrete reasons, they'll be something as boring as our league is horrible and undisciplined, our players don't train properly, our education is crap and it affects our mentality, our values are screwed up and we value pleasure more than hard work that gives so much more pleasure in the long run, etc.. etc.. The concrete reasons are there, but the problem is that our hopeless philosophies in life are what lead us to these concrete reasons in every field and on every field.

I've said it before and I say it again, it's not that Egypt is so damn hopeless, it's those moments of hope that really make you realize how we could have been. We caught a glimpse, but it all faded away… In the end it appears that this is all we can ever get.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Victorious Defeat

Once in a while something happens that takes you by surprise and tells you that you can expect something unexpected from the world. Like the other night when I only had one and a quarter pounds and wanted to take a cab. I asked the cab driver,"How far can this take me?" and he said, "Get in."

He wasn't even the talkative kind, but when I said thanks, he said that he knows I would have done the same, people are there to help one another and he didn't want to take any money; and it wasn't a bad line out of a bad Arabic movie either. I was surprised by this unexpected act of kindness that taught me a bit about a closed mind.

Something happens that takes you by surprise, like Egypt playing a great match against Brazil and leveling the score 3-3 for the greater portion of the second half. But it's not the score that surprised me. It's not that we lost 4-3 only at the very end due to a penalty, but how well Egypt played against Brazil. I really thought that Egypt was playing like the legendary Brazil and Brazil was playing like the historical unremarkable Egypt.

Something happens that catches you off guard, like Abu Treka playing like Kaka, and Kaka struggling to pose a threat against an already lousy Egyptian defense.

Something happens that changes everything, like a referree that changes his decision from a corner to a penalty and brings you back to earth after an unbelievable match.

Part of the beauty of this world is unpredictability. The loss that Egypt incurred tastes very much like victory to all Egyptians, except for the extremely cynical I guess. How would one imagine such a great game from Egypt who lost 3-1 to Algiers last week? That's part of what's great about life, it defies expert opinion. Egyptian football is like drama, always attempting to keep you in suspense. It would be okay if we never won, but it's these intermittent triumphs that I really struggle with, you can never totally give up hope and you're always hanging in a constant state of desparation.

This is how we do it I guess, as with most other aspects of our lives.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Bad Bike

Egypt is like a bad bike, no matter how much more you pedal you end up struggling to sustain your balance. You don't usually go much faster. It's best to take it easy and pedal slowly, there's no point wearing yourself down over an inefficient bicycle.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Visit

I wish Obama would have stayed longer. I wish Obama would have visted more places in Egypt. The result would have been magnificent. For starters there would have been more trees and greenery in the streets and they would have been in many more places. There would have been more roads fixed all around the broken down Cairo. If he would have gone by my street those old gray buildings would have been painted. If he would have travelled to the south, those old broken down death highways would have been fixed. If he would have visited hospitals they would have been equipped with the basics that hospitals should have.

The list goes on and on, but it would have been great if Obama visited every inch of this country, and I don't mind not going to work and being under house arrest for a few hours every day, it'll be worth it at the end. Only that after he leaves, the trees will be taken away, plants will be removed like they were the next day from Cairo University. The roads will be destroyed, the garbage will be re-installed to its previous location and the people who were in charge of making these temporary arrangements would become so much richer.

It amazes me that we can do everything right if we choose to, I really respect this country's potential. Why aren't we doing this more often? Do we need to tell Obama to come here and live for a while so that Egyptians can do things right? Do we need to give Obama the citizenship here? Do we need to ask Obama to take on some sort of part time responsibilities in Egypt? Or do we need to do more?

One of these days I'd like to see the world through Mubarak's eyes. I'm guessing I'll be seeing lots of pink.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


It's unbelievable what the traffic was like this wednesday night as I rode my bike through Cairo's streets. A friend of mine told me she was held up at the intersection of the shooting club and mohy el deen street, but as I rode towards the shooting club, the streets were so clear. I imagined that the traffic was held up by someone because of the Obama visit or something. Then as I approached the intersection I realized that there was no traffic police presence whatsoever. The drivers left to their own demise got themselves into one deadlock after another.

Civilians started playing the role of traffic police, applying some common sense to the senseless drivers. The streets were chaotic even though the traffic flow didn't seem to be that much. How incredulous is it that on the night just before Obama's visit, a big junction would be left like this unadministered. Did the traffic cops leave because no one cared? or had headquarters ordered them somewhere else?

In any case, I want to report that the traffic was horrendous, I had never thought that the traffic seargent was of that much importance. But then again I had never thought that the traffic police would leave their posts.

I really wonder what other ills this Obama visit will bring us. It seems that when something bad happens, we the people have to suffer, and when something good happens, well, some key persons might benefit, but we the people have to suffer also.

I don't think people are as worried about what Obama's going to say, as much as they are about avoiding the hell and torture they might endure if they make a wrong move tomorrow.