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.

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