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.