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.