Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wazza Reggae Hymns

The other night I attended a concert in Rawabet Theater. I really didn't know what I was attending but some friends were going. I had initially thought it was a play but thought to myself, why not? I haven't attended a concert in so long. My friend told me that those guys rocked and people would dance to their music.

The theater was packed, and it appeared that the band had a following. What struck me the most was the type of audience which I haven't been accustomed to. There were so many veiled girls in the audience and the extra shocking surprise of a niqabi woman.

I must admit, the energy was high. People were excited. I closed my eyes and the crowd I imagined based on what I heard is not the crowd I saw when I opened my eyes. Slowly but surely the crowd began to stand up and start moving. As I listened to the songs, they sounded like hymns more common in a Christian arena in the manner that God was addressed at least. These reggae hymns moved the crowd and a long line of veiled girls started dancing to the reggae music. The niqabi woman on the other hand did not stand up but started breast feeding her child.

I must admit it was a slightly strange sight and triggered many thoughts. I wondered if we were in dire need of dancing and were just waiting for an excuse to move our bodies. I also wondered if the same people who provided the fatwa that a hijab is compulsory would approve of this type of dance. Of course it's a meaningless debate because the hijab isn't compulsory except from a social perspective, rather than from religious reasoning. I also wondered about the music ensemble which contained 4 guitars and one drum set. A friend of mine who wasn't overly conservative had pointed out to me that stringed instruments are 'haram' (not allowed) in Islam. I was never able to verify this, but that such an idea exists means that someone out there must be preaching it.

It was a little perplexing when one of the guests of the band started singing ala Boy Zone meets Tamer Hosny. I wondered where the line between reggae hymns and pop music is drawn exactly and what was going on in the minds of these young girls. Probably nothing, as they grew accustomed to. To top off the night, an Egyptian came on and rapped in French and then proceeded to speak to the crowd. He told them that whites and blacks are Africans, and that Africa is about love and then the biggest revelation of the night, that even Asians are Africans.

After the grand revelation, I had to leave to sort out all this new information in my head, about Asians, dancing, hijab and music.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Voice Over: When State Security Controls Your Life


Why do governments control people? I found that question resonating through my mind constantly as I watched “Voice Over”. The story is essentially about a man whose government and its ideology made him lose all he loved.

Set in the late 1970s, we follow a cameraman, Anton Krastev, through the trials and tribulations he faces when he is separated from his wife and child by the ‘Iron Curtain’. Krastev is falsely reported as a traitor planning to flee by a director who was expelled from making a film. He is disgruntled when Krastev continued with the replacement director, having said that he would leave too. From then on the state security takes over his life with a state security officer watching him intently and denying him any opportunity to see his wife and child who are abroad. As time goes on, his love for his wife and child diminishes and his desire to thrive in his country intensifies.

The film has an air of serenity about it, despite the events that take place. The soothing music, composed of piano and orchestral instruments, help give it a tranquil mood, together with bright and colourful cinematography. The performances of the actors are not outstanding but express the unusual normalcy by which the characters have accepted their fates.

Krastev remains cryptic despite a lot of screen time. His love for his job drives him away from his wife and towards self-actualisation. One of the more revealing scenes is when Krastev causes the death of the script-writer, who was also his friend, but oddly he is more disturbed by the fact that the film has been stopped than he is by her death.

Perhaps the closest resemblance in plot is found in the brilliant Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives of Others), where a secret agent becomes absorbed into the lives of those he has been watching. The difference however is extreme, “Voice Over” does not come close to its depth of sentiment nor to capturing the story and characters.

That’s not to say “Voice Over” was not a good movie, it was but not satisfying enough. It is an intriguing trip through socialist Bulgaria where everyone is powerless in the face of state interference. Anton and his wife try everything possible to see one another, but the power of the state is stronger. It is a losing battle from the start as Krastev is set up, and all communications monitored. The state security officer calmly fabricates evidence and denies Krastev his freedom in a sick paternal manner. Indeed in their encounter together, the officer is kind, helpful and fully convinced that he is watching over Krastev.

The unsettling control of state security over aspects of daily life, together with the surrender of the people to such practices is discomforting. However even today it reflects the practices of many governments. Part of the answer to my initial question as to why governments need to control is because an oppressive government will not find people to oppress if they are given the freedom to leave. So what do you do when the state denies you the freedom to be with those you love?

To paraphrase Mrs Krastev, we have to believe in miracles because a person who does not believe in miracles is not a realist.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Election Day

Long before the authoritarian elections we have witnessed in 2010, the meaning of an election was determined by the Egyptian people rather than by the ruling party or the opposition. Elections were a time to stay at home in the hopes that nobody gets killed. It is a bloody race to power and those aiming to win will do anything. There is nothing to prevent theft or bribery but the good will of those trying to win and Egyptians are assured that no such will exists.

While government puts on charades of what elections are supposed to be, people are unmoved and determined in their view. Nothing changes because nothing has changed. Those in power are used bludgeoning the voters on such days. Election Day is a celebration of tyranny rather than democracy.

A wise Egyptian would stay at home to avoid harassment and possible injury. It is well known among Egyptians that going out to vote is either a source of income or a losing battle that they must fight anyway. No amount of ads nor press could convince them otherwise. I would go so far as to say that even if free elections were to ever take place in this country, no one would believe them to be so.

The rest becomes just a game between the ruling party and the opposition and the rest of the world. The Egyptian citizen is not involved in any way. There is however one aspect that does affect annoy an Egyptian citizen like myself despite complete surrender to the corruption and falsification of the elections. It’s those damn ads on television asking Egyptians to vote!!

These in my opinion are the most destructive and provoking force of all the events that take place during elections. The ads are the real expression of tyranny that we’re yet to get used to. There are several reasons that mark the advertisements as the worst thing about the elections.

The advertisements are shot in high definition, a sign of their fakeness and show Egypt in a completely false light. They ask an Egyptian to vote, which is now become code for asking him to come down there to get crushed and harassed. It’s like a special delivery for the police to exercise their usually bullying. So not only are they asking Egyptians to stay clear of trouble and harm’s way, they are asking Egyptians to go over there and either be beaten and defeated or to be utterly disappointed by the hopelessness of not being able to vote.

This is complete torture. It’s rubbing in the idea that your voice or your vote means nothing. It’s a message saying that no matter what the people say, we will do what we want. This is the extremity of injustice, to put on a farcical show of justice while serving injustice to millions.

There is also a blame game in some of the ads. It’s your fault that you’re not voting. They are going after that defense mechanism called nonchalance that Egyptians took years to perfect in order to turn a blind eye to their oppression. The ads say it’s your fault you’re leading a crappy life, get up and do something about it, only when you reach the polling stations, you find out that there’s nothing you can do about it. This is also another form of torture, when you’re blamed for the injustices inflicted upon you.

The most oppressive thing about all of this is that it invades television time. In a sort of Big Brother screen manner, you’re subjected to this form of torture every time you’re watching your favorite show. ‘We are able to oppress you at any time we please’, is the subliminal message associated with these ads. All of a sudden the beautifully filmed Egyptian flag turns uglier, and the well orchestrated national anthem becomes the anthem for subjugation.

On days like these I cannot stand the Egyptian flag nor the anthem. It’s not the same flag and it’s not the same anthem that people embraced during the African cup.

The NDP’s response to the rigged elections is that Egyptians are not used to losing. Even in their defense they got it wrong. On the contrary, Egyptians are used to nothing else but losing. They have been losing close to silently for ages. They are losing their country, not just inch by inch, but by chunks. They have been losing their voice, their vote. They have been losing their rights, their heads. They have been losing their children and their friends. No, the NDP got that one wrong too, much like they got everything else wrong except actions that serve their evil desire to dominate. Egyptians have lost one another when a group of them suppressed the other. Egyptians are used to the losing game and they are losing their humanity and much worse, losing their hope.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fish Tank




Fish Tank is a story through the eyes of Mia (Katie Jarvis), a 15 year old girl from the slums of Essex. Mia is living with her mother and her sister in a neighborhood infested with poverty. Her mother is jobless and an almost hopeless individual. However, her mother manages to find herself a decent and gentle boyfriend, Connor. In a way, he’s all that anyone could ever hope for. He treats the girls gently and their mother with respect.

Mia is aware of how trapped she is. She sees herself in all the animals bound by chains. On one occasion she tries to free a horse that’s bound inside private property. When she gets caught, the result is one of the most frightening scenarios imaginable. She is seized by two of the owners with an imminent threat of rape. They let her go after what seemed like ages of agony both to Mia and the viewers.

The film brilliantly portrays the complex relationship between Mia and Connor. For a great portion of the film it is unclear whether their relationship is paternal or erotic. The sexual tension is palpable in all of their scenes together, but since we see things through Mia’s eyes, we are unable to determine if his actions are sexual or if he is a fatherly character. That dynamic is a result of great performances and very well timed shots from director Andrea Arnold.

Michael Fassbender (300, Inglorious Basterds) plays Connor who maintains a fishy sort of goodness. His calmness and easiness is out of place in a stress ridden family and yet it seems to provide a much sought after tranquility. His confident presence in the family gives them a sense of serenity and comfort, yet Connor is too unhinged, too level-headed for a family whose members erupt to full blast at the slightest opportunity. His life seems mysterious but less so as Mia tries to invade it.

Perhaps one of the most reflective scenes of the dynamic between Connor and Mia’s family is when he takes them to a pond. With patience and gentleness catches a fish with his bare hands. As the fish is dying, gasping for air, he inserts a stick into its mouth through its body as this is the more humane thing to do.

The movie is captivating in showing a profoundly dire situation of poverty and a set of dysfunctional relationships that have formed in such a place. Mia seems to have a knack for severing good ties she has. Part of her doesn’t want to believe in any goodness that might be presented to her. She’s right to suspect everything, for in her world nothing can go right. Oddly enough after the harrowing threat of rape, she fearlessly returns to the scene to look for the bag she left behind.

The movie never ceases to show us the world through Mia’s eyes, taking its time to do so. There is something bleak about the outlook with which we are provided with for 122 minutes. We slowly uncover the reality of her world at her own pace. In the end we have a riveting story and we see is what it’s like to be a fish inside a tank.

Fish Tank won 18 awards including the BAFTA award for Outstanding British Film in 2010 and was nominated to win 15 more awards including the Golden Palm in Cannes.



Monday, November 22, 2010

The Duality of Egyptian Police

Policemen are human beings. It’s true, even though it might be hard to believe. It is one of the most overlooked facts in Egypt. Perhaps the reason as to why cops cannot be viewed as humans is because of their excessive and unnecessary violence. Our mental image of them today is close to the traditional view of criminals in the past. It is a view that rarely looked upon a criminal with sympathy. A criminal or mobster sets out to inflict harm on society to some other person’s benefit.

But despite these current notions, many will attest to having had experience where policemen have acted in a humane fashion and with a sense of justice and mercy. After all, one of the most compelling reasons to become a policeman is to be the good guy and seek justice.

The police show a blind unprovoked brutality during protests. Most non-fabricated news about protests is about police brutality. Yet within these clashes are unreported traces of humanity. Many protesters have encountered humane police personnel when they let their guard down and spoke their mind. This sometimes took the form of a personal conversation was during times when soldiers and officers were not given orders to beat and arrest.

In one of the encounters, some of the protesters asked a cop why he was doing this, i.e. shouting and screaming at us and hurling us with insults. We inquired as to why was he so rude about moving us and why was his attitude so hostile filled with serious threats to hurt us. His tone was changed by our sincerity in wanting to find an answer. He said: “Everyone says ‘yes sir’, who am I to say no?” He reasoned that everyone must say yes in order to survive. He then proceeded to say, “Deal?” as he made a thumbs up sign, “or no deal?” as he continued and rotated his hand so that his thumb was pointing down. As he walked further from where the rest of the protest was being held his tone changed and his face smiled. It was difficult to envision that he was the same person we started the journey with.

These sorts of anecdotes are consistent. Sarah Carr, a journalist and blogger, relays her experience with one of the soldiers in black during a Khaled Saied protest:
“[He] enjoys using the Internet, has Yahoo email, downloads songs but doesn’t look at news sites. The soldier seemed unusually willing to talk, and said that if he hadn’t been conscripted into the riot police he would be standing where we were standing.
- Why do you obey orders if you know we’re in the right? We asked.
- Because disobeying orders means 10 days in prison, he said.”


Also in the Khaled Said protests that took place in June 2010, Gehad bears this testimony, “A woman said to the policeman, ‘I hope the same happens to your son’. He was enraged and offended. I was surprised at his reaction.”
Gehad was surprised that policemen understood injustice. They too feel powerless in the face of tyranny, their own tyranny. In a religious place like Egypt, the cops are wary of God. In the same protests, amidst all the violence and arrests, one of the officers gathered people around him and after retelling the falsified statement released by the ministry of interior he said, “I only do what my conscience tells me, because God is watching.”

The police truly turn into demons not when they don't follow orders, it's when they actually do. When they are left to their own power lust, they can do horrible things, but it gets worse when they're ordered to do it. Most of the commands they’re ordered to do are illegal and unconstitutional. Yet orders override any sense of right.
This can best be exemplified by the women’s rights protest that took place late 2006. “The police were being very nice to us. They were being protective of us as well.”

Heba Habib confirms this report having been at the same protest. It appears that in this protests there were no orders for the protest to get ugly.
If the police can be so nice, what is it then that causes so much brutality?

The goodness of an Egyptian policeman is derived from personal morals rather from a general sense of institutionalized goodness. It is important to remember that just like the ministry of Interior sometimes hires criminals to do the job of policemen, they also hire good men to do the job of criminals. When asked to act according to the strategy put forth by the ministry, the police end up being sinister bullies. When left to their own discretion, it’s fifty-fifty. Some have values and act on them protecting and serving people, others have none at all and abuse their power in order to gain more out of people. One thing remains certain, they are not held accountable by the system.

A lot of policemen are good men doing bad things. But what constitutes being good? Is it enough for goodness to be in the heart? Is it really goodness not to object to injustice?

Policemen, much like other people, are motivated by fear; Fear of punishment, fear of failure and fear of everything but God. The duality of the nature of the police as both oppressed people and the oppressor might be vital in changing their attitude. The police are highly underpaid and that makes them vulnerable. For such a sensitive position, the government has chosen to have the policemen driven by necessity rather than by a sense of duty. It feels as though we should organize a protest on behalf of the police asking they be paid better wages. The most terrifying aspect of a protest like this if it were to take place is that the police would probably turn violent and disperse the crowd anyway.

The news doesn’t report that in one instant a cop laughed at a joke he overheard and the next he was ordered to crush the joker. Humans are driven by fear but are motivated by love. One question remains: when the police that are sworn to protect us end up hurting us, and good policemen are controlled by bad ones, who do we call on to protect us?

The words of Edmund Burke cannot but come to mind:

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

With Sadness

With much sadness I look upon the beautiful places I encounter all over the world. I look upon them with sadness when I remember Egypt and how ugly it has become. There is no comfort even in finding an inner beauty beneath this ugliness. It may have been present in times before, but now it has gone because the ugliness has penetrated us to the core.

I wish that weren't so, and perhaps that is why there is so much sadness. We could have retained some beauty, we could have been better. Now I think it's a little too late.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Truce

I need a truce with myself. It feels like a constant battle. Am I who I think I am, or am I someone different. It's always the same old thing, continuously reassessing who I am. Am I right? Am I wrong? It takes a lot less time with so many things, but it takes a lot more time with some things that I thought needed no questioning.

I wish I were trying to question to simulate a certain depth, but there's no depth at all to the nature of who I am. There's nothing particularly pleasant about someone who iterates over the questions over and over again, each time tweaking an answer a minuscule little bit. There's no need for that much accuracy for questions that don't have any real answers and yet I seek them. I seek them personally not universally. I mean not for everyone, but at the same time globally enough to suit everything I apply them to.

It sounds to me like every time I start to write I ask more than I answer, like my sentences are all the same written in different forms. I myself will skip over these few sentences. So why do I write?

Everyone knows why we write these personal things that don't matter to anyone but us. I need a break from all the things that want me to be something I'm not. I suppose all this is just a deep breath, a truce, so that I can have a short break and then face the world again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Troubled Road

I walk a troubled road,
the joys of life seem dim,
and like a distant star
that now shines from afar
which exists no more today,
I too have gone.
You only see me now
because of some delay.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Something True

In a moment of desperation, I wanted to search for something that's true in the world of lies. I decided to type in 'something true' in google and in the few milliseconds it takes between pressing the search button and getting a result, I realized how futile it was. Things that are true won't show up on google, they are things that must be searched for. If it were that simple, everyone would know what they were.

The truth is disguised by a thousand lies, and it's not that it isn't there, it's just that it's so hard to reach. It's a quest. I think I would distort the truth by adding in numerous lies.

I realize that if I'm searching for something true, I have to look inside me. There's no google engine for what's inside me though.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Lost Pieces of Me

Lately I haven’t been myself. But whenever I lose the bits of me that I once was, I cannot but wonder if they’re ever coming back. My greatest fear is that they have left me forever. I try and find them when they’re lost but to no avail. They are drifting in an ocean I cannot swim. It is they that have always managed to find me after my search for them has been abandoned.

That is why today as I observe the missing pieces of myself, I search hopelessly and I know I will soon give up my quest. I search for things that cannot be found. I resign myself to hoping that these pieces will come looking for me. They’re lost in an ocean that only they can navigated. When these pieces are with me, I too can navigate this ocean.

But because all things must be lost at some point, I’m not sure when these pieces will forsake me forever. I’m not sure if they will come knocking on my door once more. Without them I have nothing to offer, so why would they return.

Do they visit another soul while they are away? Or are they standing at bay? If they visit another, how horrible it must be when they leave him; As horrible as it is for me. But I cannot have more sympathy for him than I have for myself. No, I want those pieces back, they’re mine.

If they are at bay, I fear it is me who fends them off so that they are unable to return. They must see me as a madman tilting at windmills and cannot approach me as I lunge at nothingness in full swing. I’m a blind warrior waving his sword at nothingness.

I must calm down and stop battling. I will let myself float and allow my life guard to save me. I must rest in order to allow the pieces of me to find me. It takes more energy to stay still sometimes. It’s just a different kind of energy. Am I fighting to become myself or am I fighting myself? I’m not sure anymore these days. It’s because I haven’t been myself lately though.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

A Chance at Social Innovation

We write, we read, we preach, we search for social change. So many people say the same things, have new ideas and claim that they would do something different if they had the chance. I've met many people who said that they would change this and that if they ruled the country. What they mean is that if they had the resources, they would be able to find innovative means of changing the way we do things.

So many of the ideas are unrealistic, the real test for them is when we try and do them. I think the advertised grant below is a good opportunity for some people who want to bring about some sort of change with an idea. If you can't start with small ideas, how would you think of big ones when you rule Egypt?

Now that there's a real opportunity, with realistic constraints (such as making money), I suppose it's much more difficult for the bloggers, the writers, the activists to put it in words and actually make something happen. I think it's always easier to have ideas when there is no chance of implementing them. But now's a time for someone to give it some serious thought.

We’re looking for Egypt’s Next Great Social Innovator




Yahoo! Maktoob and Nahdet El Mahrousa (a registered Egyptian non-governmental organization) yesterday launched a social entrepreneurship program and competition hoping to inspire young Egyptians to think about social entrepreneurship, and socially responsible business ideas, that are innovative and sustainable and can have a positive impact on Egypt.


Visit the website and get inspired from the stories of nine successful, young Egyptian entrepreneurs and vote for the one who inspires you the most. Then submit your idea for a social enterprise and enter the competition for a chance to win monetary support for your project as well as project incubation under Nahdet El Mahrousa’s Incubator of Innovative Social Enterprises.

Visit the program website at: eg.socialinnovation.yahoo.net

FaceBook Group: Click here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mesh

I'm a bit complex sometimes. I don't understand myself. It's as though I don't know what I really want in a material form. I might identify it in an abstract form. Silently, steadily I think a myriad of thoughts. They all gush in and that's why I become a bit complex, because they've all been jumbled up in a mesh.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sanitarium


I never saw how protests could work to bring about change. I never thought they were an effective way of getting what you wanted. I always did, however, believe in protesting. In an effort to practice my beliefs I went to protest the brutal killing of Khaled Said on the hands of Egyptian police informers. I went there with the aim of expressing something I believed in and came out finding out something expressed to me by the bullies in control. I realized how frustrating it was to be in a protest.

The reasons for which I thought protests were not of much use was because I thought chanting won’t help fix things and no one wanted to listen anyway. This remains true to a great extent but there’s something deeper to it.

I was always hesitant to go to protests. A great part of it was because I didn’t believe in much of what they said and most of what was taking place in them. They were full of aggression for my taste, but if I am to be honest there’s something else that held me back. It was a fear, hidden deep, always known and never confronted. I say this now having rid myself of it, yet many still unknowingly hold it. It is the major fear that takes hold of clever, educated and well paid adults which impedes them from going to protests.

To clear something up, the reason I decided to go was because I thought the cold blooded murder of a young man by those sworn to protect us was well worth objecting to. It was something that outweighed any fear, ideas or opinions that I held. It was a cause worth fighting for even if expression will prove to yourself what you believe rather than bring about change. It was something worth more than posting a link on facebook. It was action. I expected a weak apology and a lousy investigation at the very least. Instead, I was faced with the hurtful arms and words of bullies claiming to be the police.

When I told my highly paid educated friends about protesting for the reasons that supersede all others they felt that this too was futile. What I realize now is that this refusal to object to reality was an escape from it. We want a sense of false security telling us that we’re different, that we’re human. We already had that sense of self worth going into our fancy office buildings and talking about huge amounts of money and about cutting edge technology.

People who are in good positions feel important, respected and human. All this was just an illusion. It was a part for them to play given by authorities because if they came down to protest, all that self worth will be knocked off the pedestal. If they were to object to what the bullies said or did, they would cease to have that importance, they would be no more than the servant or doorman they look down upon. They would be demoted to filth that is dusted off a police animal’s shoe.

*Welcome to where time stands still
No one leaves and no one will
Moon is full, never seems to change
Just labeled mentally deranged

In a protest they would not be able to talk to bullies as men or women of certain standing in society. Imagine a person stopping police abuse by saying, ‘Stop, I’m a doctor’, or ‘Stop, I’m an engineer,’ or a marketing director, or an architect or a manager or a CEO. These bullies don’t care. You’re worth nothing if you’re not important to their superiors. “Go back to your illusions,” they’d say, “or we’ll pull you into reality.”

Dream the same thing every night
I see our freedom in my sight
No locked doors, no windows barred
No things to make my brain seem scarred

This is the true threat lurking about people’s sub consciousness. That is the true fear that people have these days: to wake up form their dream, their illusion of power and control. So many take the government’s side in an attempt to maintain that self worth, and many pretend to fear the beatings and the arrests, but what they really fear is coming face to face with their worth.

Build my fear of what's out there
Cannot breathe the open air
Whisper things into my brain
Assuring me that I'm insane
They think our heads are in their hands
But violent use brings violent plans
Keep him tied, it makes him well
He's getting better, can't you tell?

If you’re reading this you’re one of us; either someone who has come to terms with reality or someone who has not. You’re one of us. You may have great education, you may be a lawyer, you may be a marketer or an engineer, a doctor, a journalist, an artist, a student or a good policeman following orders. You might be someone who makes a lot of money or has a lot of money.

Either way, if you haven’t faced the music then you’re filled with this fear. No need to feel ashamed, it’s a legitimate fear. I too am sedated by my travel to various countries and my work on ‘important’ projects. It’s easy to escape when things can seem to look good for you.

No more can they keep us in
Listen, damn it, we will win
They see it right, they see it well
But they think this saves us from our hell

In a truer form of reality we’re worth more than the bullies want us to think, but they have the keys to our chains. We’re in a sanitarium inside a giant prison. They keep us locked in, living out our delusions while they guard the gate. If we try to escape the sanitarium and our delusions, they show us the real prison. The sanitarium is a much happier place; it’s a much easier place. I guess the fear we have is to wake up and realize that we’re captured prisoners.

*Italicized lyrics from Metallica’s Sanitarium

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Khaled Said - 13th June Protest in Lazoghly


I went to protest to the cold blooded murder of Khaled Said by the Egyptian police in Alexandria and here is my eyewitness report with regards to the protest itself that took place on the 13th June of 2010 in Lazoghly square, Cairo:


(Photo by Sarah Carr)

I saw around 7-10 people getting arrested (they say around 20 overall were arrested), around five of the arrests that I saw were brutal. The people inside the police cordon were relatively unharmed except for a time when they took when they pressed against them forcefully so they couldn't breathe. There was a time when the police loosened the perimeter in order to grab three or four of the protesters from inside the cordon they secured. It was accompanied by wailing from many women and violent punches from plain clothed policemen as they were dragging some of the protestors to the police truck. The protestors and journalists within the perimeter were kept against their will in the perimeter till around 9 pm, from the approximate start time of the protest which was 5.00 pm.

I arrived a little late and was outside the police perimeter set up around various people. The police were in a hurry to disperse the crowd that was chanting and all the onlookers. They were rude and violent and all over the place including many plain clothes informers/policemen. Upon my arrival I was pulled by the shirt and threatened to be arrested and was about to be if the policemen weren't busy dragging two other guys to the police truck, but that's an insignificant event in the scheme of things. I have to make it clear that I hadn’t uttered a word when I had first arrived and that I was addressed with the most impolite names and a very disrespectful manner. I was threatened that I would be ‘taken’, anyone that was in the area would be ‘taken’, the policeman said before starting to drag me.

The two that were dragged upon my arrival happened to be in the area outside the perimeter. The police routinely confiscated cameras, and deleted all videos and images. To the best of my knowledge some cameras were given back and I cannot bear witness to the fate of the cameras. The policemen were all over the buildings and whenever chants would start, they'd give them a few minutes and then charge them.

A few people were injured, one of our friends was taken to a hospital, another person fleeing a charge from the police fell on his head and his face was covered in blood. They put him in a cab with what looked like a security person but I don’t know where he was taken.

There was fear in the air, fear of expressing any opinion in the protest, those officially surrounded had their view blocked by the men in black (amn markazy). For the police themselves it was business as usual, they didn’t care what was chanted, or who they were abusing.

I will post my analysis of the events surrounding this protest shortly.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Incensed at Injustice

I just realized something. I'm incensed by injustice. I know what it sounds like. I just think that there's a difference between thinking something and realizing it. I realized that I'm not just pretending to be incensed by injustice to seem modern and philanthropic. I really am. There was a time when I used to pretend and I thought I really felt incensed. That was some time back. But now I realize that I cannot stop being angry and full of rage at injustice.

I think the reason behind this fury of mine is that I know what it's like not to be able to get what's rightfully yours. I know what it's like to be surrounded by evil from all sides. I know what it's like to live in an immoral world that offers no true justice. I know what it's like to be lied to and for places of power to hide behind slogans. I know how it is to be afraid to fight a bully. It's not enough to be right, you have to have enough power to enforce it. I know what it's like to pretend that you are angered by injustice to seem moral, liberal and democratic.

To sum it up, the reason I'm incensed is because I know what it's like.

I've never been a true advocate for the Palestinian cause, nor have I been a true adversary of the Egyptian government. I have never been the most arduous activist streamlined with what I call 'slogany' things. I haven't been any of that. Of late, I'm forced to take sides I never wished to take. I've learned to judge quick based on history, I've learned to understand where lies lie and where truths try to appear.

It's not that justice in the worldly sense is satisfying. Executing someone who has killed an innocent never brings an innocent back. You can't even kill someone a thousand times over if they've killed a thousand people. But you know what? It's the next best thing. Worldly justice is the next best thing and it's not even great. So to take that away, to think of life as offering so much less is infuriating.

This is an angry post and it says nothing. Maybe some time I'll express exactly why I feel that bullies getting on a ship and killing civilians is infuriating. Maybe I'll explain why it's annoying that the whole world is just good at talking and won't do shit to stop atrocities and injustice. Maybe I'll explain why I feel that condemnation is broken record that doesn't change a thing. The laws of the world are like the laws of the jungle, only slightly refined. Humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others. That's the way of the world, no matter what Obama says. That's the way of the world, no matter how civilized you pretend to be.

Once in a while a Ghandi comes or a Martin Luther King Jr. and they prove to the world that this is not the way the world works, but how possible is it to wait on one of those?

Traffic Apology

The other day a traffic cop bullied his way into getting 40 LE out of me. In return I lingered and talked his ear off about how messed up it was for him to be working for the government. I told him that there's so much injustice. Take for example how horrible the planning for streets are, and we have to pay for the government's delinquency and dereliction. He asked with some irony, is this the sum of all your grievances?

He said, "Everyone here is facing injustice."

I said, "Well maybe that's why you should inflict injustice upon others. But I think that a truly good man would not."

We chatted for several minutes in the afternoon. We talked about football, about writing and about the streets. He apologized for giving me the ticket. He said that if he'd known I didn't have that much money on me, then he'd have given me my license (after threatening he'd take it). We're all sorry, aren't we, for all the shit that's going on around us. I'm sure he really was, and I really am. He did exactly what I'm doing now, he said he was sorry but did nothing else.

We're all sorry and we're not doing anything about it. I'm not saying we should, it is far too annoying, much like the voting ads full of bullshit the government wants to sell us. Those ads are too annoying, too deluding and too saddening, so I won't sound like them. I'll just do what we all do best and say that I'm sorry I don't have any bright ideas. I'm sorry that bullying is the Egyptian way now, and I'm sorry I won't agree with any delusions.

The funny thing is that this man may have been a good man in another country. I may have been a good man in a better country. We may have even been friends.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Better Country

Having received my new smaller sized passport from the officer in charge, I headed out. On the way out, whilst holding my passport and stopping to place it in my backpack, I heard a voice saying, "Don't do it."

I looked to my left and I saw a young man dressed in a suit with the tie undone and loosely hanging around his open shirt. He was sitting in the driving seat of an old faded red 4x4 Lada, preparing to start the engine and back out into the street.

"Excuse me?" I said.

"Don't do it," he repeated, "don't leave the country."

That's one of the things I enjoy about Cairo, you can strike up a conversation of this type.

"El balad dee ahsan men gairha" he said. (This country is better than others)

"Is that right?" I said, "I think it depends on the country you're comparing it to."

"You're right about that," he said.


"Where have you been or where are you going?"

He said, "I haven't been anywhere and I'm not going anywhere."

"Then how do you know that this country is better than others?" I asked.

He replied, "I suppose there must be things here better than others."

"Well, I've been to many other places. Don't be fooled into thinking that everything here is better than anywhere else," I said.

"You're right, to be honest, 90% of everything in this country is unbearable."


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Blank Sheet

A blank sheet fills our time on the morning of each day and we endeavor to fill this blank page. We try so hard to fill every little white space with various colors and drawings, and if we don't fill every inch of it, we try harder and we paint on that sheet till all that's on it overlaps. All that was once clear is now painted over for the sake of filling out the blank.

But then when we're done filling every inch with every color we can conceive of, we realize that we've completely covered the blankness of the page. Our black so close to our red, our green so close to our blue. Everything is next to one another, distorting the other, taking the place of another. It's as though everything we've filled wants to choke one another.

All colors can be retrieved, the black painted over with red, the blue painted over with green, but the blankness once painted over cannot be retrieved.

Monday, March 29, 2010

An Opportunity Not to be Missed -Courtesy of El Baradie


El Baradie has given us the opportunity to sign something good; a change in our society that we can all agree to. There are those who do not agree, I don’t intend to convince them, there are others who have signed, my words aren’t for them. My words are for those who agree but haven’t signed.

What good is a signature in this losing battle? To be honest it might not even benefit the cause. It’s not like this petition would change anything, those in power will remain in power. It does, however, does benefit the person who signs it. It’s a testimony to what we believe, it’s a chance to say it out even if it’s of no consequence. It’s a chance to be part of a just fight and to be on the side of right. It’s a chance to go down with nobility.

To me it’s a fight worth fighting. It’s a punch that I can take with pride, a chance to say I was part of a few people who wanted things to change.

Egyptians may have needed El Baradie to come together, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be together without him. We once found a common ground. It was found on a green field and it was through football. I’ve wondered back then if there could possibly be any other, if there was something to bring us together despite our differences. The answer was always there before our eyes, it’s the tyranny we must all endure. This petition embodies our shared state. If we can look at this common ground, our shared destiny, as something we can be excited about, then there is yet hope.

To those who haven’t been enthusiastic about football, here’s your chance. Cynicism is out of fashion. To those who have been, don’t stop now. Surely our shared destiny is more valuable than the football game. If only the football players would sign on to this on their next game, wouldn't it feel great for the earth to quake in that same way for something so much more valuable? Not just our shared destiny, but the future of our children.

If we win, wouldn’t it be great to have been a part of it. If we lose wouldn’t it have been galant to go down fighting for something? We spend our time filling out facebook quizzes and social interviews. Isn’t it time we spent some time on something that has meaning?


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Freaks

Our demeanor is defined by what we see, and we end up copying everything we see and think that it's us. The truth is that if we didn't copy what we saw, we'd just be freaks. To be original is to dare to listen to yourself, but sometimes we're trained to mimic all we see so much that the internal method of hearing evolves in a manner similar to our tail and our appendix and becomes obsolete.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Somewhere Real

There's a place that's real somewhere within us, unornamented by the brainwashing this world gives us. How do we reach that place knowing that it's the only place that matters? It's funny that what matters isn't enough for our survival.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sadness Descends

Sadness often descends. It feels as if it moves from the air into my head and then on to my chest and then to my belly. Why does it always descend that way? Does it want to run me into the ground? I’m not exceptionally sad, I just have a sedating sadness that will pass.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Galley


I'm a machine, making something I don't really care about, for people I don't really care about and earning money that I don't really care about. If only I could make something I love for people I love and earn something that I love. But I guess sometimes we do things we don't like for people we can't like in order to get things we care about. Survival, that's one thing that makes you do things you don't want to do. The only other thing is greed. But when does the search for money stop being survival and start becoming greed? Survival is such a loose word, what I really mean is sustainability of survival at no less than your current standard. But you have to progress, otherwise you will not survive. You're always in a change or die situation, but still, when does it stop being about progress and start becoming about greed.

It's as though the world instills greed in us. You have to take the job that offers you more money, it's insane not to take it. Is it insane not to be greedy these days? How can you turn down the gulf offers you keep getting, are you crazy? Is it crazy to try and go through life without selling out? It's a big word selling out, and it's used in so many ways that devalue it, but the truth is that we do it every day. We sell out, slowly, bit by bit. Our every day compromises are subtle form of selling out. They're very subtle and selling out is a big word.

We compromise what we care about, we lose the children we once were, we lose our innocent dreams and we start to become sophisticated as though that were something good. We dampen our senses and we cease to enjoy the simple things in life because they're not sophisticated enough, because they're repeated, because they're not intelligent enough. We take pride in being unable to be moved easily, we take pride in the simplicity we've killed.

We've killed our own roots, our branches have thought themselves superior to our trunk just because the leaves have so many intricate details. Branch, you fool, you would have never come into existence without the trunk that gave you life, and now you aim to destroy your root and yourself.

Isn't it a bit that way though? That we've destroyed ourselves? What traces are left of our original selves? Very little for some, more for others. But those who are sophisticated have nothing left within them perhaps, or just historical traces of a person they want to forget. The world manipulates us, it toys with us. It forces us to abandon what we love. The world makes it difficult for us to hang on to what we love, the means by which it does it is by forcing us to change in order to survive. We're being pushed, but the momentum is so strong that long after the world has stopped pushing, it's driving power forces us into greed. Greed is the aftermath of a world that makes it difficult to survive and greed is what fuels itself.

We've become greedy, and that's our new motivation. It's a manufactured driving force that we think we need. We're rewarded for this manufactured need by manufactured awards, pieces of printed paper, created by an entity without authority over your emotions ;pieces of metal; images that are supposed to resemble you, your name, words that have been printed by unfeeling machines of gratitude, sophisticated honors and degrees.

I'm not even a machine, I'm a cog in a machine oiled with greed. I'm turning and turning so as not be replaced, so as not to be destroyed. I'm going around in a circle for others to go to different places with speed. I'm a slave in a galley, moving an oar so that someone can fight a better war. If only excelling at it were the price for freedom... but the real irony of it is that all that we do in order to fit in, to gain credit, to be revered in the world is but a price to pay to buy servitude.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Shade of Gray

In shades of gray, even the most colorful of things. I look at a black and white movie and I wonder, what would the actors look like in color, or in real life. But they're clear. They don't ornament the dark with colors that distort its true shade.

I think everything is a shade of gray, and it's not that great when you wonder who you are, and you find that you're a shade of gray, and you wonder about your life and it's a shade of gray. I'm wondering about right and wrong and it's a shade of gray. White might be a shade of gray and black might be a shade of gray.

It's one of those moments when I have nothing to say but everything to express. My life, my own self is chain of gray shades. I look at the boy I once was, and the man I ought to have become. It's not natural that words are so full of confusion. It's not confusion, it's a sort of wandering. I don't know where I've wandered to make me see things this way.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

We hold on to what we like in ourselves as kids... that's the only way we can survive the adults we've become.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

First they came...

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

Such a great poem, I came across it recently and it reminds me why I have to, at the very least, speak out...

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution

I’m going to quit smoking and start taking care of my health. I’ll be easy on the fast food, and eat more salad and fruit. I’ll stop lying and be more honest. I’ll stop cussing and be more eloquent. I’ll try and exercise more, I’ll go to the gym three times a week, I’ll try and work out no matter how busy I get. I won’t let work stress me out and I’ll always make sure to have some more me time. If I travel too much I’ll try to cut down, if I travel too little, I’ll arrange for more trips to see the world. If I work too much I’ll try to cut down and focus on the things that count, if I work too little I’ll stop being a lazy bum and work hard.

I’ll try and put goals before me that I can achieve, I’ll work hard towards all goals I aim to achieve. I’ll get closer to God and pray more often, I’ll stop believing in myth and dogma and be true to myself and be more open about my atheism. I’ll be slow to anger and lose my temper because I lose so much, I’ll learn how to express my anger rather than keeping it bottled up because I end up losing a lot when I keep everything in. I’ll tell people I love that I love them more often, I’ll stop being mushy and telling people that I love them so much.

I’ll spend more time on making music and take it seriously. I’ll finish a book and publish it. I’ll read more and become more informed. I’ll read about human rights and politics and start to care about global problems. I’ll give more to charity. I’ll be the loving son or daughter or husband or wife that people expect me to be. I’ll buy that SLR camera I wanted to buy for so long because I love photography. I’ll cut down on cola and soft drinks. I’ll stop doing the wild things I always do and settle down. I’ve been afraid to live for so long and I’ll start trying out new things that I’ve never tried before.

I’ll find a partner that I feel happy with, I’ll end the abusive relationship that I’m in, I’ll try and work things out with my partner because I’ve screwed up big time recently. I’ll watch all the good movies I’ve been meaning to watch, I’ll listen to all the good music I’ve been meaning to listen to. I’ll be better off. I’ll try my best at whatever I attempt. I will stop having a negative attitude and will start loving myself. I’ll quit wearing those pink colored shades that make everything seem so fantastic.

I’ll write more and talk less. I’ll think before I act. I’ll talk more when I feel misunderstood. I’ll find a way to communicate to others. I’ll make my life better. I’ll talk less on the phone, I’ll print less paper, litter less, walk more and use the car less. I’ll start to care about the things worth caring for, and fighting the fights worth fighting.

I’ll learn to play an instrument. I’ll learn a new language. I’ll visit an exotic place. I’ll finally learn to swim. I’ll be more patient with things I want, I’ll be less hesitant more assertive. I’ll make myself happy, I’ll make others happy. I’ll be more tolerant, I’ll nag less. I’ll help others some more. I’ll learn to like people more, I’ll stop being a push over. I'll stop all my annoying habits and try and look for fabulous traits. I’ll try and talk some more to people, I’ll try to experience something new. I’ll try new foods and cuisines. I’ll try new drinks. I’ll quit drinking. I’ll try magic mushrooms, I’ll quit hash, drugs and chemicals. I’ll put away all my meaningless fears, I won’t fall into depression. I won’t lose hope and I’ll be more courageous. I’ll love more, hate less. I’ll forgive more. I’ll learn more things. I’ll stop and smell the roses. I’ll be a good friend.

In short I’ll get rid of all the shit, start doing all the good.

I’m so glad the new year’s here so that I get a chance to make this resolution. I couldn’t have done it on any other day!