(This isn’t an Ode to New Hampshire nor that shitty 4th Die Hard movie, sorry if you came here thinking it was, although if it was for the last Die Hard movie, you should be ashamed of yourself for wanting to read about this gratuitous PG-13 piece of trash. John Mclaine without saying “yuppie Ka yae Motherfucker”? You kidding me?)
“Being Comfortable is the scariest feeling in the world”, she said to me in that breathy voice of hers.
She was right of course. She is always right.
People who have been reading me have noticed that things around this blog have significantly changed over the course of the past year: the ranting has become more and more infrequent, the posting, which used to be 8 or 9 times a day every day of the week now takes a vacation from Thursday to Sunday, and an almost nagging feeling that the passion behind the writing is gone, replaced simply with detached cynicism and the every now and then glimpse of anger that have defined this blog for so long. If you’ve noticed all of this, you are not alone and you are not imagining things. One of the curses of writing is that your writing ability is always affected by your emotional state, and my emotional state has been kind of ..ehh.. well, numb isn’t the right word, but it’s the first that comes to mind. Oh, I know, stoic. I have been stoic for exactly 14 months now, ever since I moved to my new neighborhood.
You see, before I moved to where I am living now, I was supposed to be moving back to the States, where I would work in a DC NGO. Needless to say the situation got complicated when I found out that I am dealing with very shady people, and not wanting to associate myself with them, I cut loose al ties, with it the job and the Visa, and they in turn started a war against me in DC. But that was then, and it’s all history now. Anyway, faced with what to do next, I decided to take all the money I’ve saved and move to the posh expensive neighborhood that’s filled with foreigners and fellow anglophile egyptians in which I now reside. Once settled in, I started creating my own comfort zone, my own reality of Egypt. With the new place new friends came, and new parties, and girls, and more girls and more parties and inane discussions over hash smoking and the pursuit for the perfect alcohol collection and the nights out in overpriced bars and restaurants and the never-ending social life 7 nights a week. It was hedonism in Egyptian eyes, which meant that it was in its most boring and repetitive of forms, but hedonism it was nonetheless. It was great fun. And as the fun increased, the less angry I became, the less I cared about what was going on. I was slowly but surely becoming apathetic and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Now, as most of you know, this Lifestyle naturally commanded a hefty price, i.e. it needed constant financing. That meant finding a job that paid the bills, and that job kind of found me. Suddenly I found myself working for a company with an extremely Egyptian work culture, with the petty politics and heavy islamist influences and the kind of frozen mentality that makes you wish to bash your head into the wall. I knew it was wrong for me, but I stayed there nonetheless, because everyone told me that it was time I grew up. That it was time to build my career, and maybe save some money for a rainy day, instead of my constant traveling and never-ending quest for instant gratification. And I listened. And naturally a few months later I couldn’t take it anymore and I left with mutual agreement of my superior. I now work for another company, doing the same thing. It’s slightly more exciting than the previous job, but I am not giving it my all. The sense of apathy that followed me from the first job still followed me here, and I can’t shake it off for the life of me.
I was oblivious to this problem until very recently, when I came across a career path that ignited a spark in a place that’s been dark for so long inside me, and now that’s all I could think of doing. It has everything that I wanted to do and more, and it eventually pays very well, so even my monetary needs will be satisfied. However, in order for me to get to that point I will need to start from the bottom of the ladder to get the tricks of the trade right, and that will mean bottom of the ladder money for at least the next 2 years. And that’s where the problem lies.
You see, I am turning 27 in a month, and right now, where I am at in life, I am actually ahead of the curve in what I do. I now work in upper-management of companies that do some seriously interesting work in terms of Information Technology. I have a very high expected salary. I have a Lifestyle that needs maintaining, a social life that is both demanding and expensive, and an apartment whose rent eats up a good chunk of my money. I am spoiled and comfortable, and the idea of giving all of that up, of all that I’ve accomplished, in the sake of fulfilling what I now deem to be my career of choice, well, that just leaves me frozen up in terror.
I can’t figure out for the life of me when I’ve allowed fear to take over such a huge part in my decision making, and yet here we are, with me unable to pursue what I want to do because of it. I turned to my friends for encouragement and guidance, to find them all frozen in terror like me, pursuing careers that they don’t like, ignoring their passions or possibly indulging in them on the weekend, and refusing to give up the careers they hate for ones they would actually enjoy, because, well, they have invested so much in this so far, and they can’t possibly throw it all away. Not to mention, in the “let’s always compare our penis size” culture of the social class I so happen to belong to, there is no space for you to be an indulger of your passions without doing it in a very grandiose way. You want to a screenwriter, let daddy finance a movie production company, You wanna become an artist, let mommy open up a gallery for you. Achievements in the realm of passion, that are 100% yours, are not heard of. Starting from the bottom of the ladder is neither allowed nor acceptable where I come from, especially if are over the age of 25. That’s when you are supposed to be all grown up, and by grown up we mean you should be doing some kind of job that you don’t like to purchase stuff that you probably could live without but makes you comfortable in order to justify your misery.
The more and more I think about it, the more I realize that If I really want to do what I want to do, then what I am doing right now has to stop. In order for me to evolve, I have to shed my skin and go all the way. I have to give up all the ties that bind me to a life of hollow achievement and miserable professional advancement. I have to do what I want to do, now, not in a year or two years or after I save some money or any of those endless tips of caution given to me by “grown-ups” who have been living in misery- that they alleviate with the occasional trip to the beach or attending the annual “Spring fling” or “Fuck me I am famous” parties where they spend fortunes partying with the same people they always party with and wonder who made it to the pages of the disgustingly self-indulgent “Scene and Heard” blog- for years and know it, yet refuse to escape it. They tell me to go after my dreams but do it rationally, unable to notice that they are talking about caution and not rationality. That rationality dictates that of you are young, with few attachments and responsibilities, and you are unhappy with something in your life, then change it immediately, before you become old and stuck in your life. Before this moment of opportunity passes you by.
And to make things even more confusing, some of those same friends who are stuck in careers they hate, are the ones who are encouraging me to do this, while they themselves are too chickenshit to attempt the same. You want to take their advice, you would really love to, but it’s hard to take them seriously when they themselves don’t follow it. When you point this out, they tell you it’s not about them, it’s about you, and when you press them on it, they confess that they are too terrified to make the same move, and would probably never take their own advice. What sounds like encouragement starts sounding like a set-up, and you realize, once again, that your friends are useless, and that, as always, you are in this alone.
There is, however, a part of me, that keeps screaming at it to just say “screw it” and do what I want to do. To give up the career, the apartment, the life and even the friends and go for it. That my love for them, the level of comfort they create in my life, is trapping me from doing what I need to do, and therefore they must go. Give it all up. Start over. That even if I failed, then it will be a glorious failure, because I will never look back to this time of my life when I am older in regret and say “If I only I wasn’t such a coward”. To destroy who I made myself become to save who I am. To Live Free or Die!
I can do this. I know I can. Yet here I am , in the office, pretending to work while I write this.
I am not scared, I am not…
…. but I can’t move!
Be forewarned if you try to seperate Al Qaeda from the general prison population in a muslim country. Bad things might happen.
Just in case you ever wonderd what goes through his mind, go here!
It happened an hour ago and the details are still hazy. The Public Morality Police (we actually have one) has just stormed Sharqawy's publishing house, and confiscating all of the available copies of the egyptian graphic novel "Metro" . The police are demanding the presence of Shrqawy and Metro's author Magdy el Shafey and are banning Metro from all Bookstores. If anyone could explain to me why they are having such blood vendetta against Sharqawy, please e-mail me. This is making no sense!
The MB number 2 man and main Financier, Khairat Al Shater, just received his sentencing in the MB militray tribunals: 7 Years for financing the MB's activities. Hassan Malek also received the same sentence, Two others received 5 years, 13 received 3 years and 5 who are abroad received 10 years of sentencing. All in all, the 25 were sentenced to jail and 15 were released.
Now, where were we? Oh yeah, George Ishac. Hmm..
Well, to be honest, while I was shocked and totally against it, I wasn't too torn up over the arrest of good ole Mr Ishac, for a number of reasons that every downtown activist knows and every journalist refuses to report, chiefly amongst them is :Kefaya is dead!
Kefaya has been dead for quite some time now, with a number of other movements picking up the slack. Some have names, such as Youth for Change and the revolutionary socialists, and others don't, with many people showing up individually wanting to do something for the country. But you will tell me that you never heard of those other groups and are only aware of Kefaya's achievements in street mobilization and protesting. Well, my friend, that's because after every such protest in recent memory, Mr. Ishac -and whomever his cohorts are- issue a statement claiming organizational responsibility for the protests and calling the numbers of people arrested as members of the movement, but they would never be there. Hell, I can count 6 protests from recent memory, some very important ones,where none of the so-called-Kefaya leaders were available, but statements of responsibility were issued, and the leathery face of mr. Ishaq was all over Al Jazeera. And mind you, this goes back to the constitutional amendments protest. Remember that night? Yeah, not a single one of them was there, but you bet your ass mr. Ishaq issued a statement, calling it a Kefaya protest and the arrested Kefaya activists, even though he didn't know any of them.
There is a story that I believe and was told by one of my activist friends on dear George, which was during the Islam Nabih (a police officer) trial over his torture of Emad el Kebeir. George comes into the court and goes to my activist friend and the following exchange takes place:
G: So, this is Sharqawy's trial?
F: No, sharqawy didn;t have a trial. This isn't it at all. This is the trial of Islam Nabih.
G: Oh, Islam, great kid. Who is defending him?
F: Ehh..no one from our side.
G: Why? That's outrageous. He doesn't have a lawyer?
F: well, he does, but not from our side. Islam Nabih is the police Officer that tortured Emad el Kebeir. They are trying him for that today.
G: Oh, ok! (storms off the court, and then storms back in, heads to Emad and pats him on the shoulder and says)
G: Don;t worry Emad, we are all behind you.
(And then stormed out again)
So yeah, as you can see, he wasn't exactly on top of things, but that never prevented him from appearing on TV shows, talking about things he had nothing to do with. The last time was when he was representing "the egyptian opposition forces" on Al Jazeera program covering Al Mahalla riots, opposite Esam Al Aryan. The government was looking for someone to blame this on, Georgie boy couldn't resist the lime-light, and suddenly they had the perfect candidate. Oh, and by the way, they released him now, but only on bail, which is making many people speculate that this is far from over.
And it is far from over. It really is. I was shocked at the news of his arrest, not because of who he is, but because I was informed by some of my sources that they were planning on arresting him the same day they arrested Sharqawy, but they couldn't locate him. The words "military tribunal" and "3 years minimum sentencing" got thrown in there as well, but don't hold me to it. I wouldn't be surprised if they do go the route of military tribunals though, they do want the May 4th strike aborted in any way possible, because if it took place, then Mahalla is not a fluke and we could be heading towards a seriously sizzling summer of egyptian anger. And God knows that the government was too stupid in the way they have
handled Mahalla so far.
You see, besides arresting anyone that moved, the government also sent in a
delegation of Ministers of Mahalla, who promised them 30 days pay, benefits,
upgrading the factories, and everything but giving them head in an effort to
placate them, and them alone. They thought by doing this the crisis would be
over, but it's not just about Mahalla, it's about the entire country, and they
are all having
the same problems, and they just saw that protesting gets them stuff. So
Almost immediately after Mahalla's textile workers strike was subdued
crushed over, the Nasr steel factory workers started their own strike in
Mahalla. And now the workers of two spinning
factory workers in Alexandria are striking as well. The government opened
up Pandora's box, and now they can't close it. Even their half-assed attempt of using
religion to stop people from striking was duly ignored, all the while the
fighting over the bread lines is taking place now with
gunfire. Fun stuff.
In other news, the authorities had arrested the creator of the strike on
april 6th facebook group, a veiled girl named Isra2, who just got released
yesterday. They had also detained
American Journalist James Buck and have refused to
let go of his translator until today. James Buck's testimony is posted on his website here .As for Al
Mahalla itself, it's under lockdown, with no people allowed in or out of the
city, especially the journalists, as a group tried and found out for themselves
last week. The only exception to this rule was, as usual, Wael Abbas, who
managed to snag an interview with the father of the 15 year old boy that got
shot in his house twice accidentally by police gunfire. By the way, in case you
are wondering, the police ain't investigating the incident. We are, after all,
80 million, what's a dead boy in 80 million? Can't waste time investigating
that, we have national security concerns people, and we are busy busy busy.
So yeah, that is all. No one knows how many exactly got arrested, and what
their names are. I know that Sharqawy is still arrested, which is ironic,
because he had nothing to do with this strike and had put aside activism in
exchange of running his publishing business more than 6 months ago. Yet, here he
is, arrested for no reason, and the only one they won't let go. As for why
there isn't any campaigns to free him, well, all I know is that whenever
someone opens up the topic, they get yelled at that there are other detainees
than Sharqawy and that he got plenty famous the last time, and that we
shouldn't give him anymore fame this time. Reminding them that it isn't about his fame, but about the fact that the boy is in
jail doesn't seem to move them either, which is another reason why I thank the
lord that I am not close friends with those "downtown" types. Ehh..
We now play the oldest of games, the game of waiting. The 15 days end on the
21st, and that's when we will find out the charges against Sharqawy, Ishac and
and all the others. The buildup for May4th strike is currently underway, and
the fact that it coincides with the president's Birthday just makes the whole
thing more..ehh..delicious. But this could all get killed based on the indictments given out in 6 days: if the words "Military" and
"Tribunal" appear anywhere, then rest assured that nothing will
happen that day.
As for those of you who are worrying about how the MB could be behind this,
well, fear not. The MB, for the 1000000 time, proved that they are pussies, and
have even attacked the people who protested and striked, hoping that the
government would allow them some seats in the municipal elections, and the
government naturally complied, and all is well. The MB doesn't really care
about the issues not does it oppose Mubarak, and they would gladly support all
of his decisions and polish his penis daily if he agreed to give them some
power. So yeah, The MB doesn't really care about Al Mahalla right now, cause they are too busy
creating a campaign to support the Muslims in Chechnya. Yes, that's where the MB's priority lies these day, Chechnya.I thought you might want to know.
And that is all for now folks, have a lovely day!
People, sorry for disappearing the past few days, but I've been overwhelmed with work, news of arrests and developments in the country. Been trying to get some perspective on the whole thing. Regular blogging will resume tomorrow!
The outspoken Kefaya leader was arrested an hour ago. The backlash has begun!
It sure supports tyrants and human rights abuses:
According to some U.S. media reports,
Pelosi said in March that what happened in Tibet is a challenge to the
conscience of the world. But people have to ask who is posing this
challenge. The truth is, normal life was resumed in Lhasa after the
Chinese government took appropriate actions according to law. More than
100 countries in the world have expressed their understanding of and
support to Chinese government's actions, an indication that the
international community sides with China on the issue.
See, it's just the evil americans who have a problem when the chinese kill their own people, the rest of the world….not so much…they are kind of supportive of it. Silly Americans.
Continue reading this press release. It's great stuff.
And people wonder why I have no respect for the UN!
From the Petraeus testimony:
Petraeus to Chris Dodd: "Every Iraqi is allowed an AK-47 in his house, by law."
I want one!
So not fair. hmmph!
Hamas is threatening a repeat of the AlAreesh invasion, and Nora is reporting tensions on the Egypt Gaza borders, with the egyptians over there stocking on food so they wouldn't be left starving like last time!
Hey, egyptian army and security forces, how about you show half of the enthusiasm you show for silencing freedom of speech of the people in protecting the borders? Be fuckin useful for change!
They allow you to take pictures like this one.
(h/t Isis )
And people called us liars and exaggerators when we said that the police is the one doing the damage to their equipment to claim that the people are violent and out of control!
(Picture by Nasser Nouri, via Hamalawy )
Ammar, when he saw this picture, had one comment to make : Hopefully one day we will have this too in Syria.
Yeah, I hope so too Ammar.
The Mhalla riots are going into their second strong day. 50,000 people are rioting. The police is shooting tear gas, rubber bullets, you name it, and IT'S NOT WORKING. The demonstrators were originally only like 2000-3000, but the government crackdown forced the people on the street. And until today, it's a War Zone.
Here is a picture of one of the feared State Security trucks, commandeered and smashed by the people.
For impeccable coverage of the riots, check Hossam's blog.
Update: Another picture that makes my hearts swell, by James Buck.
Sea of people. Makes my skin tingle!
My friend R. from the US just sent me a message : "I'm proud of the people of ma7alla but so scared about what's coming to them. actually terrified"
We shall see R. , I am keeping my fingers crossed!
All I know is this though, for the first time in over 50 years, yesterday AlMahalla was a free city!
Update: This is response to some people in the comments section, you can ignore this if you want to:
Okay, both of you are acting like idiots. First of all, Mahalla is not a MB stronghold, no more than any other city is. The MB's power is greatly exaggerated and hyped, and they are too chicken to be behind this revolt. If anything they are distancing themselves from it and criticizing the actions of the Mahalla people. So no, that's not what's going on. What's happening is that the people there are ignored and fed up, and refsue to shut up while their family members and friends get arrested. They have a semblance of diginity that has somehow eluded the rest of the population. So, yes, we should encourage this.
Secondly, if you are following what's happening there as much as I am, here is something you might not know: The people are not the ones burning stores and cars; the police is. It's being done to be used as pretext to arresting people, The people are setting tires on fire and throwing rocks at the police who are unlawfully arresting their friends, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at them and have killed so far 4 people, the last of which is a 15 year old boy, who got shot in the head. The people are finally pushing back against a regime you both know is autocratic and tyrannical, and yet you only take issues with them refusing to eat shit. That, on its own, says volumes about you.
Thirdly, and most importantly, allow yourselves to enjoy those brief moments of joy before the get crushed, as they're going to. If this spreads, then the regime will spare no expense to squash it, especially with the visible absence of the western media and their coverage. Without international cover, this won;t survive, and the government will fuckin air bomb the demonstrators if they truly became a threat to the regime. The point isn't the overthrow of the government, not yet. It's a warning shot, letting them know that they can't get away with this shit much longer, that the corruption must stop, that political liberties must be respected and that the mismanagement of the economy can not continue. That the people won't just bend over and take it anymore. That they better change or this might breed the revolution you so rightly fear. But that won;t happen today, or next week, so please, quit your whining, worrying and bitching about the protesters, and start fearing for their lives. Those people have almost nothing and are risking what little they have for a chance for a better life. Nobody asked you to act like them, nobody asked you to support them, but at least try to respect them. They earned that much!
The following happened after I stopped blogging yesterday: Malek was released, we found out where Sharqawy was detained, there was a tiny protest at the Lawyer's syndicate in Cairo , and the city of Mahalla went on fire. Clashes erupted between the people and the police, shots were fired, over 100 detained and at least 2 are dead. Here is the story:
Egyptians angry with
the government about high prices set fire to shops and two
schools in a Nile Delta textile town on Sunday after police
thwarted plans for a general strike and countrywide protests.
Police fought battles through the streets of Mahalla
el-Kubra with the protesters, led by textile workers who tried
to go on strike for more pay to compensate for inflation.
The demonstrators set ablaze a primary school, a
preparatory school and a travel agency, among other shops in
the working-class town, and stopped an incoming train by
putting blazing tires on the railway tracks, witnesses said.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the
protests. Some 40 people were injured and hundreds of others
had breathing problems from gas inhalation, security sources
Protesters threw stones at police, attacked police vehicles
and tore down the posters of the ruling party's candidates in
Tuesday's local elections, witnesses said.
Hossam has more
Sometime after 3pm, demonstrations broke out in El-Shoun Sq, chanting
against price increases.. Mubarak’s police fired on the demonstrators..
A man and a child were killed.. Police trucks attacked.. Buses caught
on fire… Mass round ups of activists and citizens… Ghazl el-Mahalla
labor organizers Kamal el-Fayoumi and Tarek Amin el-Senoussi are in police custody… Police gunshots heard throughout the town according to witness…
UPDATE: I’ve spoken with Kareem el-Beheiri,
who’s on the run now… Kareem says hundreds were detained today in
Mahalla including minors… Anyone nabbed was abused also by the police.
Children were beaten up with sticks, sacks full of rocks, punches,
kicks… Lawyers who showed up to defend the detainees were chased by
sword-wielding plainclothes police thugs… For more information about
the mass round ups of activists and demonstrators in Mahalla, Cairo,
Mansoura, Kafr el-Sheikh and elsewhere, please check out the Tadamon, April 6th Strike and the HMLC blogs, as well as Nora’s Twitter account…
UPDATE: Mahalla is under “unofficial” curfew,
according to an activist in the city I’ve just spoken with.. The town
is occupied entirely by Mubarak’s Central Security Forces who managed
to pacify the city by 10pm.. Citizens are instructed by microphones to
stay in their homes…
I could write all about it, but I got pictures, and you know what they say, worth a thousand words and all, so check it out:
This is how Mahalla looked like. Streets empty and shops closed!
And then the police arrived, which got the clashes started, and it looked like something out of Gaza:
As you can see, all ages participated in the rioting….
Tear Gas was used to disperse the protesters
A protester kicking away a canister of tear gas
The people started burning tires in the streets
Some even burned down a Bus…
Some people were arrested
And others heavily injured.
There are talks of a repeat strike the first week of May, so this may be all far from over!