April 2008 archive

Live Free or Die

(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!

Sharqawy's publishing house ransaked by Vice police

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!

Breaking: Khairat Al Shater sentenced to jail

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.

And the beat goes on

Previously on Sandmonkey: Mahalla was awash in riots , people were tearing down Mubarak pictures, and arbitrary arrests were everywhere. We last stopped after the news of the arrest of George Ishac.

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
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! 

1 2 3 4 5 6