2012 archive

Open Letter to the Egyptian President

Dear Morsy,

Like many Egyptians, I was looking forward to your government’s attempt to implement its decision to close down shops at 10 pm out of the sheer comic value it would’ve presented. I had set up an observation post in front of my building in Roxy Square, chairs, Shisha, et all, to have a front row seat to the Tom & Jerry-style shenanigans that would take place the moment you tried to shut down the shops there. And then the news came in that your government backed down on its decision and were delaying it for another week, which at first got me into a fit of laughter, which to my amazement got replaced with increasing levels of anger as time went by, with a single thought dominating my head: Have you no shame, at all?

The Point of any state is its ability to enforce its authority on the ground; it is what is referred to as political will. Any state that doesn’t do that is basically turning itself into another Mirage state, one that only exists on paper, which is not what the Egyptian people signed up for when they went to the election polls. The people wanted a functioning government: one that has a vision, runs the country based on that vision and can enforce rule of law, which your government fails on all fronts. Is the Decision to shut down the shops a bad idea? Yes! Absolutely; but here are the options that any government has when it gets such a bad idea: 1) Don’t propose it at all, or 2) Go through with it and try to enforce it, even if it is doomed to failure from the beginning. Since you decided to propose it, I wanted you to try to close the shops, and fail, but at least you would’ve failed with some semblance of dignity or self-respect. Your government now has neither and has become the laughing stock of the entire country, which brings us to the real question: Dear President, what the Hell are you doing exactly?

What exactly was the point of the MB running you for President in the first place? To be in Power? What Power? What’s the point of power if you are incapable of exercising it or enforcing it? So far me and every Egyptian I know can count at least 5 major decisions that you or your government took in the past 4 months and couldn’t enforce. And it’s not like those decisions were great ones and there is a conspiracy preventing you from executing them; they were simply bas decisions, either legally or practically, and they showed an embarrassing amateurish style of governance. If you can’t handle the trappings of power, why go for it? So you could give us a weekly sermon every Friday? So that your governments gets us more in debt and executes shady international business deals that we know very little about? I mean, we get that the grand ambition of the MB is to have the same kind of business corruption that the NDP enjoyed, and that unlike every other Egyptian, the top honchos in your secret society are enjoying ridiculous sudden economic prosperity, but at least the NDP were trying to make it look good, and they were not scared to enforce their will, two things your people can’t seem to do. And yet again, is that really all there is to you? Did you not learn from your predecessor at all?

Listen , when the people elected you they didn’t do so in order to watch you make a mockery of the national symbol of the Presidency by having you touch your privates, nor did they do it so that you can give us religious sermons that, are not only boring, but are falsely interpreting the Quran verses you are citing as well. They elected you so that you can make things better, fix the country, and create a functioning government. They basically elected you to work, your Excellency, and you are not doing your job at all, and it’s starting to show. Not only that, but the people are slowly getting the message that this is a government without vision, plans or tools to execute or enforce their laws and decisions, and will start ignoring you. And then the question won’t be whether or not the opposition will be able to unseat you or your party in the next elections, but whether if there will be a point to another election in the first place, because nobody wants to be part of a government that has no power of execution. And why would they? If they wanted a place to go exchange ideas and draft laws that won’t be implemented, they would start a Think Tank or a social club, and it would be one where they don’t have to debate with idiots whether or not a 9 year old is eligible for marriage because she had her period. It’s not only you that’s failing, it’s the entire concept of the state, and if that falls, well, good luck bringing that back. Am I getting through to you? Do you understand what’s at stake here? Do you get that you are taking the country into anarchy?

And mind you, anarchy will not bother me nor my friends. We will adapt, get guns and electric generators and generally be fine. Others won’t be though. We will turn into the land of do as you please, and the supreme majority of the country- some of which are MB- will suffer greatly. Is that what you want? No? Then stop being such a joke, and work. Do your job. Or step aside if you are unable to. Whichever choice you make, you better make it quick. We have serious problems that require serious solutions implemented by serious people, and so far you have shown that you neither have the solutions nor are you serious about finding them. You better change that quickly, because we can’t take 4 years of this. It has been only 4 months and we are already cracking.

Sincerely yours,

Mahmoud Salem

 

The First Egyptian Revolution

It is said to have started sometime around 2181 B.C. , although the exact date cannot be pinpointed for sure. The first Egyptian popular uprising took place around then, thus ending the reign of the 6th dynasty and the era of the old Kingdom. It overthrew the rule of King Pepi II, who has ruled the country for a very long time, some even say into his 90′s, with the documents usually describing him as an ageing King secluded in his palace and disconnected from the outside world. Stop me when this starts to sound familiar.

The causes behind the first Egyptian revolution were as follows: The long reign of the King created problems with succession in the royal household, where there was no clear heir apparent who could hold the keys of the Kingdom and stop the infighting that had plagued the royal court for years. The Infighting was mainly due to the weakening of the King and the centralized authority, which lead to emergence of many forces and individuals who were part of the royal court but started to act with impunity, prompting many to question the authority of the King. Extravagance and corruption reigned supreme all over the land, along with extensive injustice and class discrimination. The agricultural based economy was getting controlled by Feudal Lords who cared very little for their workers, and who were more interested in conflicts over political influence and economic prosperity between each other than the well-being of the country. These conflicts dominated the life of the general Egyptian population until one day they had enough, and started the first Egyptian revolution.

Like any revolution, the first Egyptian revolution had its negative and positive consequences. On the negative side we have the complete destruction of state authority and institutions (local and central), the collapse of the security and judicial apparatus, and unprecedented wave of crime and looting. This lead to the eventual economic breakdown, with production collapsing and internal and external trade halted due to production and security issues, and the people refused to pay their taxes, which lead to the complete failure of the little state services they had. This, in turn, lead to the collapse of the religious and moral values that defined the Egyptian society for decades, and to a wave of atheism unprecedented amongst the Egyptian population, with many of them feeling that if the gods existed, then they have forsaken them.

The positive consequences were mainly in the area of rising political awareness of the population, with the ideas of equality and rights taking hold amongst them against the previous stringent class system that existed before, and with the establishment of schools of political thought, which aimed to come up with policies that would ensure good governance of the land and the rules rulers must follow. This era was also marked with the emergence of new artists, who brought new styles and interpretations to classical Egyptian artworks and archoitecture.

The first Egyptian revolution spanned 4 different dynasties, rising, trying to rule the country, and failing, to the point that Manheto, a historian of the Ptolemaic era, describes a period in it where 70 kings ruled for 70 days. This era was marked with a divided Kingdom filled with civil strife and conflict, not to mention attacks from invading tribes from our Asian and Libyan borders. The general weakness of the country, and the insufficiency of regional and minority rulers, made Egyptians very wary and tired of localized governance. Eventually Egyptians decided that what they needed was a strong centralized monarchy that doesn’t infringe upon their rights, which paved the way for the 11th dynasty to take over the country in absolute monarchial rule once again, under Menuhotep II , who unified the country and ushered in the era of the middle Kingdom, which was marked as an era of great wealth and prosperity, ending the revolution.

The first Egyptian revolution lasted 141 years, with the people, in the end, demanding the return of the monarchial rule that they revolted against in the first place. If you are a believer that history repeats itself, and this information is disturbing you, please remember one thing: they didn’t have internet back then.

 

 

 

 

The Circle Jerk

 

Just the other day I was contacted by my good friend (whom we shall call here A.) to inform me that he intends to marry his foreign girlfriend (we shall call her B.) and mother of his future twin babies the next day, and asked me to be his witness during the efficiation of the marriage with the egyptian government. I was naturally honored to be chosen, but also intensly curious, since he intended to have an Egyptian “civil marriage”, which is the same as the regular one, but instead of going to an Islamic efficiarry to register his marriage, he would do it directly with the Egyptian department of Justice. Given eternal fascination with Egyptian beauracracy, I couldn’t let the opprutunity go to witness it in action, especially in a civil marriage situation. The experience that I went through with them, the one I will share in this column, has been nothing short of affirming to my commitment phobia.

When A first went to the DOJ, they simply informed him that they needed simply his and her ID, and the embassy’s approval of theiur marriage, with them confirming B. citizenship, religion and marital availability. This required A to go get papers from everyone that he knew stating that they knew him and verify him, as well as all his personal papers, and then go to our ministry of foreign affairs, to get it stamped. After stamping it, he had to take the papers to a MFA-certified translator to translate everything, then back to the MFA to get it stamped again, then take it all to the embassy to start the paperwork cycle and get the confirmation regarding B. The embassy took a month and a half to process the papers and interview them, and then informed them that they can give them everything that the Egyptian government needs, except the religion of B. since the government there is secular and it has no reason to keep records of its citizens’ religion. So, in order to satisfy the requirement, B. went and converted to Islam, to get that ball rolling. After finishing all the paperwork, they went back to the DOJ to finally get their marriage contract, a journey which I accompanied them on.

After submitting all the papers, and verifying that everything in order, the government employee started to go ahead with the paperwork, when he noticed B’s baby bump, which started this exchange:

“You are pregnant?”

“Yes.”

” Are you married?”

“No”

“Were you previously married?”

“Ehh..No!”

“Ehh…then how could you be pregnant?”

“I am not sure..It’s a mystery!”

It took the government official a few minutes to get that she is kidding and that he isn’t witnessing an immaculate conception, before informing her and A that he can’t go through with the paperwork unless they were originally married. After pointing out that this is insane, since they are there to get married, he informed them that they need to create a urfi “custom” marriage that is dated before the pregnany so that he could go through with giving them an official marriage certificate. Ignoring the fact that the government employee is asking them to forge a piece of paper, they asked him how could they get Urfi married right now, to which he informed them to go to the bookstore in front of the ministry, where they sell the Urfi Marriage forms. So, we went to the bookstore, bought the form, filled it, and then submitted it. Satisfied that now the couple in front of him are officially not having babies out of wedlock, and thus not sinful infidels that should not grace his presence, the government official started asking B. about the conditions she wants in her marriage contract.

B simply wanted to state in the contract that she has the right to travel with the children when she pleases, which the official informed her is illegal, since the marriage contract conditions can not cover future conditions, and since there are no children yet, and she could miscarry, this condition could not be inserted. When she asked what she can have as conditions in the contract, he informed her that she has the right to 1)Divorce him if she wishes , 2) to work without his permission, 3) travel without his consent and 4) keep separate finances. He then assured her that Islam protects her right as a mother and that she will have equal control over her children by the law and religion, and when she asked him why he can’t add that to the contracts, he informed her because it would be illegal to do so. You figure it out.

After 3 and a half hours, and a ton of signitures and photocopies and paperwork, we were finally in the stage of printing the marriage contract and signing it. The female government official handeling that aspect noted the exhaustaion that all of us were in, and then asked me what was the problem. When I informed her that the process simply took longer than originally anticipated, she told me “By the way, this is very quickly. Did you know that had they come in two months ago, they wouldn’t be able to get the marriage certificate before a week of submitting their papers?” Astonished, I asked her what happened to change this. Was there a new law that we were not aware of? Or is the new minister maybe pushing for more efficiency? She snorted at the notion, and told me : “No. we are the ones that were bothered by it, and staged a meeting with upper management to change the delay, since it made no sense to delay people who wanted to get married.” “And they agreed?”, I asked, and she replied with a smile, as she is giving us the marriage contract, “Of course. They had no choice when they realized we were all united here on this. Didn’t we have a revolution to make everything better? ”

Ahh, man. Faith truly gets rewarded in the strangest of places….

 

Hope

 

Legend has it that when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by creating the first woman, Pandora, and presenting her to Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother. With her, Pandora had a jar which she was not to open under any circumstance. Impelled by her natural curiosity, Pandora opened the jar, and all evil contained- every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy- escaped and spread over the earth. She hastened to close the lid, but the whole contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing which lay at the bottom, and that was Hope. When she opened the Jar again, Hope sprang free, and flew out into the world, a world that now held Envy, Crime, Hate, and Disease – and Hope.

We are comforted by the seemingly happy ending of this legend, but the truth is, it’s a false and misleading ending to the story. You see, hope is not what we think it to be. Hope was locked in Pandora’s jar for a reason. Hope was not a force of good, but rather the worst evil of them all; a demon so vile, it was hidden and buried deep in the bottom of the jar. Hope was a demon that fed on human suffering, and aimed to prolong man’s torment as much as possible. It clutches itself to humans in their darkest hour, and whispers in their ears to wait, to be patient, that the misery and suffering in the world must end, and that all will be magically well some day. And the humans believed the demon and grew to feel comforted by its whispers, so when misery and decay takes over their lives, they remain calm, still and hopeful, and end up suffering longer then they would, had they just confronted the evil that’s in the world. They lied to themselves and let it into their hearts, even though what they needed to do to fix the world didn’t require it one bit.

You see, upon further reading, we discover that Hope, the demon succubus of our souls, alongside with every other evil that was in that jar, can only be truly vanquished by Tabbris, the Angel of self-determination, choice and free will. The truth that nobody told you was this: You don’t need hope. You never did. Even at your darkest hour, it wasn’t necessary. What you truly needed to overcome it was determination; to make the choice to face the evil and the suffering head-on, without blinking or hesitation, or hope. We urge you to remember the evidence of this throughout the history of humanity; that those who fought the great wars of old, those who faced the might and machines of evil men, they did it without hope, and they confronted it directly and fiercely regardless, which is why they won.

So, if what’s going around in your life, your country, or in the world, is terrifying you, and the situation seems so gloomy and ominous, to the point where you admittedly claim to have lost all hope, well, be glad, for getting rid of it is half the battle. Once you are at that point, all that is left for you to do is to make a choice. You can either decide to vanquish the rest of the evil, the source of your suffering, if you wish to live, or you can choose to run away, forever a quarry to suffering and misery, and a possible prey to Hope once again. If you make the second choice, you will live the rest of your life a victim, without having any power over it, which, when you think about it, isn’t a way to live, at all.

 

So please remember, when the world is at its darkest, when your friends fail you, when your allies betray you by their malice, cowardice or surrender, when your best-laid plans fall into disarray and all seems lost, please, abandon all hope, for it only buys evil time…

 

..and make the choice, to live or not, once and for all.

 

 

The view from here

    

Dear World,

I have a confession to make: while the whole world was transfixed on us, yet again, due to that whole attack the embassy business, I was going through a tumultuous emotional journey, alternating between bewilderment, horror and shock-based laughter, ending with the most unexpected of feelings: Pride. I must say that currently I am filled with a sense of ironic pride with my country and my revolution, for the status both have achieved over the past 19 months. The attention and importance given to Egypt, well, it has been nothing short of overwhelming. We sure have wow-ed you.

Sure, the scenes on your screens might be so disturbing , that some of you openly wonderd if we are going through a second revolution or something, but let me assure you with both facts and personal experience: There is no second revolution, there are no open riots on the streets, the action was totally confined to a 250 meter radius around the embassy, with people going to eat, drink, smoke hookah right nearby it. This whole video thing didn’t affect us at all, with the majority of the 2500 stationed around the embassy in the following clashes were the Zamalek Ultras (Super Football fans) who were there simply to clash with the police the following days. Really. Nope, in reality, we are doing just fine.

Sure, there are scary indications of things to come, like the attack on the MFO camp where the AlQaeda flag was hoisted, the same flag that became a Tshirt being sold in Tahrir; or the arrest of Alber Saber, a guy whose crime was sharing the trailer of “innocence of Muslims” on his facebook page while being a copt and an atheist as well, and whose house was attacked by a mob as this glorious movie shows, but such things are trivialities compared to our other Problems.

I mean, sure, it’s brilliant that we have AlQaeda now openly operating in Egypt, or that a revolution that was organized by a facebook page presenting ideas that the previous regime thought offensive and dangerous for national unity would end up with a government that actually arrests a guy for sharing content on facebook that it considerd offensive and dangerous for national unity, but really, such things are besides the point. What is the point you may ask? Well, the fulfillment of the Pakistan model of government in Egypt, of course. How we are slowly becoming a dangerous broken rogue state, just like them. We are implementing the Pakistan model here, you see, and the results have been fantastic. Just yesterday we had a salafi member of the constuient assembly (the people who are writing the constitution) talking about efforts to remove or change the amendment of human trafficking to allow the bringing down of the legal Marriage age for girls to the moment they reach puberty and have their first period, even if she was as young as 9 years old. Yes, we might end up having a constitution that grants us Child marriages. And you thought you had a culture war.

But this all sounds horrifying ,you say? Where would such pride that I spoke of come from, you ask? Well…

For me, and others, the most fascinating aspect of all of this has to be our effect on the American elections, and how suddenly we became an important campaign issue in the snoozefest that is the Obama vs. Romney elections, primarily against Obama. How Obama, he of the message of peace and understanding with the Muslim world, must now contend with islamist rage fueled by those whom he – and a million thinker, analyst and pundit- referred to as a moderate Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The same moderate Islamic group whose people met with his people over 14 times this past year and a half, who convinced them that they should support them because Salafis and Liberals are unpredictable and undesirable, and because they will bring peace to the region. The same moderate Islamic Group who actually called for and facilitated the protests at the US embassy on the anniversary of 9/11, all the while pretending to have nothing with it to the English-speaking world. The same moderate Islamic Group that now controls all aspects of Egyptian government, and the source of his current dilemma. How in 4 years Obama’s name went from the praised American President who wasn’t Bush, to the target of hostile chants by religious extreemists that utilize the “Obama/Osama” rhyme scheme, the one pioneered by anti-Obama American religious extremists, in anti-US demonstrations. If this ends up becoming a hot campaign issue, and Obama loses, pundit and historians will say that the Obama presidency started with Egypt and ended because of Egypt. As an egyptian political geek always enamored with international Political Theatre, well, how can I not be proud of that? How awesome is that?

The cherry on the cake in this whole Obama/Embassy affair has to be the role that the MB had in this attack, and how it provides fantastic fodder for conspiracy theorists and political analysts alike. Here is what we know: A bunch of Mulsim Brotherhood and Salafi figures started making an issue of this movie, who no one heard of before, a few days before the anniversary of 9/11. A call for protests was made by both the MB and supported by the salafis at the US embassy was made on the anniversary of 9/11. That day, as a friend who works for the embassy has informed me, the employees who left at 4 pm noticed that both the Police and the Army forces protecting the embassy had both vanished, followed by the attack that you all watched on your television. The following days the MB would praise the attackers in Arabic media and condemn the attack on their English language media, prompting a testy exchange between the US embassy and the MB’s English twitter account, and for Obama to inform the world that he no longer views Egypt as an ally.

Damage control by MB operatives and apologists was exerted, asking the world to understand Muslim anger (the demonstration again never exceeded 2500 people from a city of 20 million)and blaming the affair on the Police who assured them that they had this under control. Any person with half a brain would’ve asked about why the army- who Morsy now fully controls- didn’t defend the embassy, or why Morsy didn’t fire or even reprimand a single employee of the Ministry of Interior for failing to fulfill their duty, but really, no one botherd because no one believes the MB on this. While analysts and conspiracy theorists scrambled to come up with a theory explaining why the MB did this, and how maybe the MB hopes to have Obama lose since having Romney would give them the external enemy that they can use to silence internal dissent, the rest of us marveled at the circus that took place internationally because of it, one that we know will lead to nowhere, like all such manufactured crises, just like the Danish cartoon affair, although far more entertaining: We now have a call to reinstate the emergency law, again, and a call to boycott Google, which is so absured it’s hilarious. I wonder if they will have Gmail account deletion parties and android-phone-burning events soon.

For real, how can I not be proud of all of this? On how, my little country, is affecting the world the way it is? How we inspired the world with our revolution, and then broke its heart? How, because of us, a at least half a dozen other uprisings, not to mention general social upheavals, took place all over the world, at a time when it simply can’t afford them? How the images that occupied news about Egypt changed from a cute flag-waving westernized-looking Egyptian girl, to the image of Previous Grand Marshall Tantawy in army uniform, looking like the dictator of some African banana republic, with the image of the army beating up protesters in the background, finally ending with the bearded image of our newly elected President, Mohamed Morsy, with images of islamist protests in the background, to the horror of anyone who was still watching? How we became another cautionary tale, your favorite world drama, the harbinger of bad things to come, the uprising that singlehandedly saved journalism internationally, changed governments, broke international markets and now threatens the US elections, and whose twists and turns rivals that of the Game of Thrones? How my little country, my beloved Egypt, did all of this with one peaceful revolution. Imagine.

Sure, it is safe to say that the original revolution is now over for the time being, with the secular minded revolutionaries, so abused and traumatized by the bloodbaths carried against them by both the MOI and the Army , are now solely focused on holding the army and the police accountable, instead of actually working to create the country of rights and freedoms that they originally set out to do. Sure, it is safe to say that with Islamists in power, the whole child-marriages amendment affair is nothing but a taste of the horror we are bound to see under their rule. Sure, it is safe to say that the dream of a modern functional Egypt is destined to remain just a dream at this point, and that this breaks my heart in ways I can’t even begin to describe. But, on the bright nihilistic side, we will continue to amaze you for the time being and you won’t be able to to be smug about how much of a broken state we have become for long, because you are joining our ranks very very soon.

You see, when we called for this revolution we were dissatisfied with the conditions of our country compared to those shiny clean advanced first world countries of yours, and many were driven with the desire to fix this country so that we-as a country- can advance and hopefully one day keep up with you. But now, looking at the ensuing economical tsunami that is bound to hit this entire world- especially first world countries- the hardest, we realize that we don’t have to worry about advancing to keep up with you anymore, because you will be brought down and regress to our level very soon. We don’t have to come to you; you will come to us. We will all be miserable equally. That horrifying Egalitarian Ideal. And we started it. US. We broke the world. Without Armies. What a remarkable achievement. How can I not be proud?

Egypt is firmly in the big leagues now, people. Get used to it!

Best Regards,

Mahmoud Salem

Internal Memo 21581-2012

Dear (Redacted),

 

Oh man, things went insane after you left your post a few days ago, but thankfully we got the situation under control, and we removed the old bag of bones and his henchman. I can’t believe he wanted to stay as minister of defense after the decades he spent in his post and the insane things he made us go through the past year and a half. I mean it’s bad enough that all the lower ranks couldn’t get promoted for all of these years because those two stayed in their posts, but to want to continue, after the damage your actions did to the army and its image? Tantawy had to go with his boy, and thankfully the rest of the group chose me as the next Minister of Defense and we made the deal with Morsy to appoint me, in exchange of giving him all the powers we had, to end this circus we have been living in for the past 18 months.

I mean can you imagine us continuing to go through what we went through the past year and a half? For all of those meetings, and media appearances, and the journalists, and the friends and family members who all want to be assured one way or another, to continue? Why? We didn’t sign up for this. All that we wanted in all of this is not to have our mode of operations messed with and to keep our business empire. That’s it. And we haven’t been doing that. The Army is one of the country’s largest and richest business empires and it is too integral to our economic interests to have it ran this way. We have veered off course with our revenue targets because of this whole ruling the revolution business, that I can’t fathom how much we lost when I review our balance sheets. Do you know how much we spent on buying gas for those whiney under-paying gas guzzlers the last year and a half alone so that they wouldn’t complain? Unless we forgot what we are doing here in the first place, we are here to make money and to keep our guns and prisons to mess with anyone who threatens that. Can you say that we have been doing this efficiently lately? I can honestly say that the environment at work lately has been as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

And that supplementary constitutional declaration business; don’t even get me started at that. The country now has a president from the Muslim Brotherhood, which means they will get off our backs, and we have completely managed to defame all the political parties and annihilate all of those Tahrir creatures that wanted to review our books. Why would we continue this ruling business? We don’t want to be Turkey. We have seen how this film ends. It’s better not to be in the public eye when you are running the kind of racket we have been, especially that this close scrutiny is causing us great embarrassments. It’s bad enough that we had to excuse what happened at Maspiro by stating that our soldiers freaked out and ran over those copts, but Sinai? They were surprise attacked while eating? Those kinds of fiascos are bad for our image, and they might encourage people to start asking to review what we are doing here, and we can’t have that. I mean we have the occasional good apples, but those kids in recruitment today are not the caliber of yore. Plus, we don’t want to get involved in this securing Sinai business. That’s, as Mubarak used to say, “Israel’s problem”. Why would we want to assume responsibility for that? I will end up having one those incidents once a week. I think us stepping away from the spot light is for the best, and that we should focus on repairing the damage done to our image in the mean time. That’s why I earmarked 1 billion EGP from our budget for Sinai as this year’s CSR campaign. We are hearing good buzz about it already, and less on the news that we are not really hunting the rafah killers and that we are bombing sand dunes to make it look like we are fighting them. And honestly I expect our revenue projections to rise dramatically when we raise the prices of our products because of “inflation”, like we actually pay wages or taxes or anything. That’s what’s so great: Nobody is paying attention to us anymore, and everyone is focused on Morsy and “the Ikhwanization of the state”. Oh how I love journalists and political analysts. They really do believe anything we tell them.

Unfortunately we will have to sustain some damage for a while, with people continuing their tradition of making legends about us and believing them to be true. Like how we are getting infiltrated by the Brotherhood for example, which completely ignores that 75% of all armed forces men come from outside of Cairo and Alex, and many of them have some seriously conservative religious point of view. Or how they believe that we will be affected by them, completely ignoring that we are with whomever is in charge. We were socialists under Nasser, capitalists under Sadat and Mubarak and we have no problem becoming islamists under Morsy, just as long as he doesn’t actually think that we will fight in any wars any time soon. But I am expecting people to continue making theories about how “SCAF” is doing this or the “Deep State” is doing that, like there is an entity that actually plans and really works in Egypt. Like we don’t have Egyptians running this Institution. Oh well, let them entertain themselves. The best analysis I’ve heard lately was that us going back to the shadows is to have morsy be totally responsible for the sad state of this country; like, Idiot, isn’t that what you wanted in the first place? To end military rule? Why are you complaining? Freakin political analysts. They are the worst.

Either way, I hope all is well with you and your kids, and please don’t forget to call every now and then. And don’t worry about Tantawy and Anan, they are ok with this: they get to keep all of their money, and enjoy it, and not go to prison. It’s an excellent deal, really. Why would they be mad?

Oh, and before I forget: regarding that thing you asked me about, we did investigate your suspicions regarding Mohamed Abu Hamed, and you were right: he is an alien. From Mars, we think. We are checking it out. Will keep you informed.

Sincerely Yours,

Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi

Minister of Defense of Egypt

Reconciliation

Right now, we have an Egyptian President who holds the executive powers, the legislative powers, power over the military, and the power to veto the drafted constitution or create another constitutional committee if he wishes. If this alone wasn’t disconcerting enough, let’s add to it the fact that there is no organized opposition to him, he seems intent on continuing the time-honored tradition of hiring loyalist unqualified hacks and lackeys for important government positions, he doesn’t seem to have any intentions of being democratic or even create a government out of the coalition that he created, with his supporters viscously attacking anyone who criticizes him, sometimes with religious overtones.

One would think that such a president must have a huge mandate to be able to pull this kind of crap on all of us, but surprisingly enough, he doesn’t. He won with 51% , with almost half of his votes coming from secular revolutionary voters who simply didn’t want Shafiq to win. In reality, if someone did the math, one would realize that at least 17 million of the 25 million voters who voted in the presidential elections did not vote to have the Muslim Brotherhood take over the shaping of the Egyptian post-revolution state, and actually belong on the secular side. The Problem is, this secular majority is so divided amongst revolutionaries and Shafiqistas, that a reconciliation, despite its utterly logical necessity at the moment, is completely out of the question. Why? Only two reasons: perspective and political symbols.

Let’s start with the perspectives problem, and outline the 3 major points of contention: 1) The Mubarak state, 2) presidential elections and 3) character, and tackle them one by one. Shafiqistas believe that a corrupt and possibly murderous state is better than having no state, since they believe correctly that millions would suffer at the absence of state institutions, and incorrectly that such a state can be reformed with time, while Revolutionaries believe that no state is better than having a corrupt and murderous state, and that such a state would need to be brought down and rebuilt correctly for the sake of our long-term benefit, even if in the meantime millions end up suffering the absence of what little state they had. Shafiqistas will not forgive that revolutionaries have chosen to invalidate their votes or vote for Morsy in the second round of the presidential elections instead of voting for Shafiq, while revolutionaries will not forgive Shafiqistas for voting for Shafiq in the first round of elections instead of Sabahy, or Amr Moussa or even Abulfotouh. Shafiqstas believe that it should be apparent for anyone by now that the revolution was a mistake, and that the revolutionaries are too cowardly to admit this, while revolutionaries believe that the revolution was right and had to happen regardless of the consequences, and that the Shafiqistas are too cowardly to face our problems, hence why they always supported security forces oppression as a solution to our countries ills, instead of fixing them, which brought on the revolution. In conclusion, Shafiqistas are pragmatist realists to a point that is unacceptable to revolutionaries, and revolutionaries are Utopian idealists to the point of naïveté to Shafiqistas, and both sides believe that the other side owes them an apology and should uncompromisingly adopt their point of view immediately. Did I also mention that both sides are silly? No? Well, they are. Ridiculously so.

Both sides are silly because their point of contention doesn’t matter anymore, and what unites them is so much more than what divides them. The argument over the state is moot, because we live in a Mirage state and in reality no longer have one, so, the focus should be how to build it right this time around and not over who dropped the ball. The argument over the presidential elections is stupid because they are over, and if we are truly democratic, we should be able to respect each other’s choices and not hold it against them now. As for the Character debate, well, besides the ridiculous notions that each side has about the other, if you are serious about loving this country and rebuilding it, you need both. You need utopian idealists and pragmatic realists if we hope to make something of this mess we call a country. We don’t live in Switzerland. We have so many problems one doesn’t even know where to begin, and we are stuck in this country together. And here is where we agree: We want a state that respects all of our rights, one where government services function, one where corruption doesn’t rule supreme and where the arts are not considered satanic distractions. We want a country that we can be proud of and that has a future. But If this is the case, why can’t we reconcile?

Well, we can’t reconcile primarily for the second reason: Our symbols. Both sides are not only silly mirrors of each other when it comes to organization or personal beliefs so strong they border on demagoguery, but also when it comes to our political symbols and leaders: They all suck. Reconciliation is a process that requires both sides to have mature respectable political leadership, which is lacking for the revolutionaries and the Shafiqistas. The revolutionaries symbols are big on platitudes, but have no real experience or solutions beyond theoretical ones and are too cowardly to take risky stands, and Shafiqistas symbols are so nonexistent, that they have to pretend that people like Okasha, Abu Hamed and Mostafa Bakry are respectable representations of them, which they are not, but it’s all they have. It should go without saying that those symbols and leaders, on both sides, should be retired by their respective audience due to their utter failure to do something productive, but for some odd reason this is not happening, and hence our current state of limbo.

But here is a thought: maybe we shouldn’t push for reconciliation just yet, but support things that are in our common benefit, like pushing for the next elections law to have a nation-wide closed-list voting system. Under this system all of Egypt would be considerd one district, with each party offering a list of 500 names, and based on the total votes nation-wide a party receives, they are allocated a proportional amount of seats in the parliament. This would ensure that every vote everywhere counts, and give people the freedom to vote for whomever they truly support, instead of having to compromise and vote for the least evil in their district, like the current system demands it. Think about the voting results for the presidential elections in the first round, and imagine if each candidate represented a party, and got allocated seats in parliament based on their total votes, and then ask yourself this: how appealing would such a parliament be, compared to the alternative? The first round showed that Islamists have 35% maximum of the vote, but due to superior organization and districting, they manage to beat everyone else. Let’s put an end to this, and have a voting system that leaves no vote behind, no matter if you are a revolutionary or a Shafiqista or anyone else for that matter. Let every faction get equal representation to its side first, and then we can worry all we want about reconciliation.

 

Entropy

Take flight, and bid your little kids farewell. Travel to mystical, magical , dry lands of Sinai, where good and evil greet you with the same face and the same smile. Stand where the rivers of life have gone dry and rivers of blood now flow. Twenty Egyptian officers and soldiers, gone, on the hands of idiots who strive to make a point with death. Pass by the tanks stolen by Jihady salafis, and the apache birds piloted by jews that shot them down, all the while the ruling heads of Cairo still live in denial, not able or willing to confront the reality of their situation, while an old dog sits, looking sad, pensive and alone, reflecting the mood of an entire nation.

Explore our magical skies, and try to avoid getting shot down by stray bullets that are being shot by neighbor to kill neighbor, all over this blessed land. Two families in Alex engage in street warfare, with the news of the apartments getting burned raises more eyebrows than those of human casualties. A smug and cursed cornice that hasn’t seen its share of blood in a while, sits back and enjoys the Dickensian scenes of the attack by the Ramlet Boulaq denizens on the Fairmont Hotel , with the police showing up with their uniforms off, wearing wife-beaters and double strapped guns, mimicking Hollywood action fantasies, with tear gas canisters and cars on fire give the whole thing an apocalyptic flair. A village in upper Egypt turns against itself over a burned shirt and conflicting prophets, enacting a scenario that repeats over and over, while what must be a case of collective amnesia causes people to act shocked and wonder what went wrong. Never stop your flight to look, because soon enough, you will see something similar, and if you have seen one you have seen them all.

Pass by the city of the sun, where the President who hails from a secretive and old Islamic order is fumbling on cameras, offering no sense of comfort, confidence or inspiration to a nation in worry, who have sat there and watched him pardon friends & holy warriors not much different than those who have caused the carnage in Sinai, while leaving other innocents in jails to rot. His day started with communiqués from brownnosing governors who were congratulating him over the anniversary of the Badr battle, and plans to grace us on TV for the last ten days of Ramadan, to talk to us about religion instead of actually doing his job. This piece of news wrinkles the jittery nerves of his opponents, who are convinced that the country is heading towards Iran due to such shenanigans, all the while totally ignoring that the country is heading in a completely different direction that is entirely Godless.

Land on the branches of a tree and watch the streets getting filled with drug dealers operating in impunity, and lost boys believing their weapons make them men. Observe while an entire street culture comes out of nowhere, with its own language, music, dance and rituals, like a rising tide that will flood the country and flush it from years of synthetic and borrowed overproduced trash. Say a prayer to those young street warriors who no vice Police can control, and for the souls of those well-meaning bearded ones who will try and find it their end. Recognize that you are living the greatest days of history, and that you are witnessing something greatly remarkable, if you can accept the horror that comes with it.

The Americans always said that an armed society is a polite society, but that idiom is getting challenged by the sons of pharaohs, who are now armed to the teeth and not intending to be polite any time soon. While intellectuals sit back and argue that they are smarter and know better than to bear arms themselves, you recognize that in any battle between ten astronauts and ten cavemen, the cavemen will always win. That’s the history of civilization, where the barbarians were always at the gate, on both sides. You sit back and think: Screw you Marquez, you could never write anything as insane as what we are going through as a country right now. We are making history, again, despite our deepest and most sincere wishes not to, or at least not like this.

Oh well…

I am getting a gun. I suggest you get one too.

January vs. July

On the 60th anniversary to the 23 of July revolution, I like to think about the man who actually made it happen: Officer Yusef Sediq. Yusef was a communist member of the Free Officers movement who actually went and took over the Egyptian army’s headquarters, shooting tow soldiers in the process and imprisoning the army’s leadership, a full hour before Nasser and the rest of the movement started. If you are not familiar with this man and his story, don’t blame yourself: Nasser and his compatriots made sure to erase his contribution from the official history books, partly because it would tell people how to actually stage a similar revolution, and partly because they threw Sediq in the Gulag in 1954 for demanding the return of democracy to Egypt, and then kept him in house arrest until he died in 1975, the same fate that has befallen the other believer in democracy in the 1952 revolution, General and ex-President Mohamed Naguib.

The fact that the average Egyptian doesn’t know about Sediq’s story is due to the fact that it’s completely absent from the history books they thought us in school on purpose. Actually, there isn’t much that they thought us about the 1952 revolution in our history classes, apart from that it took place, and that everyone was seemingly happy about it and its achievements, from free education to land reform to the High dam. However, the 1952 revolution and its leaders had a huge effect on all of our lives, in ways most people don’t even imagine, and all of them were negative. So today, I will name my main issues with that revolution, and hopefully it will shed some lights on way the participants of the January 25 revolution believe their revolution was brought to end the 23rd of July one, and the concept of military rule.

The 23rd of July revolution ended democracy: One of the revolution’s first and longest-lasting achievements was the destruction of the concept of democracy in Egypt. It cancelled Parliament, dissolved parties, threw anyone whom they viewed as a political threat into prison, established the notion of strong-man rule that shouldn’t be opposed, questioned or challenged, a tradition that was carried by Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. Even after Sadat brought back parties, they were not allowed to be anything other than the approved cartoonish opposition, a tradition that Mubarak carried through throughout his 30 years in power. This is why most parties , whether created before or after the January 25 revolution, are limping and unable to establish themselves in the Egyptian political scene today.

The 23rd of July revolution ended diversity: The 23rd of July revolution dealt with everyone in Egypt with the paranoid and xenophobic eyes of the military, viewing everyone who isn’t their definition of a pure-blood Egyptian as a spy/traitor at worst or an unwelcome intruder at best, a mindset we still suffer from to this day. Before the 1952 revolution Egypt was a hotbed of diversity, where people from various points of origin and religious backgrounds came here and co-existed peacefully. Once Nasser took power he first vilified the foreigners (Italians, Greeks, whatever) who lived here and forced them to leave, then vilified the Egyptian jewish population and also forced them to leave, a tradition that got carried through by his predecessors as well: Sadat was the first President to utilize a sectarian tone in Egypt, by stating that he is a Muslim President and that Egypt is officially a muslim country, and acting upon it, which started the process of Coptic migration out of Egypt, and Mubarak continued the sectarian tone with the Christian copts and added to it the vilifying of the Egyptian Shiites as agents of Iran. In a country where people of many faiths and origins were always welcome, the 23rd of July revolution and its aftermath had one message: Sunni Muslim Egyptians are the only true Egyptians, and everyone else is a second class citizen at best.

The 23rd of July revolution destroyed the arts: The 1952 revolution nationalized all film studios, music companies, recording studios, basically any means of production or distribution of music and cinema. It made all the actors into government employees (our Movie stars used to get monthly paychecks), and instructed them to make movies that were not political, offensive or dangerous to society (i.e. in opposition to their rule), which led to two decades of Egyptian cinema essentially creating the same love-story plot movie over and over again, sometimes adding a few bits of comedy, others heightening up the drama, but no one was allowed to create anything else until 1974, when the first private movie production company was allowed to be created, and even then the egyptian censorship board was there to prevent any movie whose idea was considered to be too daring or provocative to our military overlords. And despite of how bad this all is, it is nothing compared to what they did to the music industry.

Ever wonder why the pre-Jan 25 revolution music scene was populated only by pop musicians who only sang about patriotic songs or love songs? Or why you have very little information about the Egyptian music pre the 23rd of July revolution? Or why the stars of that era were AbdelHalim and Om Kalthoum? Or why very very few Egyptians know about Nadra, which was the queen of Arabic music before the revolution and the star of Ansohdet el Fouad, the first ever Arabic musical film, and whose talents so eclipsed Om Kalthoum’s that it was said that Om Kalthoum wouldn’t dare sit down in a room if Nadra was sitting? Well, mainly its due the fact that the officers decided that there is the right kind of art and the wrong kind of art, and the right kind was either patriotic or love-themed, and that they needed to create their own music stars – who were loyal to them- who would carry their messages in their songs, and completely sidelined or destroyed anyone who didn’t fit that bill. When Om Kalthoum went and reported to the officers that Nadra was against the revolution and pro the monarchy- for recording an old historic Othmani song that’s written for the Othman ruler-Nadra ‘s songs were immediately banned from playing on the radio and on TV and was not allowed to record another song after that. Also, her film reel was somehow lost and in the official music history books, it is now noted that ElWarda elBaydah was the first Arabic musical film, because it starred the regime-approved Mohammed Abdel Wehab. For at least twenty years no one other than regime-approved musicians could record anything other than regime-approved love or patriotic songs, which would then be broadcast in the regime-owned Radio (The only person who managed to escape this was Sheikh Imam, but mainly due to the fact that he was adopted by leftists activists, who made sure that his music survived those years). Even after the invention of the cassette tape and the private recording companies, the government still controlled the radio waves and wouldn’t allow the broadcasting of anything other the set criteria, and any other form of music was relegated to either Nighclubs or private recordings, but never the radio. The insanity that someone like Mohamed Adaweya would spend years unable to broadcast his songs on the radio, even though millions of Egyptians listened to him and bought his tapes, was never questioned, and still isn’t. Until this day, a year and a half after the revolution, we are still unable to listen to any kind of Arabic music on our radios except love songs or patriotic songs. The moment you hear DJ Amr Haha instead of Cairokee on the radio, that’s when you know that the radio waves got liberated.

The 23rd of July revolution ended government transparency: In the Egyptian state, there is an institution that got created in the days of Mohamed Aly that’s called the Hall of records, where every piece of government issued decision or paper was archived and accessible to the public, well, up to the 23rd of July revolution. Since that day, not a single piece of government paper was submitted or archived there, because the military regime believed that its affairs should be kept secret and away from public access. This not only ended government transparency, it also ended government accountability, and has kept the Egyptian people in the dark, till this day, as to how the affairs of their state are being run or how historic decisions- that are no longer secret- were even made. The importance of having those documents as part of the public record could not be overstated, not only for purposes of transperancy, accountability, or even academic history, but also to learn from historically bad decisions and to know our people. How insane is it that until this day we are not allowed to know the census information of Egypt, or how many Christians are there in the country? While the rest of the world was introducing freedom of information acts, some even going for open-meeting legislation that allow access to government meetings and not only records of them, our military-run government until this day resists the very notion of opening its books or archiving its documents.

The aim of the 23rd of July revolutionaries was to create a strong Egyptian state, and given that they were all military men who witnessed the armies of might super powers, they believed that military strength is the only way to make their country into a world power, and acted accordingly. They didn’t comprehend that the world powers were world powers not because they had advanced armies, but because their state had other foundations (social, political, cultural, economical) that made them strong and contributed to the strength of their military, and that without those foundations any state would be doomed to fail, the way theirs did over and over again.

This is why the 25th of January revolutionaries believe in their heart of hearts that their revolution came to end the 23rd of July revolution, because their values are in complete contradiction with each other. 23rd of July ended democracy and political life while the 25th of January demanded it; 23rd of July ended diversity and was xenophobic, while the 25th of January revolutionaries celebrates diversity and constantly battles the xenophobia; 23rd of July destroyed and controlled the arts, while the 25th of January has produced more inventive music and film in the past year and a half than the last 30 years combined; 23rd of July ended government transparency and accountability, the 25th of January happened as call for accountability and still demands transparency from the government in every decision it makes; And finally the 23rd of July revolution propped up and supported many regimes just like it (Assad’s Syria and Ghaddafi’s Libya for example), while the 25th of January revolution inspired the citizens of those countries to topple those regimes. To say that the 25th of January revolution is an extension to the 23rd of July revolution is an outright lie propagated by a military whose rule has ruined this country in every way and tries desperately to save its legacy. The only connection that the 25th of January revolution has with the 23rd of July one is that the latter drove the country so off-course, that the former had to happen to stop it.

Our Dickensian Revolution

Going back to read Charles Dickens’ masterpiece on the French revolution “A Tale of Two Cities” messes with my head, specifically due to how relevant it is to what we went through for the past 18 months, and continue to go through. All of this truly has happened before, and will happen again, and no one will learn from anything. I am leaving you with a few quotes, and as always, just let me know when it sounds familiar:

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

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“Monseigneur had one truly noble idea of general public business, which was, to let everything go on in its own way; of particular public business, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea that it must all go his way–tend to his own power and pocket. Of his pleasures, general and particular, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea, that the world was made for them. ”

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“A revolutionary tribunal in the capital, and forty or fifty thousand revolutionary committees all over the land; a law of the Suspected, which struck away all security for liberty or life, and delivered over any good and innocent person to any bad and guilty one; prisons gorged with people who had committed no offence, and could obtain no hearing; these things became the established order and nature of appointed things, and seemed to be ancient usage before they were many weeks old.”

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“The miserable bakers’ shops were beset by long files of them, patiently waiting to buy bad bread; and while they waited with stomachs faint and empty, they beguiled the time by embracing one another on the triumphs of the day, and achieving them again in gossip.”

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“What private solicitude could rear itself against the deluge of the Year One of Liberty–the deluge rising from below, not falling from above, and with the windows of Heaven shut, not opened!”

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“In seasons of pestilence, some of us will have a secret attraction to the disease– a terrible passing inclination to die of it. And all of us have like wonders hidden in our breasts, only needing circumstances to evoke them.”

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“In short,” said Sydney, “this is a desperate time, when desperate games are played for desperate stakes.”

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“Well, well,” reasoned Defarge, “but one must stop somewhere. After all, the question is still where?”

“At extermination,” said madame.

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“Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop,” returned madame; “but don’t tell me.”

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“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”

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“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out….


I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his…

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

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“I hope you care to be recalled to life?”

And the old answer:

“I can’t say.”

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