07/23/12

The trouble with our right brained revolution

In Ian McGilchrist’s master piece “The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World” a brilliant exposition is made of the functional divisions of the brain, but more importantly between two modes of experiencing the world that are often in conflict with each other. The right hemisphere with it focus on synthesis and connection on the broadest universal sense and the left hemisphere with its focus on breaking things up and narrow attention. That conflict is beautifully captured in a fable (attributed to Nietzsche) the goes

There was one a wise spiritual master, who was the ruler of a small but prosperous domain, and who was known for his selfless devotion to his people. As his people flourished and grew in number, the bounds of this small domain spread; and it with it the need to trust implicit the emissaries he sent to ensure the safety of it ever more distant parts. It was not just that it was impossible for him personally to order all that needed to be dealt with: as he wisely saw, he needed to keep his distance from, and remain ignorant of, such concerns. And so he nurtured and trained carefully his emissaries, in order that they could be trusted. Eventually, however, his cleverest and most ambitious vizier, the one he most trusted to do his work, began to see himself as the master, and used his position to advance his own wealth and influence. He saw his master’s temperance and forbearance as weakness, not wisdom, and on his mission on the the master’s behalf, adopted his mantle as his own – the emissary became contemptuous of his master. And so it came about that the master was usurped, the people were duped, the domain became a tyranny; and eventually it collapsed in ruins.

The master (right hemisphere) has been usurped by the emissary (left hemisphere), such has been the tragedy of our times. We live in “[a]n increasingly mechanistic, fragmented, decontextualised word, marked by unwarranted optimism mixed with paranoia and a feeling of emptiness”. It is a case of a “dysfunctional left hemisphere” dominating our experience of the world  

The impetus of the Egyptian revolution as I experienced it, was clearly of the right brained variety. There were no plan,  script, or grand idea that roused noble passions. It was, as McGilchrist would put it “essentially involv[ing] a certain disposition, the disposition to experience sorrow at the other’s misfortune… To be just is to be disturbed by injustice. Pain, suffering, and the loss of pleasure, then, sometimes constitute who we are and what we value. They are essentially woven into our deepest commitments. As reasons flow from our deepest commitments, we will sometimes have non-instrumental reason to suffer.”

It was the pain and suffering that we experienced during the revolution that made many of us feel  more human, more willing sacrifice our physical being for something with a touch of the divine. Something electrified our right hemispheres and awaken in us a fresh, yet somewhat latent, vision of reality. What that “something” is? Words fail at capturing it. It feels to me that the attempt to describe it would limit it, defile it, and cheapen it.  This is beautifully put by McGilchrist

Making things explicit is the equivalent of focusing on the workings, at the expense of the work, the medium at the expense of the message. Once opaque, the plane of attention is in the wrong place, as it we focused on the mechanics of the play, not on the substance of the play itself; or on the plane of the canvas, not what is seen there. 

Yes, we cried in Tahrir for “bread, freedom, and social justice”, but the words have since been prey to demagogic abuse and political manipulation. It was the process, the mechanism, the prime cause that gave rise to those words and a myriad of creative expressions in Tahrir we should have protected and preserved. We now seems to be chasing phantoms of that humanizing force. Mere shadows, distortions, and reflections and not the pure light itself.

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the 23 July revolution. A purely left brained affair. Young officers planned, schemed, and calculated to maximize their personal self-interest. The young officers lacked little in terms of rational ability. They often fumbled, but their rational motives were always clear. Their drive to dominate was a purely selfish affair, no empathy, no love of other, and no altruism. The current ruling Junta (SCAF) are a byproduct of the earlier revolution. We rose against those mechanical men, who can only conceive of a world were people are spurs and gears in a diabolical machines of their construction. Devoid of creative abilities their machines jammed and broke down and yet they continue to fix them. They are prisoners of their hackneyed mental constructions.

Many who truly witnessed the revolution of 2011 still believe in their hearts that another world is possible. It was a world that they had a glimpse of in the 18 days following January 25, 2011. But it is also a world that they failed to protect. The rise of Islamists now represents yet an another manifestation of the lifeless and mechanical vision of the world. Yet, it is far more insidious. It makes appeals to that which gives meaning and beauty to the lives of many. In its ascent it will lay barren fertile fields of human values. Religion, like many things that are of crucial importance to our human existence

…cannot withstand being too closely attended to, since their nature is to be indirect or implicit. Forcing them into explicitness changes their nature completely, so that in such cases what we come to think we know ‘certainly’ is in fact not truly known at all. Too much self-awarness destroys not just spontaneity, but the quality that makes things live; …. religious devotion [can hence] become  mechanical, lifeless, and may grind to a half if we are too self-aware.

With each passing day, I feel the memory of the early days in Tahrir ebbing away. The sublime beauty of the experience is giving way self-doubt and disbelief. The noise of the immediate is becoming overbearing. A noise that captures the attention of the left brain. Through innumerable logical (yet mostly fake and self-serving) contraptions the limits of what is possible are being drawn. How will our right brained revolution survive as its pathos gradually slips away from mass consciousness? 

In the absence of truly inspired artists, all that will remain will be some slogans with continually diminishing potency, as smattering of confused ideological posturing, and dreams that can not “be make explicit” lost in the detritus of time.

I can only pray that the following statement will hold true: “The spirit grows, [and] strength is restored, by wounding”

Increscunt animi, virescit volnere virtus
06/20/12

إين خط الدفاع عن الثورة المصرية؟

أشعر انه يتم استدراجنا الآن إلي معارك ليس لها علاقة بالثورة و أهدافها. الناتج من هذه المعارك هو تقسيم كعكة السلطة بين أطراف عندهم مصلحة في بقاء منظومة الاستبداد التي ثار لتحطيمها المصريون في يناير 2011. 
كان لهتاف “الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام” في الثورة دلالات عميقة تتعدي تنحي حسني مبارك عن رئاسة الجمهورية. منظومة الاستبداد كانت ترتكز علي أربع دعائم هي:
  • عدم الشفافية: لم يكن يعلم الشعب ما يحدث في دهاليز السلطة حيث تحدد مصائره.
  • الانعزالية: كان هناك إحساس عام بالضعف و قلة الحيلة و عدم القدرة علي علي توصيل الآلام و المعانة و الأحلام ل”أولي الأمر”.
  • الهيمنة المطلقة: كانت النظام يسعي لأن يكون المتحكم الذي ليس له منازع في مصائر الخلق. كان هناك إحباط لمحاولات المبادرة الفردية أو الجماعية. حتي المؤسسات الغير حكومية كانت تعاني من تدخل سافر من الدولة في عملها و حرية حركتها.
  • تزييف الوعي: كان النظام يقوم بحملات منظمة لنشر أكاذيبه و إعطاء الإنطباع  انه يعمل من الأجل الشعب و مصالحه في مواجهة قوى خفية تريد الشر لمصر. كان أحد محفزات الثورة أن النظام فقد القدرة علي تطوير أدائه في ظل التطور الرهيب الذي حدث في سبل الاتصالات في العقد السابق.
 هذه الدعائم أدت بدورها لانتشار المحسوبية و الفساد لدرجة جعلت الحياة اليومية للمواطن العادي لا تطاق.  لهذا هتفنا “عيش، حرية، عدالة اجتماعية” في الثورة و نحن نعترض علي الناتج الطبيعي لهذه المنظومة.
 الآن نري جماعة الإخوان في أوج صراع عنيف من أجل السلطة و ليس من الغريب أن نري كثير من الثوار منحاز إلي الجماعة في هذا الصراع المحموم. العسكر هم من قتل و سحل و عري و عذب و أعتقل من بعد التنحي. الإخوان و إن كانوا تخلوا عن رفقائهم في الثورة  لم تلطخ أيديهم بالدماء (علي الأقل بالشكل المباشر).  قد يبدوا لكثيرون أنهم أولي بالتأيد في هذه اللحظة. هذا علي أساس انه يمكننا أن بعد نساعدهم في سحب كل مقاليد السلطة من العسكر أن نكمل صراعنا معهم كمدنيين أمثالنا.
 أرى في ذلك سقطة فكرية و منهجية شديدة. في قراءتي لأحداث ما بعد التنحي أري أن الإخوان هم شديدي الحرص علي الحفاظ علي الدعائم الأربعة السالف ذكرها. آري في تنظيم الإخوان الداخلي تكريس لهذه الدعائم و لهذا لا أستطيع أن أراهم محطمون لها. و إن كنت أرى في بعض شبابهم بصيص لبادرة أمل و لكن قياداتهم لا أمل فيهم و لا رجاء.
صراع القوى القائم اليوم بين الإخوان و العسكر ليس له علاقة بما أراه انه الهدف الرئيسي المستتر لقيام الثورة و هو:

بناء نظام سياسي و اقتصادي  بتميز بالشفافية و الانفتاح و يتيح لأفراد المجتمع كامل الحرية في اتخاذ المبادرات الإصلاحية و العمل لحل مشاكل الوطن بشكل جمعي. 

هذا الهدف يستحيل تحقيه طالما لم تهدم دعائم الاستبداد.  لا أري جدوي من إهدار الثوار لمجهوداتهم في “حروب رمزية” ضد المجلس العسكري أو أن يهبوا لمساعدة الإخوان طالما إن هناك غياب للرؤية في كيفية تحطيم هذا الدعائم. الأفضل هو استغلال اللحظة لرسم مسار لتحطيم هذه الدعائم العفنة و استبدالها بدعائم أكثر نبلاً و فاعلية لتحقيق أمال المصريين في إطلاق طاقاتهم الإبداعية و الإصلاحية. 
الهتاف في التحرير ضد النتائج الطبيعية لمنظومة الاستبداد لن يغير من الواقع شيئ طالما لم تصحبه رؤية واضحة لخلق نظام أفضل. المعركة الآن يجب أن تكون من أجل خلق  دعائم لنظام جديد و نشر التوافق عليه.
06/19/12

Where is the Front Line of the Egyptian Revolution?

We are now being dragged in battles that are of marginal significance to the  aims to the Egyptian revolution. They only alter the distribution of power amongst parties that have a vested interest in maintaining the very same political structure and web of interests that Egyptians revolted against a year and a half ago.

One of he prominent rallying calls of the revolution was “the people want to bring the system down”. The major features of the system where:

  • Opacity: nobody had a clue of what goes on the in corridors of powers where  destinies were being shaped.
  • Insularism: the population felt helpless and that the voices are not heard and their needs are not answered. There was a general feeling that a things were getting worse, not much could be done about it.
  • Overbearingness: the state was the all powerful and would stifle any attempts of independent or group action. NGO work was often restricted and subject to intrusive governmental oversight. 
  • Duplicitousness: the state promoted lies and engaged in disinformation campaigns to justify its existence. It made life difficult for dissenters and free thinkers and tried to isolate (and when no one was looking eliminate) them to prevent any nascent challenge to their authority. 

Those feature gave rise to cronyism and wide spread corruption that made daily  life very bleak for the average Egyptian. Hence, the popular chant in the early days “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice”. Now the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is  engaged in a power struggle with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Both of them have shown very clearly, during the past year and a half, that they are eager to maintain the promulgate  those features.

The power struggle between MB and SCAF has little bearing on what I see as the a key implicit demand of Egyptian revolution:

To create an open and transparent econo-political system with maximum latitude for popular initiative and collective problem solving.

This can never come about while the above features remain intact. I do not see it worth the effort of the revolutionaries to engage in “symbolic wars” against SCAF or to come to the aide MB as long as those features remain intact. There should be instead a concerted intellectual effort to chart and path that would  eliminate those rotten features and supplanting them by novel and efficient ones.

Chanting in Tahrir against the symptoms (or emergent properties) of the said features will not bring about positive change. The battle now is for outlining a clear plan for system wide transition and forming popular consensus about it.

06/3/12

The Strength of Protests and the Dearth of Leadership

Thousands gathered last night in Tahrir to expresses their anger and frustration with the verdict of life in prison for Mubarak and his henchman Habib El-Adly, the ex-minister of interior. Their anger was not driven so much by a desire to execute both men, but by the fact those who carried out the orders to kill the protesters are walking free due to lack of evidence. Their was plenty of outrage that the evidence that was supposed to implicate those murderers were tampered with my police. Imagine if you are being put on trial and asked to come forth with evidence that would implicate you! The setup is ludicrously abusrd and is truly symbolic of the messy transition to democracy that has been lead by the generals of the supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF). This transition has been at best circuitous and at worst truly retrograde.

There was more on the minds protesters in Tahrir last night than the verdict of Mubark’s trial. They have been reexamining what has happened since Feb 11, 2011 when Murbark formally stepped down and SCAF took over. The mood of  many who took part in the early days of revolution has been terribly somber since the outcome of the first round on presidential elections came out. Due to a divided revolutionary vote, the two remaining candidates in the presidential race were the least favored the majority. The democratic process had failed them. Many felt their revolutionary dreams are slipping away and they are being robbed of hope.

The leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) saw in the popular expression of  discontent  an excellent opportunity to rejoin the revolutionary fold and secure support for their presidential candidate. The MB’s Morsi, declared that under his presidency a retrial will be carried out and new damning evidence will be presented. However, many of the revolutionaries still see the MB along with SCAF have been accomplices in setting Egypt on an incredibly tortuous  path of democratic transition possible. Here are but a few examples:

  • The MB threw their weight entirely behind seriously flawed constitutional amendments in March 2011.
  • The MB sat on their hands as 
    • thousands were being subject to military trial,
    • women protester were subject to forced virginity tests
    • killing and eye gouging were going on in and around Tahrir last November and December
  • The MB parliamentarians have 

The so called “liberal” and “leftist” parties have also done little in terms of pushing for laws that would satisfy the stated demands of the  revolution. However, their poor performance has drawn less popular ire than the Islamists since they are quite defuse and have little claim on real power. The revolution’s demands have yet to be convincingly adopted by any of the dominant political parties. 

During the first round of the presidential elections, there where three candidates who managed to attract the support of the revolutionary voters. The liberal-Islamist Abou El-Fetouh, the Nasserist Hamdeen Sabahi, and the leftist Khalid Ali collectively received more votes than any of the two finalists.  Hence, many now feel cheated by the voting process and disappointed that those three did not combine forces.

The discontent is real and growing, as I write these lines throngs in Tahrir are calling for a five person presidential council that would include Morsi, Sabahi, Abou El-Fetouh, Khalid Ali, and El-Baradei. The governing laws of this council remain unclear, and it is really doubtful if Morsi will concede to those demands. We are at an impasse were no politician is willing to step-up propose a workable way out and lead.

02/8/12

Transition to Democracy?

A functioning democracy is much more than a ballot box and a “fair vote”. It is about a system of government, checks and balances, and above all certain principles that act as an anchor to those in power, and to which they are held accountable.

If we were to examine how the  United States Constitution was defended in the Federalist papers we get a sense of expansive minds with a deep awareness of history, human nature, and the passions and foibles that the pursuit of power often induces. The authors had  a very thorough understanding of the nature of their country and how their  union could prosper and be effectively preserved. A passage that I find particularly  relevant to the situation is Egypt:

...a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

In the Egyptian parliament  there are now many Islamists  who have appointed themselves as spokesmen for the revolution. In their vacuous speeches the pay lip service to “rights of the people” and the “blessed revolution”. 

However,  a few days ago they were dodging any attempts to discuss the brutality of the police in dealing with demonstrators  around the building of the ministry of interior (MOI). The demonstrations have been going on in the aftermath of the massacre of the ultras. They were denying evidence that the police were using bird-shot and live ammunition to inflict heavy physical and  psychological damage on the protesters. They payed no attention to reports  that surfaced a  day prior about that the head of the doctor’s syndicate who was injured with bird-shot while surveying the area around MOI, a news correspondent who suffered serious eye injury, or the  injury of the activist Salma Said (below left) . Instead, they were going through the motions of sending a “fact finding committee” and waiting for its report, all the while protesters where being shot at. The MOI building where all this was ongoing was only a few minutes walk away from parliament!

House speaker Mohamed Abu Hamid was was denied a chance to present evidence he had collected earlier in the day and was booed down by the Islamists majority. In the same session ex-regime puppet Mostafa El-Bakry was given ample time to glibly declare, without a shred of evidence, that the protesters are agents of the United States and Israel that they are being lead by El-Bradie. El-Bakry got a standing ovation from the Islamists!

The next day, while parliament was discussing the clashes that were still ongoing, a salafi house speaker decided to announce the call to payer in direct defiance of parliamentary procedure and  decorum. It is horrifying to think that men like these will be the ones charged with the task of writing our new constitution.

Egypt has much better men and women than those sitting now in parliament. Many in the ranks of revolutionaries are deep minded intellectuals, however they have failed at organizing themselves as a coherent block during the elections. They also failed at articulating the principles by which lived in Tahrir during the first eighteen days of the revolution. They were too busy trying to get the ruling junta to take obvious steps, like putting Mubark on trial, setting a fund for injured and families of the martyrs,or setting a firm date for the elections.

This  parliament is unlikely to survive for long. I have strong doubts it will be able to deliver to the Egyptian people the aspirations that they have sacrificed so much for. It may look like a democracy, but it is not a functioning  one, and it shows very little hope of functioning anytime soon. Given the glaring lack of intellectual abilities in parliament, it will require divine intervention for them to deliver an efficient national government. Such a government as the author the papers would put it, would be one where

  …the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but also will generally be appointed to manage it.

If the parliament continues to “function” as it has,  then we will follow a trajectory where we will have to suffer through the trials and tribulations that occurred during the passage from  the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment, albeit at an accelerated rate.

My hope still remains that Egyptians will find a way to carefully consider struggles of other  nations so that they “may profit by their experience without paying the price which it cost them”. Despite this rather disappointing first attempt at democracy, I am still hopeful. The revolution is still ongoing, and its spirit is like a phoenix and when things seem very bleak, I find those line echoing in my head

A thousand times I have been stabbed before
A thousand more times, till they I believe I am no more
Forever, I will rise again and on wings of truth will soar

….. the revolution continues.

02/4/12

Where are the politicians?

We marched to Tahrir by the hundreds of thousands on the 25th of January, then we marched again on the 27th, and we marched yet again on the 3rd of February. In all these marches we chanted with all the strength we can muster “down! down! with military rule!” (yasqot!  yasqot! hokm el-askr!). But no one in a decision making capacity seems to be listening. 

Many protesters now believe that the standard response of those in power to any threat is to engineer a national tragedy. This is seen a part of pattern that has been going on for while now and the football massacre in Port Said is but the latest. Egyptian have plenty to be angry about and the want to bring down those who are ultimately responsible for their suffering, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

A day prior to the Port Said massacre, thousands marched to parliament demanding that their elected officials take over control of the country and call for an immediate presidential elections. Those protesters were labeled as vandals by the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The claimed, that protestants  were out to destroy the “revolution’s parliament” and are enemies to the “principles of the revolution”. Hundreds of MB youth stood guard (some even carrying tasers) to “protect” parliament and though there were many injuries, it could have been much worse. The protester are still trying to be as no violent as humanly possible within a self-organized and leaderless group. Seeking to profit from the tragedy, the MB issued a statement  about the Port Said massacre linking it to the march to parliament, as part of an “invisible” plan to destroy the state.

Since the 2nd of February many have gathered in front of the fortress like building of the ministry of interior (MOI) and started pelting it with stones. The MOI is now seen by many as the SCAF’s newly refurbished instrument of repression. There actions, or lack thereof, were the cause of the Port Said massacre. It is infuriating that not a single MOI official has been convicted for the death of at least two thousand Egyptians and injury of innumerable thousands during last year’s protests. Also since Mubarak’s exit, many more have died, lost their eyes, female protesters have been subject to horrific abuses and forced virginity tests, and sixteen thousand Egyptian lie in prison after being subject to summary military “justice”.

No one has been held responsible, no one!

SCAF generals are only too happy to continuously utter nonsense about the foreign evil plans, invisible hands, and sinister third parties. The Islamists seem to have caught the bug too. As I write this post,the toll of those injured in the past couple of days has reached 2532, and at least 10 have been confirmed dead throughout the country. 

Sadly, many western commentators are now seeing the protesters as a violent and angry rabble. The fact that they are angry is undeniable, their violence has to be put however in the context of their frustrations. What should be surprising is not the sad descent into violence, but how relatively restrained that descent is. The protesters try their best to protect public and private property, they even protect MOI soldiers who sometimes get stranded in their midst. Although the country is awash with guns, their means of violence has been of the most primitive kind. 

If the Islamist lead parliament does not take concrete measures to respond to the people’s demands and pains, then it will a partner in blood in what could unfold to be a very violent turn of events for the Egyptian revolution. Their talk of fact finding committees and assorted nonsense of putting the minister of interior on trial no longer cuts it with the people. We have had a fact finding committee and a trial for Mubarak and the ex-minster of interior running for over a year now. The parliament must be seen as agents of rapid change to civilian rule. It must grease the rusty wheels of justice. If it does not act quickly, it might spur a disillusionment with the whole democratic process. At this critical juncture the people are asking, “where are the damn politicians?”

01/29/12

Tensions in Tahrir: The Islamists and the Revolution

Last Friday, at the famous Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in Mohandseen, the preacher was stressing the importance of unity in his sermon. Later on, he elaborated that we should be patient with the new government and give it a decent chance to achieve our aspirations, and that we should work with the “ruling authorities” for the good of the country. While he mentioned those words, I could not but help see the muted anger on the faces of many. As soon as the prayer where over, the mosque was rocking with the chant “down down with the junta’s rule“. The march to Tahrir then commenced, and it was orderly, peaceful, powerful, and glorious.

A year has passed since the Egyptian revolution began and despite the departure of familiar faces, the same old is system is very much intact. It just needed a bit of time to find construct a new rhetoric, exercise control on the media, and rebuilt is monstrous machinery of oppression. A year after the revolution, the economy is in tatters and the life of the average Egyptian is much harder. The security forces have shown increasing viciousness at curbing protests, but only marginal “improvement” in protecting life and property.   The marchers to Tahrir believe that this system still must  be fully dismantled and that could not happen while the ruling junta, aka SCAF, remained in power.  

However, Tahrir was not the marchers alone. The Islamists had been camping out there since Wednesday the 25th of January, not to demand anything in particular, but the to celebrate the “achievements” of the revolution. The Islamists, had a great to deal to celebrate. After having been marginalized, thrown in jail, and discriminated against for a very long time, they now have a parliamentary majority. Their spokespersons often imply that after the parliamentary elections all manners of protests are meaningless. They reason that since the people now have elected representatives, they should quite down and let parliament do its business. To many Islamists, voting means not just delegation by the citizenry in matter of politics, but fulling surrendering one’s political will to that of the elected representatives. The Islamists like to portray protesters as a threat to democracy, a sort of a mob dictatorship standing in the way of the will of the majority. Their ploy at “celebration” in Tahrir as far as I tell, was nothing more than an attempt show that they can “control” that symbolic square and that they could muster numbers that would would dwarf any non-Islamist gathering. That plan went awry.

The turnout by the non-Islamist (a mix of liberals, leftists, and the ideologically neutral) was phenomenal on the 25th and also the 27th. As we entered Tahrir and crescendo of anti-SCAF chants peaked. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), who have built a gigantic stage in Tahrir, have been for the past couple of days playing 50’s and 60’s era patriotic songs, many of them idolizing the army. Their “control” tactic as this point was to pump up the volume to the max to drown out the chants. When this tactic failed, they started playing the Quran and asked the protesters to quite down to respect the recitation of the holy verses. That highly cynical use of religion made the protesters more furious and many started waving their shoes at the stage in a manner reminiscent to how Mubark’s last speech was received.  Scuffles ensued, at which point prominent MB members started to chant (for the first time) against military rule. The protesters responded by chanting “hypocrites”. Many, on both sides, managed to “cool things down” to avoid a violent escalation that could have spiraled out of hand.

Drunk with new power, and obsessed with consolidating it, the MB (and Islamists in general) have successfully managed to fully alienate those were like brothers to them a year ago. Most protester can only interpret the Islamists’ behavior as reeking of dishonesty and betrayal. An increasing number of Egyptians are now growing immune to self-serving political agendas being piggybacked on religion. The revolution continues….

09/26/11

اللعنة على الأخلاق

لعل عنوان هذه التدوينة قد يستفزك و قد يثير حفيظتك و لكن هذا العنوان هو أصداء لعبارة تتردد فى غد غير بعيد، يوم تسقط فيه الأقنعة عن من يستخدمون عبارت أخلاقية كسياط على عباد الله من أجل فرض سلطة و كسب منفعة. فى هذه التدوينة أسرد لبعض من الأمثلة على ذلك.

انا مثل والدك ومن حسن الخلق ان يحترم الصغير الكبير
فى أغلب الأحيان تكون ترجمة “الإحترام” هو السمع و الطاعة بدون اي تفكير او نقض. هذه المقولة طالما سمعتها تتردد من رؤساء لمرؤسيهم أو من معلمين لتلاميذهم. هذه العبارة كافية لقتل اى حوار او نقاش و ان حاول “الصغير” المضى قدماً فى عرض مشكلته او  مظلمتة يكون قليل الأدب و ناقص التربية.

على من يطالبون بالحرية ان يعرفوا ان الحرية لها ضوابط و ليست قلة أدب
هذه العبارة و مشتقاتها تصيبنى بحالة حنق شديد. أغلب مرددوا هذه العبارة هم من ارتضوا الزل و تمرمغوا فى خيرات الهوان. فبأى حق ينصبون انفسهم اوصياء على الحرية و أخلاقياتها و أى جرأة هذه تجعلهم خبراء فى شئ لم يتذوقونه و لم يناضلوا من أجله. المراد من هذه العبارة هو “أعمل ما تريد و لكن لا تقترب من مصالحى حتى ولو كنت تجنيت عليك” أو فى أغلب الأحيان “كفاية صداع الحرية، نريد للحياة ان تسير كما كانت بدون أدنى تغير”.

على الشاب او الشابة  المحترمة او المتدين أن …..
ربما هذه اسوء العبارات على الإطلاق وكثيراً ما تستخدم لقولبة الفكر أو الوعى. انها تخلق أشكال نمطية من البشر فاقدة الروح و عاجزة عن الرؤية او الإبداع. إن من تجرعوا هذا العبارة و مشتقاتها فى الصغر و إستسلموا لتبعاتها مكبلين الحركة و فى خوف دائم من تصرفاتهم. هم فى حالة من عدم السلام الداخلى و يشعرون بوطئة القهر الفكرى و المعنوى و لكن لا يجدون سبيلاً للخلاص من هذا القهر بدون أن بفقدوا إحترامهم لذواتهم. كثيراً من مرددوا هذه العبارة هم من ضحاياها.  إقناع الآخرون بها و التصرف على ضوء مثل هذه العبارة انما يعطيهم نوع من الطمأنة انهم ليسوا بدون رفقاء فى سجنهم هذا. ولكن الأسوء هم من يستخدمون هذه العبارة من أجل ان يتحكموا فى تصرفات خلق الله لتحقيق غايات دنيئة تحت زعم نشر الفضيلة و الدين و الأخلاق.

هذه بعض الأمثلة القليلة من إستغلال البعض لمقولات فى ظاهرها دعوة للأخلاق و الفضيلة و فى باطنها فرض السلطة و الإستغلال. و انا هنا لست ادعوا لعدم إحترام الكبير او الفوضى أو البعد عن القيم الفطرية الأصلية التى  تدعوا إليها الرسالات السماوية ولكن  لأوضح ان كثيراً ممن يتشدقون بالأخلاق هم فى كثيرمن الأحيان أكبر خطر عليها.  سوف يأتى اليوم عندما يكون إستنزاف المعانى و الكلمات قد أكتمل و يهتف كل من ضاق بالأصفاد الحريرية “اللعنة على الأخلاق!”.   

09/15/11

The ghosts of 9/11 and the art of management by crises

I write this reflecting on the tumultuous events of September 9 and its aftermath in Egypt. Those events and their repercussions occurred around  the anniversary of the cowardly attack on the US that occurred 10 year ago. Though my focus is strictly on Egypt’s struggle for freedom and democracy, I can not but feel the ghosts of that catastrophic event still haunt us. Perhaps “haunt” is not the right word, one gets the sense that there are actives and intentional force from this dimension of existences that are pulling certain strings to push towards certain outcomes.

Prelude to the September 9 demonstrations in Egypt
Popular discontent has been on rise for a while, key factors are:
  1. Twelve thousands civilians have been tried before military courts and issued summary verdicts without proper due process. 
  2. A sizable fraction of those thousands were put in prison for being in demonstrations, or for expressing there opinion in a manner not to the likely of the country’s leadership. 
  3. No clear schedule for the elections or a clear plan for handover of powers to democratic forces. 
  4. Many of the economic demands of the revolution have either been ignored, or unfulfilled promises have been made. 
  5. Reported cases of continued  abuses of power by the ministry of interior (MOI), and no clear plans for reform of the ministry that most people regard as a instrument of political repression. 
  6. The events of September 7 where many thousands of football fans where brutally attacked, chased through the streets and many incarcerated for chanting against the police during a match. 
  7. The trial of Mubarak and his buddies that seem to be proceeding at a snail’s pace. This stands in sharp contrast with civilians being given summary justice and sentences to long prison terms. 
  8. Curbs of freedom of expression and the media.
  9. The killing of five Egyptian soldiers at our borders in Sinai by Israeli forces who were engaged in hunting down terrorists involved in a attack on there soil. The Israeli gunships violated Egyptian airspace and killed our men. If this were to happen anywhere, it would be considered an act of war, with serious repercussions. The ruling SCAF treated the whole situation as a non-event, and were content with Israel’s expression of regret (it was too much, it seems, for Israeli officials to offer an apology).This was quite injurious to Egyptian national pride and started a number of protest outside the Embassy. SCAF completely ignored this demonstration (as is becoming the fashion of late). The reporting of these events by the NYTimes leaves much to be desired
The ghosts of 9/11 in Tahrir
The atmosphere in the early hours of Friday in Tahrir could be described as jubilant. The people have managed to reclaim the favorite square after and month long occupation by the combined forces of MOI’s central security forces and military police. That Friday was given the title of “The Friday of Path Correction”. There was plenty of discussions taking place in the square about what needs to be done to bring about democratic transitions. Many were unhappy with SCAF’s management of affairs. 
After the Friday prayers, I was shocked to hear the preacher make plea for SCAF to release the Omar Abdel-Rahman from US prison. Abdel-Rahman played a significant role in inciting hate and providing religious sanction to acts to of terror. Very few payed much attention to that preacher. However, half an hour later somebody gave me free copy of a dinky newspaper known as al-sha3b with have on its front page a banner add calling for the release of Abdel-Rahman. My friends and I were wondering, who the hell is calling for this on day should not be about Egypt and it future and not about that awful historical drag. Who is trying to advance this a revolutionary demand?  and who is paying for all of this?

Embassy storming and aftermath
Later in the day the Israeli embassy was stormed. There were very few troops around to protect it, the troops were pulled out that day from around the embassy, and a few tens of protesters entered the building. After the storming their was brutal attack on the protester around the area by the police, it left one thousand injured and three dead. It is hard to believe that SCAF tried and failed to prevent the storming. There is growing belief that  it must have been a way of sending some message to either the US and Israel. Those violent events further gave rise to the following:

  1. Beefing up the emergency law is Egypt with to give the state almost unlimited powers to detain anyone
  2. Terminating Al-Jazeera’s local channel operation.  
  3. Further restrictions on media and journalists and fostering and general sense of fear and foreboding in state owned media. 

SCAF is trying to shape the political landscape to serve its interests. Their are worrying signs that it wants to stay in power for much longer than it had declared. The setup for the next election seems to be designed in push for old NDP figures or their close relation. 

Neo-Mamelukism unraveling 

    The SCAF seem to many to be manufacturing crises after the next to gain legitimacy as the sole protector and preserver of order. It is essential saying the people “it is either me or chaos”. They can not keep playing that game for long and eventually they have to scramble for a face-saving exist. Since last Friday, there has been a growing tsunami of strikes that were taking place despite the beefed up emergency law and all the dire warning that are being announced by SCAF. Egyptian are declaring “you can detain us, torture us, kill us, but you can not scare us into submission anymore”. Tomorrow, I will be back in Tahrir with many thousands, we will be protesting the emergency status and Draconian laws.

    The Revolution continues….