Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Culturally specific protocols and the dynamics of Egyptian living

Egypt is a state where ultimately law and logic are either enforced, or suspended, depending on the whims of those who wield and hold the reigns of power. Centuries of oppressive governing, with its single purpose of perpetuating existing power structures, have embalmed the culture with faithlessness in the judicial system and an overwhelming sense of helplessness in the face of tyranny. Anything can happen, at anytime, anywhere, to anyone, and for the most part, there's not a damn thing you can do about it. Zowar ElLail for example, a euphemism for state security officials who raid homes in the dead of the night, is but one example of government practices that serve to instill a sense of fear, weakness and vulnerability amongst citizens. Laws are disregarded by the very arm of the law whose job it is to uphold it, by association, people have lost any trust in the justice system and have thus taken matters into their own hands. From market disputes, to civil affairs, to government/ citizen relations, power, in its diverse forms, and the will to exercise it, is what governs the land.

Ostensibly, Egyptians seem an apathetic languid bunch, a popular notion that continues to gain widespread appeal, especially amongst the bourgeoisie and the ruling elite. Egypt's woes, be they illiteracy, unemployment, pollution or its growing intolerance with its self, is frequently attributed to its apathy and ignorance. I believe there is some truth to this accusation, although I decline to slam it on a particular segment of the population alone. However true it may be, it is equally true that Egyptians have for centuries exercised wit, intuition and the accumulated heritage of thousands of years of experience to circumvent, maneuver, exploit and demolish the many obstacles and barriers implanted in their path to self determination.
Tangling with the regime and its imposed “barriers to self determination” is not simply a struggle for political freedoms but more importantly, a primordial survival instinct for sustenance, shelter and security. From this tango, Egyptians emerge as some of the craftiest most creative people on the planet.

To be continued…

14 comments:

egyptian man from munira said...

stop being so orientalist man. masr om el donya wel fara3na kano agda3 mel engeleez. we're not crafty, we're hospitable but yes we are very creative, we've always surpassed other arabs in the arts. but instead of criticising maybe you should be part of the solution, you know, not the problem. like faten 7amama in dameer abla 7ekmat or hesham seleem in 'el raya el beida'.

Jester said...

This is a joke right! Walid is that you?!

egyptian man from munira said...

no i'm not walid. your post is good but i feel it's so typical of ademic intellectuals and activists who just talk and don't really have contact with the street, saying we are this and that and they don't have a solution. it is not time to theorize but time to act! like the bloggers and people helping egypt's development, not saying theories.

Jester said...

It would behoove me to first show you a little courtesy before I respond, so first of all I wish to thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.

Sadly, when it comes to who I am or what this post is about, you completely miss the mark. Your assumptions are based on your opinion and rather skewed reasoning of what "development" should look like. I'm not an academic intellectual nor am I a proponent of Orientalist ideals as you so carelessly claim.

I share your disdain for those "who just talk and don't have any contact with the street", but I'm not so quick to judge and label people according to what relative moral standards I may keep. It is ultimately about critical engagement, it doesn't matter what shape or form that takes.

Your original comment asked me to be part of the solution, like two fictional TV characters you admire. Your choice of role models speaks volumes about your distance from the street.

The street and the change that comes from it, is gritty, abrasive and violent. The Abla Hikmat type development you propound has no place on the street; anyone with any real contact with the street can tell you that.

On another note, I refuse this romanticized notion of street credibility. Edward Said for example is someone who has dedicated his life to the Palestinian cause and who is admired greatly as an activist, despite also being a staunch academic and a self proclaimed intellectual.

The post is a personal attempt to reflect and think critically about urban contemporary life in Cairo.

But two things I will concede; I'm not trying to 'develop' the nation and sometimes I just want to talk.

Gayyash said...

"It is ultimately about critical engagement, it doesn't matter what shape or form that takes."

"I'm not trying to 'develop' the nation and sometimes I just want to talk."

worthy of posts in their own right and more, as we've said before, no?

egyptian man from munira said...

what i meant is generalizing about us is orientalist and you generalized. but i appreciate your reply to my comment.

Amnesiac said...

Personally Jester I didn't feel that your incisive post contained any generalisations. The power dynamics, and survival mechanisms which emerge in response, which you identify are true of any corrupt, oppressive regime - in any country. And I see how it is Orientalist, or negative, to objectively analyse a nation's traits, whether this be for your own personal benefit or the betterment of society.

Jester said...

Amnesiac,

Glad to see I'm not the only one up at this hour. By the way you hold equal responsibility for these thoughts since they were entirely inspired by your post about the "monkey dance".

Amnesiac said...

:-)

Incidentally I just re read my comment and can barely understand it, but nice to see that someone got exactly what I was going on about in the post.

Jester said...

Hey Amne...We gotta stop meeting like this! I had to read it twice before I figured there was probably a "can't" before the "I see"...but I may be over reaching here!

Amnesiac said...

Yes lol the missing can't was what made the already unfathomable comment sound even more bonkers.

Basil Fawlty said...

Nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade. And being critical is part of the solution. Besides, this is a blog; what did that guy expect you to do here?

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