Skip to main content

RANT: On Fear, and a haircut

So yes, I am in Egypt.

I had hoped to write few posts, beginning with how air you breathe has changed and how you notice it the moment you leave the airport and a new abundance of hope.

The latest shift in the wind, caused by the killing of about 75 people after a football game, has me writing about fear instead.

There are be those who will try to crush hope through fear. The dominant undercurrent of many conversations has been fear. I have heard of violence, murders, kidnappings, bank robberies. People have spoken of how thing were safer under the old regime, of how such things used not to happen. Which is true, in part. Maybe they were not covered before. Maybe there was a police force in place, who,  matter how ineffective, corrupt and undertrained, did keep some measure of land order in place. Maybe things were better. But why did they get worse?

Let's go back couple of weeks. The emergency law was lifted, a piece of very good news. With a single caveat. In case of thuggery, it will be reinstated. From what I hear, there has been of of thuggery going on lately. Even if it not all planned, or factored into the current state budget, it is being allowed to happen. The scarcity of police the streets is noticeable, and their absence at the football games is much discussed.

Walking through an Zamalek this morning, everyone was holding a newspaper. The word on the street was naturally about yesterdays events. The difference between observing from afar and actually being here is seeing, and above all emphathising with the reaction. Long, distraught faces everywhere, anger in many eyes, compassion and sympathy mixed in there. Trying to make sense of what I was myself feeling, I went to get a haircut. I didn't have much to say, as Amr cut my hair much shorter than I had asked.

However, the halting conversation between him and the cleaner was a revelation into how the perception of media and  how closely, even dutifully, scrutinise the content delivered to them. "Even before the game, they were showing us violent pictures. And then the pictures of the event itself... they are tying to scare us. There was a university professor on television, he was saying it was all planned..." he went on in this vein for a while. I was impressed, both by how much media he had watched and of his critical eye towards it.

I suppose he is afraid as well. On the way back, I was talking to a friend about what I was seeing, narrating expressions, trying to analyse and project the big picture. Zamalek is empty. People are afraid. Will emergency law be re-instated? Will they now want the police force back, in spite of the general mistrust felt towards them?  Is all of this part of an organised campaign of fear? In absence of bread, are the people now also to be deprived of circuses?

Apart from yesterdays happenings, I have seen much that gives me hope: Open Mike sessions, Plays, exhibitions, arts and open discussion on the streets. Individuals, active and emotionally tired, are working hard in many ways to preserve the freedoms and self-respect that many individuals have discovered through the revolution.

Which bring me to a question I feel needs to be asked: What shape would a campaign of hope, not necessarily related to revolutionary activities, look like?


Popular posts from this blog

IGAF: Lying on Camera // Astounding Armaments

Nizar Qabbani wrote his epic poem "When Will They Announce the Death of Arabs" in 1994.

He was living in London at the time, far from his native Syria, watching the world he had grown up in and represented as a diplomat from afar. America had launched operation Desert Storm- a storm that lasts to this day- two years prior, and marked 1993 with the launch of 23 cruise missiles on Iraq. Qabbani will die of a heart attack in 1998.

In 18 stanzas, he explores the wishes and dreams he once carried, describes, however tribes and nations at war, that believe that secret services (like a cold, or a headache) are part of some heavenly order. He bemoans that the idea of the "Arab Nation" (possibly derived from the Pan-Arabist ideology that was crystallised during the Nasser years) has never come into being. He has been trying to draw a picture all his life, but his crayons have been taken away. He has watched wars- on TV, he has tried to imagine the idea of a peaceful Arab unio…

In Taheyya we Trust - How an Egyptian bellydancer found her posthumous stage in Berlin

“You should have winked at her,” Aida said dismissively, as if such a possibility had been imaginable for someone as timid as I was. Tahia Carioca was the most stunning and long-lived of the Arab world’s Eastern dancers (belly-dancers, as they are called today).
Edward Said, Farewell to Taheyya

My story with Taheyya begins in the summer of 2016, at Bulbuls Caféin Görlitzer Str. in Berlin. It ends two blocks down on Wiener Str 17. 

Bulbuls is a café and art space around my corner that I have grown to like to sit in and drink smoothies (1). He had commissiond us- a crew of Syrian and Egyptian artists, as well as myself, to paint the walls inside the café. El Tenneen (the Dragon) is the one who ended up drawing Sheikh Imam, with the help of Salam Alhassan (known as Salahef/ Turtles) and Sulafa Hijazis (whom we call El Hayya/The Snake’s) beamers’ illumination. The Sheikh sits happily in the place to this day and Crew El-Zoo was born.

Tenneen had the advantage of knowing immediately what he wa…

Two minutes: Addiction is Life is Yellow.

Addiction is a much-maligned, muddy word. Until (ca.) the 18th century, it connoted tendency and drive, rather than (self-) affliction. Opium changed that- reportedly. 
Lives described as addiction: to the approval and company of peers, to power and its accumulation, to enjoyment and personal satisfaction (to some people, this may be suffering) and to basics such as air, food, water… and possibly even living. When framed this way, and defined in reference to this word, life suddenly becomes a selfish pursuit in which the living will do anything to get their fix, devoted addicts all. 
On that note: Marylin Manson - I Don't Like the Drugs, But the Drugs Like Me. 
Also: Addiction is apparently yellow.