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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?


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