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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

قالها ألأمير: إنما ألأمم ألأخلاق ما بقيت فإن هم ذهبت أخلاقهم ذهبوا

إن أسوأ، لا أقول "من أسوأ" بل أسوأ، ما فعله مبارك في فترة حكمه هو العمل على هدم منظومة الأخلاق والقيم المصرية  بالكامل. و هذا متجلي  في وصولنا إلى درجة تسمح بأن يسحل رجل مصري، يرتدي زى العسكرية المصرية، فتاه مصريه في عمر أخته، و يعريها  من ملابسها، ثم يكون رد الفعل المخزى أن  يسأل رجل مصري أخر عن سبب ذهاب الفتاه أصلا إلى المظاهرات، و يسأل  بتعجب رجل مصري  ثالث عن سر عدم ارتداء الفتاه ملابس تحت عبايتها و كأن نزولها للمظاهرات أو عدم إرتدائها شيئا تحت العبايه يبرر ما حدث.

و تدنت أخلاقنا لدرجة تسمح للبعض أن يقبل، بل يؤيد، ضرب و حتى قتل، متظاهر لمجرد إختلافه معه في الرأي 

و سقطت  قيمنا  لمستوى جديد من الانحطاط حين دمعت أعين بعضنا لحرق هذا الكتاب أو ذاك و لم تدمع أعيننا دما لرؤية إمرأة عجوز ينهال ثلاثة عساكر عليها ضربا بالعصي والشوم 

لقد فشل  مبارك في كل شيء تقريبا فلا تعليم أنجح ولا صحة ولا أمن حقق ولا رخاء ولا زرعا أنبت ولا صناعة  أنشأ ولا ولا ولا   

ولكن على الرغم من كل هذا الفشل فإن الرجل نجح و بامتياز في أن يمحو منظومة  الاخلاق المصرية (و لكنه محو سطحي فيما أظن  و سوف أعود لهذا لاحقا)

فلقد سرق مبارك و نهب و منعته هذه السرقة من محاسبة السارقين من حاشيته و منعتهم سرقتهم  بدورها  عن محاسبة من هم تحتهم و هكذا حتى أصبحت السرقة في كل مكان و على جميع المستويات 

و حين نهب مبارك نهب بجد فلم يترك ما يكفي لدفع مرتبات محترمه  للموظفين فاستحلو الرشوة حتى أصبحت من سمات التعامل مع أي جهة حكومية في بلادنا واعتادناها   

و كذب مبارك كلما تحدث و إذا كان رب البيت بالدف ضارب فشيمة أهل البيت كلهم الرقص فأصبحنا كلنا كاذبين في كل صغيرة و كبيره حتى أصبحنا نأخذ دخول الكاذب النار من باب الفكاهة 

و قسى مبارك علينا فقست قلوبنا على بعضنا البعض 

واحتقرنا مبارك فاحتقرنا بعضنا البعض 

و تعامل مبارك مع أعدائنا بحجة المصلحة ففهمنا أن الغاية تبرر الوسيلة   

ثم أخرج مبارك مادة الدين من المجموع فلم  يهتم بها ولد ولا أب

و أعاد مبارك تسمية وزارة التربية والتعليم فأضحت لا تربي ولا تعلم 

ثم أطلق مبارك العنان للإعلام "المتحرر" في دولة نسبة العنوسة فيها خطيرة ولا يقدر شاب فيها ليس سارق ولا وارث على نفقات الزواج  فأثار غرائز الشباب تجاه ما لا يستطيعون تلبيته  حلالا فانتشر الحرام

وإجتهد مبارك و نجح في إخافة الناس من الدين فمن إقتنع خاف ومن لم يقتنع تطرف إلا من رحم ربي  

و لم يترك مبارك صورة ناجحة إلا طمسها فلم يتبقى كمثل أعلى للشباب إلا رجل أعمال فاسد أو لاعب كرة موهوب أو مغني محظوظ حتى أصبح أكبر أمال الشباب أن "يعمل شريط ويعدي"

و على الرغم من كل هذا  وقفنا و قلنا قولة حق في وجه سلطاننا ثم عدنا فكنسنا و مسحنا ميداننا وأمسكنا من تحرش ببناتنا واجترفنا من مخزوننا الحضاري والديني والأخلاقي ما سيكفينا،  و بإذن الله سيعيدنا دولة لا ترى خطأ فتقول "عادي" ولا تشهد ظلما فتقول "نفض" و "كبر" و يومها و فقط يومها، و يقيني على ربي و شعبي من بعده كبير أن هذا اليوم قريب، نستطيع أن نقول أن الثوره قد نجحت.    

Thursday, 8 December 2011

This whole democracy thing

I am beginning to think that, actually, scratch that, I am fully convinced, that we need to evolve a political system beyond democracy. It is NOT the best possible system.

For intro, I was raised and educated in the firm belief that there is no better method of governance than democracy, that after decades of experimentation, humankind has evolved into this Fukuyaman history-ending uber-system.

After all, who could possibly argue against - indeed what intellectual ammunition would they use to oppose - a system where "all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives"?

I mean, just read that one more time "all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions affecting their lives."

Sounds great right?

At first glimpse (and even after a hundred years of practice) democracy does look and sound and feel great, especially with continuous tweaking of its inconsistencies and blunting of its sharper edges. But taking a good close look at what democracy has produced, what results it has achieved, what various other schools of thought have to say about it, it becomes clear, we can and must do much better.

Here's why.

Actually before I start, gimmee two seconds because I'd like to give a quick mention to two of my pet hate democracy stories, namely Algeria and Gaza, where a democratically elected, people selected government was not allowed to operate.

Ok, moving on:

1. What has democracy produced?

Plato argued with typically impeccable logic, that since democracy entails rule of the majority by virtue of equal representation and that since in all societies the poor are bound to form that majority, democracy will always lead to rule (perhaps tyranny) by the poor over the rich.

What has in fact come about is the exact opposite. Democracy in the US for example far from leading to a powerful, tyrannical low-income class, has produced rule of the better-funded over the impecunious. For the last five or six decades, the presidential campaign with the most funds has consistently produced the president. Likewise the cases where the less-funded congressman won his election are few and far between.

Democracy in the US at least, has in effect turned into its ugly cousin, plutocracy, rule by the rich and powerful. Democracy in the country most revered for its democratic values has evolved away from itself into something quite scary.

Democracy has produced, again using the land of the free and the home of the brave as an example, a government which spends over a trillion dollars a year on weapons which will never be used in defense, while the number of homeless Americans (about 2 million in 2009) is spiking as I type.

It is easy to argue that the majority of Americans don't think that is OK.

Again in the USA democracy has produced a government which ignored 63% (a CBS/New York Times poll found this many percent of Americans wanted a diplomatic solution found for Iraq) of its own population -never mind the UN and the bulk of the world's nations and let's certainly not mind what the Iraqis thought! - and sent hundreds of thousands of its citizens to invade a country half way across the globe (oh, and by the way, oil prices never went down either).

Not to point a blaming finger at the US alone, let us look elsewhere. Democracy in France has led to a direct conflict with the one of the three supra-constitutional values of the Republic. To forbid a certain sect of women from wearing what they want cannot coincide with egalité! In India this wunder-system has led to the super-nationalist ultra-religious Hindu party coming to power. Democracy in Israel has produced an apartheid state, where the government's handling of different members of the population is far from equal (leave alone the Palestinians, I'm talking about Israeli Arabs).

Democracy has produced a world where lobby and special interest groups hold more sway than any citizen  or group of citizens. You could argue that lobbyists represent groups of citizens, and you'd be right. The problem is the amount of influence a lobby wields is directly proportional to its funding, not its merit, nor its popularity.

One could go on and on and on with these examples, listing shortcoming after shortcoming in the outcomes of this ostensibly wonderful system, but I hate to read (and therefore refuse to write) very lengthy blogs.

2. Liberalism and. Democracy

Although the two are frequently used in tandem, as in Liberal Democracy, there is much trouble between the two. Liberals have a major ethical/moral problem with the enforcing of majority will on the minority which is a frequent outcome of democracy. And so democracy is seen by many liberals (the more classical, the more this is a problem) as a flawed system in that it has no built-in mechanisms for addressing the grievances of the minorities in society.

Furthermore, while the common sense understanding of democracy certainly implies a high level of personal freedom of choice, speech and action, it is not the common sense understanding which is put to practice in so-called democratic societies. What happens effectively is that the collective decisions are enacted, the group will enforced frequently leading to a decrease in people's freedoms. An example to enlighten: Iran has for the past few decades been a highly non-liberal country because that is what the majority of its people have wanted. It is not that the Ayatollahs forged elections, it is that the people consistently chose the less liberal rulers.

3. Islam (or other religions) and Democracy

I may be accused of quoting Abdel Moneim el Shahhat (the infamous cleric who declared democracy as heresy). I plead guilty!

But think about it for a second. What does democracy mean if it doesn't mean that people collectively decide what is right and wrong, (read: allowed and forbidden, kosher and non-kosher, halal and haram) and therefore usurping that function from God? An observant, practicing Muslim (Christian, Jew, Hindu) doesn't want people to decide for him what is acceptable and not acceptable. He wants that done by God. Is not a democratic society saying, we know what is best for us, let us the people decide what is right and wrong? It is! Now take that piece of information and ask the average practicing Muslim the following question "who should decide what is right and wrong, legal and illegal, we the people or God?" and I will bet ten to one, he won't say "the people". For examples of democracy crossing religion: in mainly Muslim Tunisia it is illegal to take more than one wife, while Islam clearly allows that. In Israel the law allows activity on the Sabbath, forbidden by religion there. Catholics the world over have issues with contraception, abortion and homosexuality, their religion forbids all three, but the democratic process has led to all three being legal and acceptable.

Of course there is an additional element here regarding interpretation of God's laws and rules and who has the right to do this, but that is the subject of another discussion. Here I am just trying to clarify that democracy (in its raw, unbridled form) is as rejected by Islam (Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, etc..) as it is by liberals.

At the risk of alienating my conservative friends (patience please, I promise to do the same with the liberal bunch in a second), I would say that democracy can work fine if it limits the powers given to the majority to enforce things on the minority. If governments can be made completely immune to the effects of campaign spending (fixed budgets?), if lobby groups were abolished so that the individual regains his rightful place and minorities and the less and dis enfranchised have more say in their individual destinies.

Now (as promised) at the risk of alienating my liberal friends, I think democracy can also work if it is as Abdel Moneim El Shahat recommends limited by a constitutional article saying that no laws may be enacted which contradict with the tenets of the religion(s) of the land. That would ease the pain of worrying about making kosher what the Talmud forbids or making forbidden what the Quran allows.


So, what's the point?

The point is democracy in an of itself is not the solution. More importantly, it cannot be the objective, especially when loosely or not-at-all defined.

It doesn't ever work like it promises to, it evolves all too easily away from its core tenets, it frequently produces terrible (and sometimes non-democratic) results and the two apparent poles of thinking, namely liberalism and religious conservatism have fundamental problems with it. Seems to me we really should be able to come up with something better.

Do I have a solution? No.

Do I think there are no merits in the system? Double no.

There are a lot of mechanisms within democracy which warrant respect, awe even. It is a great system in some ways, but it is all dependent on the implementation and the rules.

Final word? Not really.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Why the Upcoming Elections are the most Important Event in your life


The elections of 2010 were arguably the most corrupt since the era of 99.99%.

The NDP gained most of the seats; most of these gains were disputed in court; most of the disputers won their cases; most of those court-supported winners were duly ignored because المجلس سيد قراره (for non-Arabic speakers, there is no proper translation, but loosely - "the Parliament doesn't need to follow court rulings if it doesn't want to" - yeah ridiculous I know).

It is equally ridiculously easy to argue that at the very bottom of every problem we have suffered through in Egypt there is one common root cause, namely corruption.

Think about it.

Seriously, please think about it.

Think of just about any problem we have had in the last decades from political profiteering to poor health care; from a lousy education system to the under-price selling of our gas and from poverty to a collapsing economy and I guarantee that if you look deeply enough, you will find a corrupt person or practice right at the core of the issue.

So, corruption is the disease behind practically all our troubles.

Among stage-setters and catalysts for corruption, it is again fairly easy to argue that one of the most critical (perhaps the single most important of all) is a parliament not performing its duties. Duties NOT of building schools and mosques, these are the government's responsibility. Rather the duty of monitoring, evaluating, reporting on and responding to government performance.

A government which fears repercussion cannot act with impunity. A Prime Minister who is accountable to a parliament cannot act as if he is above reproach. Ministers (and President I add in hushed tones) who fear their employers (i.e. you and me) cannot rob (I'll skip rape) and pillage at will.

In a country with a strong and active parliament, ministers would be resigning/getting the sack DAILY for the kind of performance our government has been delivering.

All this seems basic and obvious. And it is!

From there it is one simple step to:

YOU AND I ARE FULLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THE EVIL EGYPT HAS ENDURED!

Because it is you and I who vote parliament in. And so, to my mind, if you and I don't vote at all, or if we don't exert sufficient effort to find out about candidates' and parties' programs, or if we stand silently by while elections are rigged we are active participants in destroying our country.

We are AS GUILTY as the police officer who pulled the trigger and shot dead Moataz Anwar, AS GUILTY as the those who sold us carcinogenic food, or the minister who owns 48 villas in 12 different gated compounds. AS GUILTY as the officer who (allegedly) placed a hose in Esam Atta's mouth and rectum and opened the tap full force until the poor man died.

We are even AS GUILTY as the man who ruled over us fraudulently and despotically for the last three decades - and just for good measure wanted to bring in his son to carry the torch for the next three!

Not supportively guilty, not guilty by association, not almost as guilty: EQUALLY GUILTY.

So what do we do about it?

First things first: WAKE UP AND SMELL THE BALLOT BOX!

You are the key to this country's future. You have an unprecedented chance to help shape its future. You can stop the killing, the torture, the unemployment, the arrests without warrants, the poverty, the diseases, the illiteracy, the filth, the pollution etc..etc...etc...

YOU CAN AND YOU SHOULD KNOW YOU CAN.

Next: Activate this knowledge by first ensuring you CAN vote i.e. go to http://www.elections2011.eg/ plug in your national ID number and confirm this. If you can't vote, stop reading!

Next find out about your district, is it List (قايمه) or Individual (فردي). If you are not sure what these mean  check this great little video explaining the difference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxSaFIisc8U

Then find out who is running in your district. That should be easy, there are a tonne of places clarifying who is running in which district, some sites even tell you a little about each and post news about them. This facebook group should have a full listing soon: http://www.facebook.com/Elections.eg

So far, pretty easy right?

Well the next bit is a tad more demanding, but the FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY is worth a little effort right? Of course it's right!

So the next bit is, find out about the candidates and/or parties. Investigate their programs, read beneath the titles. What is the actual plan? How do they plan to achieve it? Do they have a history of success? What have they done before? Remember, previous performance is usually the best indicator of future performance. If some guy was raising his hand every time Soroor said "Mowafekoon" he's probably not your guy!

Next is the really taxing part: Make up your mind who you want to vote for.

I STRONGLY recommend the following formula:


  1. Remove all biases from your head. Religious, gender, appearances, wealth, accents etc should all be thrown out the window at this stage
  2. Meet up with some people from your district and discuss the various candidates and their programs. Do NOT have arguments, DISCUSS. For a truly lively discussion I recommend you meet up with NON-like-minded people.
  3. Make a list in descending order or importance of what you believe this country really needs
  4. Compare list from point 2 with programs and multiply by likelihood of fulfillment (just kidding but only half-kidding)
  5. He who scores highest gets your vote
From there, it's smooth sailing, go to your district voting location at the right time on the right day, avoid baltageya and plain clothes policemen, resist the temptation to pocket the LE 50 offered by candidate X, stand in line for about four hours and, cast your vote. Leave in dignity and congratulate yourself! 

You have now made a positive contribution to Egypt's (hopefully very bright) future!


Oh! You want to do more than just vote?

Well, if just casting your vote isn't enough, you may want to read on.

A bunch of guys and I have formed a group called صوتي لبلدي مش للبيع  (I vote for my country, my vote is not for sale). We started off on facebook, then met RT (that's Real Time, not Re-Tweet). Then we decided that the single most important thing we could do for Egypt during this time was to combat vote selling, a practice so rampant, it is considered a seasonal gift from rich Parliamentary wannabes to poor voters.

We defined it as anything from the direct sale of votes, to forced voting (moving voters like cattle in buses to polling stations to vote for pre-specified candidates) to what is known as tribal or nepotistic voting (in other words, giving your vote to a relative or friend regardless of their ideology, program, seriousness or ability).

We designed a campaign based on TV ads (self-financed, no foreign funding here thank you very much) and fliers and awareness creation campaigns and started implementation. Through contacts we got airtime for our ads (which should be appearing shortly) on various TV Channels. We've been on TV once http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NJgV0Y8AU4 and go on again soon (Thursday at or around 9.30 pm on OTV with Reem Maged) Through cooperation with various bodies we got the fliers printed and will have them distributed as far and wide across Egypt as possible.

You can see some of the work already produced here:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/myvoteisnot4sale/

If you want to join and help, just ask to be added. Short of convicted criminals and repeat mass murderers we accept most applications.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

ألإسلام هو الحل

WAIT! I am not promoting the Muslim Brotherhood. Read on!

I am just adding my $ 0.02 to the discussion on whether they and others should be allowed to use religion-based slogans in the upcoming elections.

My opinion is YES OF COURSE they should be allowed.

Here's why:

  1. CENSORSHIP: Any form of censorship used to curb slogans by a specific group or party is practically censoring of the people's right to choose freely. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom to attract voters should not be limited by law for or against one type of campaigning. Besides who decides what is acceptable and what is not? SCAF?! Isn't this the people's revolution? Aren't these elections for the People's Assembly? Of course they are. Then let the people decide. I am not suggesting a referendum (although I suspect strongly that a referendum would produce 70-something % in favor of allowing religion-based slogans) but I believe the results of the elections will be just as indicative. Should the people end up voting into parliament a party or parties which used religious slogans in their campaigns, then practically the people are saying "Yes, we think it's OK to use these slogans". If on the other hand, the parties which use these slogans fail to get seats in parliament, then it is fair to assume the people were none too pleased with the use of such slogans or at least that these slogans were not a decisive factor.
  2. WHY PICK ON THESE SLOGANS? There is no neutral, logical, rational difference between this slogan and any other. All slogans are designed to represent ideologies. Forbidding "Islam is the Solution", is the same as forbidding "Communism or Capitalism or Liberalism - or any other ism - is the Solution". For a fair and level playing ground, all parties must be allowed to use whatever slogans they want. Anything else would be unfair both to the parties themselves and, at least as importantly, to the voters.
  3. UNFAIR: Specifically in the case of the MB, this has been their slogan for decades, it is associated with them, and forbidding them from using it would be robbing them of a phrase they have built a lot of recognition around. Simply unfair and rationally unsupportable. You may or may not want them in power, but that is irrelevant. The only fair way to ensure they do not get into power is to more successfully present the public with something better.
  4. WHAT IS THE REAL ALTERNATIVE? What would you rather do? Push those who would use religion-based slogans under the rug or into detention camps a la NDP? Do you really want to go there? I don't. Any attempt to regulate through censorship is bound to produce a black market.
Of course there are many arguments against allowing the use of religion-based slogans. Here is why I believe these arguments are weak at best and just plain false at worse:
  1. If we allow "Islam is the Solution", we open the door to "Christianity or Judaism is the Solution": Of course we do, and we should argue just as strongly for allowing any party to use either of these two and let the people pick what they want. And if indeed the people do want the party raising "Christianity is the Solution" or "Judaism is the Solution" then that's what the people should get.
  2. We should not mix religion and politics: That is ONE point of view, maybe yours, maybe mine, but certainly not everybody's. Nobody has the right to decide for everybody what should and should not be allowed into politics. For many Egyptians (we'll find out just how many after the elections) politics and religion SHOULD be mixed, in fact, for many Egyptians, politics is just one more element under the umbrella of religion and religion is an integral component of political belief. Many for example, would not want an atheist president. Who are you and I to decide otherwise for them?
  3. Using religion in politics is like blackmail, vote for me you go to heaven, don't and you go to hell: This argument comes up in various forms including "these parties are fooling people through using religion in their campaigns" or "religion is different, people are sensitive" or "simple people will be drawn towards these parties without thinking" etc.. all of which assume a degree of stupidity and naivety in our population which I reject completely. It is arrogant to assume you and I know what is best for them. People know that there is no party which holds the keys to heaven or can close the gates of hell. 
  4. Nobody has the right to monopolize Islam: I completely agree and in fact this is one of the slightly better arguments, BUT it is still rather weak. Reason being that parties which say "Democracy is the solution" or "Secularism is best" or "Communism is the way out" don't (and don't claim to) have a monopoly on democracy or secularism or communism, do they? Nobody claims they have a monopoly on anything! All they are saying is "This is what we believe", NOT "this is what we believe and we are the only ones who believe it"!
  5. These people are just using this slogan to attract voters, but they have no real programs: IMHO this is a completely different discussion. Whether or not a party has a solid program is irrelevant to the discussion on whether or not they may use religion-based slogans. To the promoters of this argument, I would recommend you challenge parties on their programs, not their slogans!
  6. If they fail, it will be seen as a failure of Islam: Rubbish! Do we all think Saudi Arabia or Iran or the Vatican are successful or unsuccessful BECAUSE they are (ostensibly) religion-based states? NO, of course not! Whether they fail or succeed is related to how they run their programs. Again, the people of Egypt are not so stupid or naive as to believe that should the MB (or other religion-based groups and parties) fail, that means there is something wrong with the religion itself! Does North Korea's failure as a state mean that communism and atheism can never be successful? NO! Does the current world economic crisis mean capitalism is doomed? NO!
So what's my reco?

Let parties use whatever slogans they want, religion-based, ideology-based, even gender-based and social-class based. If someone wants to run as the defender of the poor or the carrier of women's rights or the Jewish candidate or the one who will ensure Christians get their rights, then let them. If they perform, the people will re-elect them, if not, they will be ousted.


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Life at Label Level



Can you tell me which party or political group would propose the following vision for the Egypt of the future?

1. A Government 
  • Where the legislative, judiciary and executive (I would add media) arms are well-separated and completely independent
  • Which views itself as a provider of services to the people and not the LORD OF THE LAND
  • Where there is accountability for actions
  • Which is representative of all Egyptians through a fair and free election process
  • Where torture and detainment without charge are certainly not encouraged and not even condoned
  • Whose objective is the country and people's prosperity and not the maintenance of a status quo
  • Whose ministries have clear objectives, strategies to achieve these objectives and their performance is measured against these achievements
2. A President
  • With significantly reduced authorities
  • Who is non-corrupt, does not espouse nepotism and does not treat the country and its citizens like his fiefdom and the farmers inhabiting it
  • Who can be held accountable
  • Who will be changed in four or eight years
  • Whose son has no political ambitions
3. An Economic Environment
  • Which promotes productivity, creativity, efficiency and competitiveness
  • Where the less successful are not marginalized
  • Where free enterprise is encouraged but regulated
  • Which is sustainable and not standing on one (tourism) or two (add Suez Canal) or three (add real estate or natural gas) rickety pillars
4. Relation between Police and Population
  • Where both parties respect the rule of law
  • Which reflects mutual respect rather than fear on one side and disdain on the other
  • Where the motto "protect and serve" is real and moves beyond the sign on the police station and into the street
  • When your son or daughter can look at a policeman and think of him as someone who can help, not someone to be afraid of
  • Which moves away from the auditor-victim dynamic to a public servant-public dynamic
5. An Army
  • Whose sole responsibilities are protecting the country from aggression and ensuring we have a qualitative and quantitative edge over potential enemies
  • Which is not involved in business, road-building, gas cooker manufacturing or other forms of profiteering
  • Which is completely neutral/neutered politically
  • Which gets its directions from the government and is just one more tool in the hands of the state, which is in the hands of the people
  • Which we can all believe is nationalist, non-corrupt and incorruptible
  • Which is loved and respected, not feared and mistrusted
6. A Social Environment
  • Where people have freedom and respect for that freedom
  • Where our values and traditions and religions are respected 
  • Where being veiled is not viewed as a sign of religious constipation and being unveiled is not a sign of moral looseness (and a million other examples here)
  • Where Christians are TRULY an identical member of society to Muslims, except they pray in a different place
  • Where at school kids are taught and raised, where values are supported not destroyed, where they have a class in civics and another in human rights
So back to the question. Can you tell me whose program this is? Which party wants Egypt to look like this?

You can't? Of course you can't, and neither could I, because this is the Egypt we ALL want!

So what's the point?

The point is that in addition to rolling alliteratively off the tongue, the title Life at Label Level, has -in Kissinger's words - the added benefit of being the truth. 

We, here in Egypt, have successfully, miraculously, now reduced intelligent conversation to the Level of Label. 

Liberal, Islamist, communist, revolutionary, Facebook kid, intellectual, the poor, political activist etc...etc....ad nauseum. Some go a tiny step forward and add a tag to the label, yielding: Islamist - will close pubs and force women to wear the veil; Liberal: will allow gay marriages and cancel Article 2 of our constitution   communist: will kill private investment and return us to the dark ages (this bit also applies to Islamists); revolutionary: is ruining the economy through endless demonstrations; Facebook kids: a bunch of spoiled pansies who would do well to get a real job; intellectuals: anyone with a PhD even if their dissertation covered the living conditions of coal-miners in Poland during the industrial revolution; the poor: anyone not dressed nicely and/or not owning two cars; political activist: your guess is as good as mine.

The problem is this moves us in the EXACT opposite direction to the one we need to be moving in. 

Towards splintering and away from unity. 

And to my mind that is the biggest danger of all. We all suddenly become experts on everything simply because we know all the labels, and whoever is labelled differently to me, is an opponent. And so liberals don't like Islamists who dislike them back; "real" revolutionaries don't think much of the Facebook kids who in turn deride them etc.

And so instead of a populace united behind a single objective we get broken up into all these tiny fragmented sub-groups each of which believes it knows everything there is to know about the rest, so much so, we don't even need to talk to each other anymore. Isn't he an Islamist? Well, it's a waste of time talking to someone who wants to force women to wear the veil! Isn't she a Facebook kid? Useless conversation, she needs some Tahreer-time before we can have a meaningful discussion. And so on and so forth.

But the reality, the truth, and you really don't need to scratch the surface all that hard to get at it, is that we all have an almost identical picture of how we want Egypt to be. The similarities between visions are so many and cover such wide ground, that the differences fade into proverbial insignificance.

Anybody with any experience in just about anything can tell you, you have a vision first (and all the lists above are vision-level stuff), BEFORE the details of implementation. We can discuss those a leisure, but we cannot afford the leisure of waiting for an agreement on vision, otherwise alternative visions, none of which will be to our liking will come forth.

So again, what's the point? 

The point is please remove the blinders and ear-plugs, look, listen, communicate, discuss, seek points of agreement and before you stick a label on a box and neatly compartmentalize our country and countrymen and women into ridiculously simplistic groups, make sure you really know what their concepts, ideas and goals are. I'll bet you ten to one, they are more similar to your own than you ever imagined.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Israel must pay

We're pulling the ambassador.We're not pulling the ambassador. We might pull the ambassador. We're probably not pulling the ambassador. I want to pull the ambassador but they won't let me. PULL THE BLOODY AMBASSADOR! Who said anything about pulling the ambassador? The Ambassador: Nobody said anything to me about being pulled. We may yet pull the ambssador you know. Truth be told, we thought about pulling the ambassador but then decided against it. No, we didn't just change our minds, we got some phonecalls and they were very convincing. Besides they apologised.

No we didn't apologise we expressed sorrow. But that's the same thing. No it's not. Yes it is. No it's not. Yes it is. NO IT'S NOT!

Apologising admists guilt and takes responsibility sorrow is the feeling you get if you see a dead cat on the street, regardless of whether it was you who killed it or not. Ok, so they didn't apologise, by they offered a joint investigation in return for not pulling the ambassador and we're going to get right to the bottom of this.

Joint investigation? Offered? No we didn't. Here are the results of our own investigation and they say it's all your fault.

So final results: No pulling of ambassador. No apology. No joint investigation.

Nothing.

Nothing that is, apart from five Egyptian corpses.

And it's really difficult not to blame SCAF for this. Really difficult not to be extremely angry at them for allowing the Americans and the Israelis to dictate to us what reaction is appropriate.

I am angry that five of my countrymen were shot dead in cold blood by the bloody Israeli army and that they are getting away with it Scot-free. I don't believe for a second their story about how it happened, but I am much less angry at them than I am at SCAF.

It seems the government wanted to pull the ambassador and SCAF refused after receiving pressure calls from the Americans and the Israelis. But what SCAF and consequently Israel and the US need to understand is that there are 85 million of us now who will not allow the times when a phone call to Hosny could solve everything, to return.

The time when Hosny was acting likr he owned the land and the people on it is over. We will not allow SCAF to continue the same defeatist scenarios of the past when Israel routinely trampled our national dignity wwith complete impunity.

Here's what needs doing: PULL THE AMBASSADOR! DEMAND COMPENSATION!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

No direction

This is my first blog. So please, be kind or be quiet.

I was HR Director of Vodafone Egypt (Misrfone and Click GSM at the time), joining before launch of service. I remember a conversation with another director who had witnessed previous GSM startups and launches.

He was worried that once the launch was done, the company would lose direction. He said up until the day of going live with the service, all the people working there collectively have a clear, well-defined and agreed-upon objective, GOING LIVE.

He feared that as soon as that critical objective was achieved, each one of us (or at least each department) would go off on a tangent and start pursuing its own objectives. Sales would go sell as many subscriptions as possible (regardless of whether operations said the network could handle them), engineering would build the most sophisticated network possible (regardless of whether marketing said it was needed), etc...

The idea being that when we had a well-articulated and unanimously agreed goal, we could each identify our role in it and as a result we all worked towards it.

But as soon as that goal was achieved and nobody had given thought to the morning after, we were at risk of losing direction and getting distracted. Thankfully in the Vodafone example, we were smart/lucky/experienced enough to immediately set a new goal (100,000 subscribers) to refocus people's efforts.

Everyone began thinking of their role in achieving that goal instead of their own personal or departmental agendas with no framework.

It must be abvious that I am using this analogy to say that what is happening now in Egypt is a post-launch loss of direction.

Up until the minute Mubarak left, it was very clear to every Egyptian who was involved that getting rid of Mubarak was the immediate goal and we all worked towards it in different ways.

Some went to Tahreer but kept themselves safe, others went to the frontlines in the infamous and somewhat medieval Day of the Camel, some didn't come back, others attacked the Ministry of Interior, others still marched to Salah Salem, yet others stayed home and prayed. Some prepared vinegar-soaked cloths and coke cans, some painted the streets in patriotic colors, others sang.

BUT the key thing was, we all wanted to get rid of Mubarak. I believe that this single objective is one of very few, (possibly the only) goal which all revolutionary Egyptians considered absolutely necessary to the success of the revolution.

This is important, because once that was achieved, we had no common goals anymore. Some want Islamic rule, others want the trials for the murderers first, some want the money back, others want parliament, others a presidential council. Everybody's off doing their own thing following their own agendas (not a dirty word in my book), and using their own methods. Some sit-in, some don't, some block roads, others steer traffic, some scream, others talk and debate, some think it's ok to close off Mugamma3, others don't.

And then what happened last night of course shows how far astray this revolution has gone. While the army and police were beating people out the square, some citizens were congratulating them for doing this.

We had sworn never to be beaten again. Now some Egyptians are congratulating the police for beating other Egyptians?!

This is not the place for it, but I'm a new blogger so excuse my diversion. I was against the demonstrators blocking the square. They have no right to block my roads, to make it difficult for customers to reach the shops in Tahreer. BUT they have every right to demonstrate without stepping on people's toes. AND more importantly they have every right to dignified treatment by the police and army.Yet, some people were hugging and kissing police officers for forcibly dispersing the crowds in Tahreer.


Not only do we have no common big goal, we have no common vision of what our relation with the army and police should be. Scary.

And so I come to my point. We need direction. Now.

IMHO we cannot have direction without leadership. Therefore we need elections. Now.

The army has no experience or interest (nor desire if you take their word) in running the country.

Is SCAF good, is it evil? Irrelevant at this point. We need to maintain unity and regain direction.

People are getting bored with this revolution, which promises but does not deliver.

Elections will put someone in power. They will perform. If they do a good job, great. If they don't, then remove them in the following elections. Critical to the democratic maturing process is that we accept the will of the majority.

Tahreer is not for every time someone has a problem. Perhaps we should have a Hyde Park where people can voice their concerns and gather like-minded listeners around them. That is not the function of Tahreer. It costs too much. And with 40% below the poverty line BEFORE the revolution, Egypt can't afford Tahreer endlessly.

We need direction, we need leadership, we need elections.