Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

 

Do you accept the crackdown on protests in the name of ‘getting the wheels turning’, or ‘in condemnation of ill-timed personal or sectorial demands’?

Did our sisters & brothers not die to give us the freedom to express ourselves in dignity and safety…

Do you think the revolution has ended or that it has realized its objectives or would you want it to end soon?

For a true revolution to happen in Egypt, just like everyone says in rote, ‘we have to start with ourselves’.. meaning we have to keep asking ourselves and growing organically with both the question and answer to hopefully deliver Egypt to a station it has never seen before. If we place a lid on our dreams or draw a finish line, then that is all we can hope to amount to, and it is more likely that we will fall short and quickly descend into the same cesspool of corruption we all know so well by now.. Instead we should keep reaching higher and higher, and the most powerful dream at any one moment is the one we focus on achieving.. step by step.. it is not impossible.. we just have to stand up against the randomness in governance that we have been living under…  But it has to be a personal revolution everyday.

Are you hasty to willingly hand over your fate to any entity that seems to say the right words and delegate all your responsibilities of monitoring and being a part of deciding Egypt’s path forward into the hands of some ‘infallible authority’?

The whole point of the revolution was accountability and transparency, that we should not go to jail for asking questions, or voicing concerns or opinions. We took the nation’s fate in our hands when we chose to stand up in Tahrir and everywhere else in this great land to say NO to injustice and indignities, so we can’t simply leave her by the roadside now with the job half-done?

Do you believe that the media is now clean and is no longer in contact with any hidden agendas?

Do you say ‘the Army is a red line’ that cannot be questioned?

Do you believe religion is a red line that cannot be questioned?

Do you think anyone possesses the Absolute Truth? SAFC, religious leader, politician, Mubarak, or even Obama?

Learn to question everything, look for your own answers, do not accept any pre-packaged explanations without  healthy skepticism.. Do not allow big words or shiny exteriors to blind you from the ultimate message contained within… Freedom is not awarded, it is won.

Are you able to differentiate between the respectable, honest army officers who helped us protect our streets and homes, and between the SAFC?

Do you think there are secrets that are too big to share with the public?

Do you spread rumors without due fact-checking and corroboration of sources coz it’s an interesting story?

Do you change positions often, or keep finding exemptions to the rule?

Do you fear change?

Stealing is wrong. Killing is wrong. Unfair trials are wrong. Spreading lies is wrong. Maintaining a secret agenda and deceiving the public is wrong.

Drives me up the wall seeing people so opposed to change that they try to wish things to their previous state of affairs, hoping that all of this confusion they have no idea how to deal with, or what to do with- called the revolution- would simply just go away.

Takes some talent to fool yourself into not seeing when your eyes are not closed.

They seem to think that we should just pretend that everything is normal until it actually becomes so…

Well sorry to burst your bubble, but everything is far from normal.

These are extra-ordinary times for Egypt, and we cannot waste precious time half-pretending half-wishing it was normal- especially not when we should be drawing clear, definitive, decisive lines between what, and what not, to carry from a corrupted past to a brighter, more promising future.

One finds people that try to blow holes into any cause or call to action which may mean that they might have to carry a responsibility, or worse, face something or someone.

When you talk about the need to have a methodical, and just system to weed out corruption and its men & women, you are faced with ridicule and claims that every institution would fall to pieces and the whole country would be in jail.

When you talk about the breach of civilian rights when unarmed, peaceful protesters are killed or sentenced by military courts, these passive-ists will go on the attack and start accusing you of breaking and not respecting the law and its rule, citing such illuminating insights- such as this one that works for almost every occasion:

“We should fix ourselves first before judging others”,

or in the case of violence and military courts for protesters  “why didn’t they respect the curfew?”

or “how can they talk about corruption when they don’t respect the rules”,

or “since you agreed to Martial Law under the military then you should respect their decisions”..

Well guess what, no one ever agreed to place this omnipotence and absolute power into the hands of the Supreme Armed Forces’ Council, SAFC, in the first place, it was never up for a vote. In fact, if they search their not so-distant memories [or youtube] they would invoke the image of a Omar Suleiman stating that “Mubarak chose to waive his presidential powers and place them in the hands of the SAFC” on Feb 11th.

And to ALL who would say ”nana nana nanaaa..fix yourself first” and such, I wish to draw their attention to the fact that though my bad habits may take a while for me to outgrow and ‘fix’, yet in all honesty, ultimately they seem pretty inconsequential compared to the crimes committed by existing pillars of corruption that still run amok.

As long as the corrupt are pulling the strings in every sector, Egypt will function still in pretty much the same way it did, with the added burden of attempts to alienate, discredit and circumvent the Revolution. Attempts even by the old regime to redress itself in the cloak of the revolution- such that the corrupt become the symbols of the revolution!

Isolating them from their positions of power, will give the chance for the honest and down-trodden who remain fearful that this is just a façade, to feel safe enough to speak up.

The old regime and tyrannical regimes everywhere have succeeded in creating a psychosis amongst their people, a schizoid state of claiming to both uphold the principles of the revolution; of liberty, equality, bread and social justice, yet equally finding grounds to start making up excuses for the SAFC as to why this ‘justice’ doesn’t apply to this person, or that group, or Maikel Nabil, or the “baltagiyyas” that were in Tahrir on March 9th, or the army officers on April 9th?!!

You cannot segment justice. And you cannot discriminate and say who deserves it and who doesn’t. Or else it’s a farce. And a bloody cheap one.

Personally, I am getting less impressed with PM Essam Sharaf’s performance by the day. He has to acknowledge that he is playing a game not too different from the ‘gophers-in-the-holes’ found at most arcades. You stand there with your furry hammer and every time a gopher sticks its head out of one of the holes. BLAM you bludgeon it back in. And in time the plot thickens with the gophers growing faster and coming out of further-to-reach holes simultaneously.

Essam Sharaf seems to be doing just that, reacting to every miniscule event with his creative arsenal. Once he’ll face the situation with science, another with piety, a third with good old homeboy, ibn balad panache- all very good. But at some point as the gophers keep coming faster and the situation is ever more distracting, you get the sensation that this is exactly what is meant of the whole exercise- to distract and divert, his attention and ours, while the army or more properly the SAFC is in some other corner doing something completely different while holding all the strings.

Some of these gophers smell fishy too [as most sectarian incidents do] such as the opposing to the new Governor in Qena based on his Coptic faith and not on the fact that he was a key security figure during the killing of protestors, the Salafis attacking a church, the whole Kamilia Shehata shenanigan and how it has been forged into a most powerful weapon of division.. To who’s benefit is this lack of response to these gophers? Who is supposed to benefit from allowing them to thrive, while shrouding the situation in mystery and allowing for rumors and build-up of negative feelings?

All the while as PM Sharaf keeps chasing gophers while the SAFC continues to maneuver with an obvious auxiliary agenda to the one it has announced.

This allows for two options: either PM Sharaf does not see that he is being ‘kept busy’ and plonking gophers unwittingly while not questioning what the SAFC is doing, which in reality constitutes an epic fail as PM material. Or, scarier still, he is doing so knowingly and uhmmmn ‘putting on’ the best show he can for the benefit of the SAFC and its objectives.

I remember that one of the rumors that was offered me time and time again by friendly cabdrivers was the one saying that both PM Sharaf and Chief Tantawi are secret Muslim Brotherhood members, as if the MB was akin to the illuminati or Knights Templar,  or freemasons?!

But as time goes by, one begins to wonder if not indeed the oil of the old regime as well as wine of the young revolution, have not indeed begun to mix and align in nature and objectives?

The Army appeared with the timed withdrawal of police forces on the 28th of Jan, and the people met them with song and dance, hugs and jubilation. We the people projected onto these sporadic army personnel, the role of saviors that had appeared to defend them from the sadistic police and security forces that were killing us. I’m not in any way saying that the army officers and personnel that appeared on the 28th had anything but our best interest at heart, many of these officers risked their lives to protect us and at the very least treated citizens with utmost respect and care that was such a welcome blessing almost after the indiscriminate abuse and humiliation suffered at the hands of the police. But really, let’s just see: the Armed Forces of 300,000 troops et al, came to defend us from Security Forces that add up to close to a million and a half in manpower?

Face it people, WE were our REAL protectors, WE were our saviors. It was us millions that were on the streets that struck the fear of God into the hearts of unjust rulers and still does. If it wasn’t for our neighborhood committees or ligan sha’biyya, the army could not have covered Greater Cairo in area or numbers. If it had been 200,000 camped in Tahrir at dawn of April 9th and not 2,000, then the army and Amn Markazi would have never dared to use violence. Our faltering now, takes the wind out of the sails of not just our own revolution, but its negative effects extend to countless other freedom fighters in Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Iran and the list goes on…

Do not allow yourselves to be placated by an apparently benign outward appearance, when we have no idea what is really going on..

Wake up people, there is power in our numbers and as long as your cause is just, be not afraid to speak it out. And before asking if Mubarak and his cronies were a part of the counter-revolution.. ask yourself truly if you are throwing in a jab every now and then…

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At a point in time where Egypt finds itself faced with the weight of ridding itself of 30 years of corruption, Egyptians also know that this is compounded by 30 years of ignorance, 30 years of manipulation and being held prisoner in their own country. 30 years of being unprepared.

But we’re starting to venture out into the sun, and learning to listen and speak, and learning to be brave enough to question.

Mubarak left on Feb 11th handing over power to the Supreme Armed Forces’ Council, SAFC who in turn took it upon themselves to “oversee the transition of power to a civilian state elected by the people, in recognition of the principles driving the 25 Jan Revolution”.

On April 9th uniformed military officers joined Tahrir protests that were calling for the prosecution of remnants of the old regime, some say 12, some say as many as twenty-something army officers were present, though the SAFC says 8. These officers spoke out against the Minister of Defense Chief Tantawi, who served under Mubarak for 20 years and now heads the SAFC, and they spoke out about corruption in the Military. The SAFC, who admitted to using Army and Central Security Forces, broke up the sit-in in Tahrir by force during the early hours of Saturday April 9th. The SAFC’s reasoning was that the protesters were breaking the law by breaking the curfew. It is said that at least 3 were killed, the SAFC admits to one- shot in the head.

Knowingly or not, these uniformed officers were forming an alternate nucleus to SAFC.  The officers even pitched up a make-do tent in the center of the roundabout of Tahrir, which was torn down violently by police and army troops that stormed the square. It was inevitable that SAFC would attempt to eliminate the threat of conflicting signals from different power points within the Armed Forces, especially that the uniformed officers had moved to center stage amongst the people. And worse, that the people had embraced them.

Perceived participation or endorsement of the revolution, as opposed to simply protecting the people, has been a sensitive issue for the Army, and one which it has tried to handle responsibly and with awareness, since it first came to the streets on Jan 28. First as “guardians of Egypt”, preventing it from descending into total chaos when the police vanished from the streets after freeing criminal prisoners [shedding an ‘air of accountability’ while the citizens were armed & out on their neighborhood checkpoints], then as “guardians of the revolution” after Mubarak left, trying to fulfill an almost impossible formula of ruling & serving all at once- well, not in the way Egyptians have come to know ‘rulers’ and those who ‘serve’ in the days of Mubarak anyway.

The SAFC may also be fearful of growing calls for their prosecution, deserved or not is beside the point. Logic does imply that due to 30 years of un-education and the old regime’s ability to manipulate people’s perceptions, any sudden and unexamined shift in power is unadvisable, yet one questions what exactly was the message the army tried to deliver with its violent and dramatic storming of the square? And to whom?  

Chief Tantawi knows that in all probability he will have to face some sort of questioning, but all parties seem to be dancing around the issue, keeping a low-profile and pretending to play-nice, just like the Minister of the Military-Industrial complex Sayyed Mishaal who was appointed by Mubarak years ago.

Sayyed Mishaal who had just won a questionable election a couple of months before the revolution for a seat in Egypt’s parliament, combining both legislative powers [as MP] as well as executive powers [inherent in his existing ministerial role]. Sayyed Mishaal who was there under Mubarak, and then there as an unchanging element in all the changing governments formed in an attempt to balance out, and is still there under PM Essam Sharaf who took his office oath in Tahrir. What a talent must he be?

Statistically speaking, it is idiotic to think that the Army was the only institution devoid of any corruption during Mubarak’s years, they just hid it better. I’m sure that just like all other institutions in Egypt we had the oppressed and the sidelined, those trying to just survive, those that wanted to climb the corruption ladder with their pom poms & ‘take a chance on me’, and then there were those who pulled the strings and tried to manipulate money & power. Why would the army be any different, after all they lived under the same conditions as everyone else?

That is why I believe despite all their calls to want to hand over power to civilian leaderships; the SAFC is terrified from the moment that they give up their unquestioned authority. They are afraid of what may happen to them next, and it is only logical that this ultra-drawn-out slow pace is a time for preparations and forging alliances for self-preservation. Yet no matter how uneducated us Egyptians may be, we are aware that we do not want to risk throwing Egypt into unnecessary conflict. Though some of us are plain scared. Of what this Neo Egypt will look like, and what it may mean for them… At the moment Egyptians seem ready to die defending anything that seems half-decent, just because they do not know what ‘daring to ask for more’ may bring.. Well the Supreme Armed Forces’ Council has at least hinted…

I remember standing in Tahrir the night of the 25th awestruck by the sheer numbers and the common consciousness moving through the crowds as one wave of chants washes over another, picked up and given life by converging minds and voices. I wondered if I had woken up in an alternate reality that day. Where Egyptians were no longer afraid to speak up against injustice. Where we had all slid into a part of our minds basked in the knowledge that we are all born free and equal, and it is only us that can give away that power, and allow someone to make us believe otherwise. And since day 1, the essence of the call has not changed, though not many have stopped to reflect upon the meanings inherent in the elusively suggestive “Al Sha’ab yureed Isqat Al Nizam” which can be translated either to: “The People Want the Regime to Fall” or it can be taken to mean “The People Want The System to Fail”. They are 2 completely different places…

Well the age-old adage says “follow the money”, so where better to start than Egypt’s Central Bank? Clicking on the official website’s link in the miniscule description on Wiki, a number of things jumped at me straight away on their ‘About Us’ page:

  • The CBE is an autonomous public legal person, assuming the authorities and powers vested therein by Law No. 88 for 2003, and the Presidential Decree No. 64 for 2004, Issuing the Statute of the Central Bank .

 

Forget the legalese for a second the phrase I want to bring your attention to seems clear enough no matter what other disasters may be contained in Law 88 & Presidential Decree No. 64. The phrase “autonomous public legal person” according to my limited legal knowledge, forged by skirmishes with security, means that it is pretty much run like a corporation in its definition in American Law- which are considered a real person made of flesh and blood with more rights than most Americans- well a better legal team anyways. Well anyone that has read The Corporation should know what I mean. So the Central Bank of Egypt which prints all the money, decides all the monetary & credit & foreign currency exchange policies in our nation is a self-ruling person, allowed the failings of any ‘human’… Interesting…

  • Paid-up Capital = 1000 million Egyptian pounds ( LE).

 

This simply means that the capital or money that runs the bank or the reserves amount to 1Billion EGP. Seems a bit tiny to me in the light of the Billions being exposed since the Jan 25th Revolution, no?

  • The funds of the Central Bank are considered private funds.

 

This simply builds on Point 1 which states that the CBE is a ‘corporation’-like entity by declaring its funds to be private & not public. And scarier still, is the insinuation that the whole thing is run for a group of private persons [or the major stock holders to keep the corporate analogy]…

Then I got to the objectives, which declare on their website their whole raison d’etre, or aims and goals, & each line helped to make me feel even less secure…  This sparsely worded page was turning into a real nightmare with its implications and the knowledge that the Governor & Board of the CBE are appointed and probably receive no supervision or auditing by any other entity… Well I can name at least one person that ruled uncontested for 30 years without being held accountable during the time, and he turned out to be pretty sweet and adorable did he not?

Well to keep it short the CBE dealt with all major ‘money’ issues and founding the principles for day-to-day operations in all money-related sectors from the actual printing of money & its denominations & specifications to how much of it is allowed in the ‘market’ at any one time. This coupled with the responsibility of ‘managing prices’ meant that the CBE owned the tap to Egypt’s market; allowing it to flood & prosper, or to drip, or worse still to hit a patch of market-drought. A most powerful tool to ‘squeeze’ the people and potentially steer them in a sense, if ever someone who was ill-intended or mean ever got to that sacred position of power. And what exactly does the statement mean that all of this is “in agreement with the government”??

The CBE is responsible for the supervision of banking, credit, exchange and ‘money’ institutions- and we all know how that’s faring as more & more is revealed by the day in a race against time to prevent further ‘theft’ of our economy.

The CBE manages the gold & foreign exchange reserves for the State. Ouch…

The CBE supervises the National payments system. Would that be the payrolls for pensions that went up in smoke, or the 5 million government employees which 1.5 million of whom turned out to be Amn Markazi & internal Security Forces?

The CBE is also responsible for “recording and following up Egypt’s external debt both the public debt & private”…

Dunno about you but seems to me that the CBE was run by a few-worded and secretive sociopath that helped crush Egyptians “in agreement with the government” to manage a private wealth as well as the whole money market to the advantage of a small group of people, besides having foreign/external allegiance? Sound about right?

If anyone can answer these questions please help put a mind to ease:

  1. Besides the funds being managed as private funds, WHO do they belong to??
  2. Does Egypt have any gold? And how much belongs to the people?
  3. WHEN was the last time the CBE was audited, if ever & by who?
  4. WHO appoints CBE Governors & Board etc?
  5. What foreign exchange reserves exist for Egypt?
  6. With the appalling state of exposed practices in money & financial markets in Egypt, WHO in the CBE is liable due to its supervisory role?
  7. Billions of Pounds were printed after Jan 25th, what became of them??

Finally, I’d just like to note that every Law & Presidential Decree mentioned on the CBE’s About Us page was during PM Ahmed ‘Nazif’s time in office… Hope that isn’t bad news : (

Links:

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Bank_of_Egypt

Official Site About Us page: http://www.cbe.org.eg/about_us.htm

Last declared budget in 2007!!!: http://www.cbe.org.eg/Balance_Sheet_as_at_June_30,_2007_EN.htm

Says total assets are 354,310,404 EGP that’s not even half of 1 Bn, but then again, what do I know? This is pretty confusing to any one & seems to be intended to do just that!

Legalese: http://www.cbe.org.eg/public/Banking_Laws/Law_88,_amendments,_13-7-2005.pdf

Also : “International reserves at the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) rose by 12.5 percent in July to $ 35.2 billion, the CBE said in its monthly statistical bulletin.

The bulletin, released Thursday 12/08/2010, said the amount covers more than eight months of merchandise imports.

The volume of domestic liquidity has grown by 7.8 percent to reach 64.8 billion pounds, the report noted. The value of commodity exports amounted to $ 17 billion, a decline of 11.9 percent, the report said.” Rest of statement can be found here.

In essence the relationship between the media & the public & the government and how to regulate and with what measure is a question that keeps coming up in time, and short of a revolutionizing of how power is defined and dealt or how facts are reported, the question will probably continue to come up in the future time and time again.

One will always find proponents to too much free speech, as well as too little.

There shall always be the one who wants to shout out something, and there shall always be someone wanting to silence another. In an honest & balanced media, both should have equal opportunity of being heard. That is a fundamental right of free speech enriching most national constitutions.

To our formula there are 3 main vectors: the public, media & the nations or governments which create the conflict and the need to cover up their tracks in the first place. A fourth vector comes into play as well called ‘pressing interests’ which is embodied by corporate, banking, trade & economic strategies for the future as the fundamental relationships that bind nations and therefore publics around the world.

It is an assumption held by most of the public, that when I pay for a media service, I am entering into a contract to keep me, as a member of the public, in the know. I assume that what the paper or network reports, is, to the best of its knowledge, as close to the truth as possible. Yet more and more the public is realizing that when they subscribe to a form of media, they are at best only subscribing to that particular media outlet’s filtration of the facts and figures into their ‘unique blend’ of a story, with the signature graphics, anchors, branding, and narrator’s voice.

And what do I as a member of the public want to be in the know about? Why the state of the world of course! In a competitive and fast-paced world I want to know, not just today’s facts I need tomorrow’s as well. I need as much a head-start as I can get. Cause in a world as fast as we live in, you can get forgotten, trampled under the feet of those evolving on time.

Knowledge is power.

Governments on the other hand, have been known to conduct their affairs in a multi-tiered system of transparency; the higher up in government you are, the more access you have to information. So there is what the public knows and then there are things that emerge only behind closed doors, behind the curtains of power, under the table. This is a concept that the public now has been conditioned to accept as the norm; that like an onion there are many layers to the story and different versions of the same story to be shared with different kinds of people. The public has even learned to accept that some stories they will ultimately never get to learn the truth of what really did happen.

Bring in the fourth vector to our equation, the weight and clout of corporations and large economic bodies- the ‘pressing interests’. These are globally-powerful entities that have contributed to elected officials’ campaigns. In many instances they may even own the media you subscribe to.

With the principle function of media being ‘keeping the public in the know’, this contract becomes corrupted when writers and the media institution’s strategy itself becomes compromised- when it’s function becomes to not keep the public in the know, that facts are reorganized, edited, concealed, while getting the public to instead buy a plausible storyline, or a new legislation or whatever an advertiser is peddling on your media’s pages. This is when the raison d’etre of respected media becomes blemished.

Much of the public in both free and totalitarian states suspects that the media has become in collusion with government in laying down the foundations for radical moves in a covert agenda that the public is not privy to. ‘Playing’ public opinion on critical matters leaves the people at the very least feeling disrespected, mistrustful & vulnerable to the devises of their presumably elected officials. The media has become more the gatekeeper to government and corporate agenda, than the intended independent freestanding observer & reporter.

Knowledge is power. Yet more of the knowledge is obscured, wresting the power from our hands.

A simple computational assumption is ‘Garbage in- Garbage out’, meaning that if erroneous values are fed into an equation, then ultimately the product of the equation will be of no real value in judging the parameters of any given situation. The more garbage the public is fed, the less true power they have in deciding their destinies, in fact robbing the populations of their natural right.

On the flipside one finds growing numbers of elitists who advocate these policies of not allowing the public to choose for itself, arguing that this is in fact to ‘protect the public from itself’, as these elitists continue to reap the rewards of their privileged positions.

The whole crisis stems for a selfish drive to not forgo gain and profit. There are those of us who want to win all the time. They never want to be liable for any decision, no matter the losses. They have instated themselves as our shadow gods and rule us and others through a covert and crafty system that they have positioned in such a way for decades if not millennia, that we now enforce it upon ourselves. For it is ourselves, sons, sisters, fathers and mothers who push the wheel, giving it momentum with every heartbeat.

The only way for you to win all the time is for you to the stack the cards all the time, no matter who is dealing, in other words solicit secret pacts that guarantee you more than your fair share, in fact stealing someone else’s dream.

The result? A giant disconnect has been instated between governments and the governed, ultimately borne of the slicing of the existing hypothetical ‘pie’ of riches and natural resources according to the needs and suggestions of the major corporations; leaving the public feeling- for the lack of a better word- betrayed, in every sector of life.

Education, transparency of statesmen, performance of media, health, insurance, pensions, civil liberties, the right to free speech, the right to peaceful assembly, or even enjoying the privacy and safety of your own home or dominion; the quality of everything has fallen to no ends. Now one has to pay dearly for what not long ago was free and taken for granted as ‘the natural order of things’ or ‘just how things are done’, until we find ourselves today stricken with panic over the possible taxation of the basic necessities of life; like drinking water, air to breathe, the coming carbon tax or cap-n-trade…

Loss of trust in the monetary system as well, and the security money provides is rapidly gaining ground, as well as loss of trust in financial institutions, dissent with Wall St. & Central banks and corporations. People see before their very eyes how they have to bite on the short end of the stick yet again, as the architects of crises, financial and otherwise, lavish in luxuries bought by the peoples’ hard earned cash in the form of tax deductions and swindles.

With technology and connectivity on the rise, and as more people deem it important to search out the truth for themselves, dedicating time and acquiring research skills, independent news sources and research conglomerates are also on the rise and gaining in popularity. No longer is the public taking what they’re being fed by corporate media without question.

The people don’t want a media that lies.. misdirects and misinforms, and rewrites history according to any well-financed whim.. We want to know what they don’t think we can handle, the people want to truly be a part of deciding their fate, their future and that of other humans a world away that know even less of the big picture than we do. Such that they don’t become, by sleight of policy, our victims, unbeknownst to the both of us, so our children don’t grow up hating each other over blood spilt.

Did the Iraq documents released on wikileaks place Americans in an unforeseen danger? Did it endanger troops on the field? The long and short term effects of risk can be argued in trying to pin blame. One thing it did attempt to do however was to share ‘hidden knowledge’ with the American public and the world, in an attempt for all of us to ‘see’ through a situation that is shrouded in secrecy or misinformation . The media and populations usually miss the whole reason why a whistleblower blows the whistle- and that is that the knowledge was weighing in on their conscience in a ‘this can’t be right’ sort of sentiment according to the morals and values they had been brought up on, thus the whistleblower brings that heaviness they witnessed into the public sphere that the public may share the weight of this hidden knowledge.

We have seen what governments, media, corporate and economic interests can produce in an ‘honor system’, where the words you speak as an oath, as a doctor, a soldier, judge, a politician, are your contract to serve and protect the people.

This is not to say that honor and those who value it have become extinct, instead, the public now has an added responsibility to step up and try and rectify a situation gone awry.

At a time when differences, fault lines between the global population are being amplified all over the world; race, faith, nations, can we not evolve past fault and blame? Can we not collectively decide to live tomorrow in a completely different way? Try something different? Than rivalry and bloodshed and giving the people something to worry about constantly?

For governments to perpetuate their current formats and methods of control may stir a confrontation with the public. A media revolution regarding the rise of the human being in value is necessary to avert international and civil unrest and clashes with security.

The people need a global charter they can believe in and learn to trust, as well a global charter for the ethics expressed in media and to combat corruption. The UN charter, the League of Nations, Brentwoods, all exemplify the selective aspects of enforcement and liability at best.

The media needs to be able to sustain that elected officials are indeed representative of the majority of the population, and in fact their efforts fall within a larger domain of international efforts of furthering the interests of man and the quality of human life.

This can occur only through the officials themselves changing their game book, such that they truly immerse themselves primarily at the service of the peoples within a nation and furthermore to the benefit of the human race.

But until such a time, it is up to us to keep trying to bring about change.

 

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“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” -George Orwell

THE ‘US’ &’THEM’ EFFECT…

 

Us Arabs have been known for our ability for self-censorship, drawing lines around freedom of expression, and excommunicating others who offer an opinion using creative license. This censorship has put boundaries aplenty on artistic creativity, and spawned the image portraying Arabs and Islam as blood-thirsty barbarians instead of the peace-driven message and name it carries. The burning of embassies, effigies, trampling of flags, and demonstrating for death,  simply feeds hatred, anger, and this false image.

 

The alternative? Toiling through a maze of rules and regulations, specifically designed to make you falter and fall, to produce a piece of artistic work that communicates usto them.

 

We refuse to engage in discussion. And this self-terrorizing limiting of thought keeps the distance between Arabs and the world perpetually growing.

The harsh reception director Omar Shargawi received at the screening of the award-winning feature film Ma Salama Jamil atCairo’s International Film Festival was one example. Mainstream film critics crucified it, even during the screening, citing absurdities such as “this is more offensive than the Danish cartoons.”

 

Ma Salama Jamil, produced by Lars Von Trier and his Danish label Zentropia, is ultimately a message of peace. It fades to black with a quote from the Qoraan; “Man qatala nafsan ka’anama qatala alnas jamee’an” He who kills one self is as though [he] has slain all of humanity.

 

“… There’s always a handful of angry audience members that remind me of the right-wing in Denmark, and there’s a bunch at every screening,” says Shargawi lightheartedly of the way he was received in the once cinema capital of the Arab world. Yet “people all over the world have expressed that 10 minutes into the movie they forget they’re watching a movie about Sunni and Shi’a. They see the struggle and raw violence that is propelled by human beings. And the need to end it.”

 

Some saw the movie as didactic, an unwelcome sermon, when we most need to reflect upon where we came from, to make sense of where we’re going. Sometimes anger is a defense mechanism to preserve the life we know, the people we were before.

 

Shargawi’s Palestinian father, who stars in the film, arrived in Denmark in the 60s and took a Danish wife, Shargawi’s mother. His great grandfather was from the Egyptian Governate of Sharqiyya and that is where he gets his last name. Born and raised inCopenhagen, on the streets that formed a new culture and language from the fusion of both Arabic and Danish. Shargawi’s movie shines a light on this hybrid culture through a murderer’s violent journey to break the cycle of revenge within himself, after a Sunni murders a Shiite in revenge for the killing of his mother.

 

Arabs arrived in Copenhagen escaping the Lebanese civil war in the 80s; “they brought their old differences with them from back home. At the end of the war everyone was fighting everyone; Sunni Shi’a Muslims, Jews, Christians … even Sunni and Sunnis.”

 

In essence we’re all the same, all religions favor doing good over bad, yet …“even though Sunni and Shi’a belong to the same religion, the civil war in Lebanon proved that when there is conflict, the little differences become very big. Even bigger so after the first drop of blood has been shed.” Housed in refugee camps/centers the fighting continued in Copenhagen and sometimes the police would barricade them, not able to get in. “No one in the European or Danish community knew what was going on. And for non-insiders it was a constant stream of bad stories about Muslims and Arabs, and it’s gotten worse. In most cases the non-Arabic publics think of “those crazy Arabs” …Islamic fanatics, terrorists or criminals. This is the mainstream idea [upheld by] the non-Muslim public [in Europe].” Truly, how will others know who we are if we do not communicate it?

 

“99% of what we’re bombarded with is crap. And it’s not only here it’s in the West as well. Reality shows following a guy losing weight for three months, putting people in a house and filming- all are superficial and all are there to divert our attention from what is really going on. …it’s easier to digest than Palestinians getting killed everyday… by Israelis… by [other] Palestinians. It’s easier to digest than Sunni and Shi’a killing each other in Iraq, in a war created by the West. Then you get angry if someone is writing a book or making a movie about it. All because we want to forget, want to pretend it doesn’t exist. …Life is not about a penthouse flat in Zamalek, but this is what is being over-exposed all the time.”

 

After 9/11, the world has also been building up a wall between itself, and between Arabs and Islam. No longer only a predominantly-Arab or communist notion, is the West too hiding behind walls of what they know, drawing lines and boundaries to mark asafe-area for a spectrum of opinions that ispolitically correct.

 

The media machine has conditioned people to a tunneled version of permissible options;“It’s becoming more and more like that inEurope, there is no longer such a thing as freedom of speech. You cannot say everything you want. Now it’s becoming criminal to say something like “I support the freedom fighters in Iraq”. This kind of talk can land you in jail.”

 

“It’s hard to present real problems in the Arab world. But I’m happy to hear of more projects in Egypt addressing real problems of society,” concludes Shargawi.

 

The constant constraints on freedom of speech have given rise to a subversive language of symbols and metaphors. Yet sooner or later this continuous restriction will inhibit the natural evolution of artistic creativity.

 

Elsewhere… “The Czech Republic is, in broad terms, a democracy.  However, many of its state institutions are still controlled by a generation of functionaries who are essentially communist in their outlook and behavior, and have merely learned to replace the word “socialism” with the word “democracy” in their rhetoric”, explains Craig Duncan who hosts an evening show on the popular Radio Wave network in Czech Republic.

 

In communist eras the classic method of censoring alternative cultures was a public denunciation of an artist as a political extremist who must be suppressed for public good, supported by deliberately out-of-context quotes.

 

On 12.9.08 Craig Duncan played the Primal Scream song “Swastika Eyes” on his show.  Primal scream is one of the most successful UK bands in the past 20 years, known for their anti-racial and anti-totalitarian themes.

 

Your soul don’t burn
You dark the sun you
Rain down fire on everyone
Scabs, police, government thieves
Venal psychic amputees

 

[The song criticizes politicians who talk loudly about democratic values while openly engaging in not-so-democratic practices. Metaphorically speaking, their words cannot conceal their “swastika eyes”.]

 

More than a month later, the Czech Radio Council, the state body responsible for radio standards accused Craig’s Radio station of “promoting fascism” … by playing “neo-fascist” group Primal Scream. “In support of this allegation they published an extremely distorted mistranslation of the lyrics to “Swastika Eyes”, rewritten to make it appear as a celebration of Nazism.”

 

The accusation fueled a large protest movement, ranging from demonstrations for the resignation of the Council, to a free concert organized on 11.11.08 by some of the country’s top alternative musicians in protest of this oppression of thought.

 

“It is deeply ironic that they chose to base their smear campaign around a song which is about specifically this type of activity – namely, totalitarian behavior by state officials who loudly claim to be “democratic”. I played the song in question and continue to play it, since angry Czech musicians keep sending us their cover versions.”



 

Egypt is falling at the seams. Anticipation of Mubarak’s death and the stress of the unknown is wearing the people, the system, the government thin. Random bizarre ‘freak’ incidents are not unheard of in these turbulent times we live.

Let us consider the options…
First of all the Head of the Peoples’ Assembly Dr.Fathi Sorour will constitutionally succeed Mr. Mubarak till the ‘next president’ takes office, be he of civilian or military background. Of the likely and unlikely candidates, these are my personal favorite scenarios- if out of nothing else, then for the ‘patient nature’ ofc the peoples of Egypt
1. Gamal Mubarak: The son furthers a career of investments- In my opinion Gamal is a great candidate to succeed his father in a progressive move to continue Egypt’s pro-dictate policy. Having grow up in a household privy to the intricacies of the ongoings of policy-making is a distinct advantage. If he should choose to be a good guy no one would be able to pull more off for Egypt.
2. Omar Soleiman: Ghost acquires a body- The mystery miracle-worker, head of secret service and harbinger of peace between warring factions amongst the descendants of Abraham, Omar Soleiman is the perfect candidate for furthering the interests of corporate interests, especially American, in the region.
3. Amr Moussa: Folk hero dethroned- To this day Amr Moussa holds value in the hearts of Egyptians if not Arabs in general. His extradition to handle the ‘honorary’ hem of the Arab League has done more to hurt his illustrious career and exemplary stands than Shaaban’s song. 
The possibility of an unknown Army general or influential ‘middleman’ gaining power is also at hand, though its prospects would be harder to sell to the Egyptian people- who are ‘patient in nature’, but not stupid. And still in the end the saying goes ‘Anything is possible in Egypt’.
zzz
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Everyday People:

Lara Baladi, Image collector & Mixed-Media Artist

 

 

Lara Baladi was born in Lebanon to a Lebanese family that had lived in Egypt to witness the first days of the revolution before returning to Lebanon where Lara was born. The family then returned to Egypt with the start of the civil war. They then chose to go to France where they lived. Lara took leave to study in London then returned to Paris with her newfound love for photography and art. But it would be years later in Cairo, the city where she lives, that she would have one of her first significant exhibitions. The third in the fresh history of the townhouse gallery of contemporary art, ‘4 women’ would showcase the works of 4 artists living in Cairo; Huda Lutfi, Sabah Naeem, Dina Ghareeb and Lara Baladi.

 

 

 

What about photography drew you to take it up as a profession?

 

What first attracted me to photography was the way things or situations cold be fascinating but when photographed, they became flat. The challenge then was how to keep in the photograph, and even go beyond it, that thing which was fascinating about life.

 

Why the big collages?

 

I moved to a different kind of practice due to the lack of technical possibilities in Cairo, which led me to make all these big collages; big pieces that use a multitude of images rather than enlarge an image and work on perfecting the technique.

 

Photography is a powerful tool of expression, how can one maximize the resonance of the image within the audience?

 

Photography holds many different possibilities, and different people work at a different pace. The results depend on the practice and the person. Some people are obsessive, spontaneous or conceptual, stage images, etc. It is a very personal choice and a continuous process. By continuously working, one’s work, language continuously evolves and deepens.

 

The work itself reveals its limits and opens new creative doors. Inside existing works, the seeds for the next works are already present. In the end, all the works are related in the same kind of way Russian dolls are contained in one another. What matters is to continue the search, to ‘peel the onion’.

 

When you work away from commercial constraints and more towards Art you have much more space and freedom to elaborate a discourse. Usually these works are more personal, more reflective, more conceptual and also manage to keep all these personal qualities one puts in the process without losing integrity along the way.

 

If art is a language.. What dialects are not spoken in Egypt?

 

In Egypt, press articles about artists and art exhibitions are rarely able to look at art productions from a larger perspective and to contextualize them within the larger International Art world.

There is a fairly big community of artists in Egypt but there is no criticism of art, no discourse around art or very little. People who produce art in Egypt often need to exhibit in other countries before their work is noticed or analyzed in a professional way.

 

What else does the cultural scene in Egypt lack?

 

Freedom obviously. The essential element: freedom of expression. There is a very clear impossibility to do certain works or talk about certain subjects here.  A lot of my works which were and still are influenced by this environment, talk about certain subjects in metaphorical ways or ways that are not confrontational. Having to always work in those limitations and managing to get your point across can be challenging but on the long run very limiting and oppressive. It unfortunately tends to push creative forces outside the country instead.

 

Interests in artists?

 

Less and less I am interested in seeing one piece of work. I am more interested in seeing the continuity of the work in one artist’s life and understanding how that work falls into their own process of research. It’s almost like a chemical laboratory where the chemist will make his experiments until he finds a formula. I think artists work in that way in the sense that they take elements from their environment, their knowledge, their experiences and they transform them into something else, into work of art.

 

Latest project?

 

The last work I did was a commission for Images of the Middle East in Denmark. It was 20 projections on 20 screens along one kilometer of sea shore. It was something I was working on in the summer when the war started in Lebanon. I shifted a little in terms of the direction I was working on. I was obsessed like most of us with the news, following the course of the events and the number of deaths increasing everyday.

The images I used were the accumulation of icons from the West to the Middle East, from Christianity, Hinduism to Islam, from consumerism to Art, from past to present.  They were ‘unfolding’ like a sketch book, notes and metaphors across the sea, looking back at September 2001 to the world we live in today -in appearance simplistic (the global effect) but in reality extremely complex.

 

The popular appealing surface of the images was a way for the viewer into something entertaining. Yet, underneath that familiar surface, questions were raised and at times unsettling.

 

 

Heroes ?

 

Everybody and nobody. I think there are heroes everywhere in our daily lives.  We can all be heroes in our own life depending on the way we manage life challenges.

 

 

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