Monday, January 12, 2015

The mentality of إشمعنى أنا

The mentality of modern Egyptian society can be summed up in one conveniently escapist and all-encompassing word:  إشمعنى.

  • إشمعنى I have to stand in line, if no one else does? 
  • إشمعنى I should pay taxes, if no one else does? 
  • إشمعنى I should allow the ambulance to pass me, if no one else does? 
  • إشمعنى I should work my way up the ladder instead of using a wasta, if no one else does? 
  • إشمعنى I should hold on to my used tissue and dispose of it in a garbage bin five meters away instead of just tossing it out the window, if no one else does?
  • إشمعنى I should be told not to blow my cigarette smoke straight into your face, if everyone else does?
  • إشمعنى I should accept criticism of our pristine courts, if O.J. Simpson was found not guilty?
  • إشمعنى I should listen to lectures on democracy, if President Bush was elected by hanging chads?
  • إشمعنى I should care if our police officers kill one or two or a thousand protesters, if it happens in Ferguson and New York City?
  • إشمعنى I should sympathize with the death of a few Europeans at the hands of terrorists, if Europeans (and we, but let's not digress) don't sympathize with the thousands killed by terrorists here?
  • إشمعنى I should tolerate any criticism of my religious tenants, if the Crusaders also abused Christian teachings in the Middle Ages? 
  • إشمعنى I should bear any personal or societal responsibility for anything at all?   
إشمعنى أنا يعني؟

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ahly, Zamalek and Everything That is Wrong with Egypt

A few years ago, Ahly fans starting taking signs to the stadium -- back when spectators were actually allowed to attend matches -- professing that "Ahly is Egypt". This slogan was added to the even more ambitious declaration of Ahly as the global "Club of the Century". But if batal el qarn is a laughable proclamation, in many ways Ahly indeed is Egypt. 

Ahly is an Egypt that is corrupt, arrogant and classless. It is an Egypt that thrives on domestic trickery, and that is an utter failure when tested outside its controlled local and regional environment. It is an Egypt that churns out tacky and shallow illusions of grandeur. It is an Egypt that is not just. Ahly is an Egypt of quantity and no quality.