Friday, August 24, 2012

On Scholars

As I lay asleep, a sheep ate of the ivy wreath on my brow—ate and said, “Zarathustra is no longer a scholar.” Said it and strutted away proudly. A child told it to me.

I like to lie here where the children play, beside the broken wall, among thistles and red poppies. I am still a scholar to the children, and also to the thistles and red poppies. They are innocent even in their malice. But to the sheep I am no longer a scholar; thus my lot decrees it—bless it!

For this is the truth: I have moved from the house of the scholars and I even banged the door behind me. My soul sat hungry at their table too long; I am not, like them, trained to pursue knowledge as if it were nut-cracking. I love freedom and the air over the fresh earth; rather would I sleep in ox hides than on their decorums and respectabilities.

I am too hot and burned by my own thoughts; often it nearly takes my breath away. Then I must go out into the open and away from all dusty rooms. But they sit cool in the cool shade: in everything they want to be mere spectators, and they beware of sitting where the sun burns on the steps. Like those who stand in the street and gape at the people who pass by, they too wait and gape at thoughts that others have thought.

If you seize them by your hands they raise a cloud of dust like flour bags, involuntarily; but who could guess that their dust comes from grain and from the yellow delight of summer fields? When they pose as wise, their little epigrams and truths chill me: their wisdom often has an odor as if it came from the swamps; and verily, I have also heard frogs croak out of it. They are skillful and have clever fingers: why would my simplicity want to be near their multiplicity? All threading and knotting and weaving their fingers understand: thus they knit the socks of the spirit.

They are good clockworks; but take care to wind them correctly! Then they indicate the hour without fail and make a modest noise. They work like mills and like stamps: throw down your seed-corn to them and they will know how to grind it small and reduce it to white dust.

They watch each other closely and mistrustfully. Inventive in petty cleverness, they wait for those whose knowledge walks on lame feet: like spiders they wait. I have always seen them carefully preparing poison; and they always put on gloves of glass to do it. They also know how to play with loaded dice; and I have seen them play so eagerly that they sweated.

We are alien to each other, and their virtues are even more distasteful to me than their falseness and their loaded dice. And when I lived with them, I lived above them. That is why they developed a grudge against me. They did not want to hear how someone was living over their heads; and so they put wood and earth and filth between me and their heads. Thus they muffled the sound of my steps: and so far I have been heard least well by the most scholarly. Between themselves and me they laid all human faults and weaknesses: “false ceilings” they call them in their houses. And yet I live over their heads with my thoughts; and even if I wanted to walk upon my own mistakes, I would still be over their heads.

For men are not equal: thus speaks justice. And what I want, they would have no right to want!

Thus spoke Zarathustra.

- Nietzsche 

Saturday, May 31, 2008

ميمون يستأذن فى الإنصراف

.. ولكن ميمون يرد هنا فى زمن آخر, وبإسم آخر هو الكاتب الكبير كارمازينوف
... بقلم الكاتب الروسى الوضيع دوستويفسكى

There was a feeling in the hall that something had gone wrong again. Let me say once and for all: I have the greatest admiration for genius, but why do our men of genius at the end of their illustrious careers sometimes behave exactly like little boys? What did it matter if he was Karmazinov and strode on to the platform looking like five Court chamberlains rolled into one? Is it possible to hold the attention of an audience like ours for a whole hour with one paper? In my experience even a super genius could not possibly hope to keep the attention of an audience at a light literary reading for more than twenty minutes with impunity. It is true, the entrance of the great literary genius was received with the utmost respect: even the most severe old gentlemen showed signs of approval and interest, and the ladies even displayed some enthusiasm. The applause, however, did not last long, and it was somehow not unanimous, but ragged. But there was not a single interruption from the back rows up to the very moment when Mr Karmazinov began to speak, and even then nothing particularly bad happened, but just a little misunderstanding. I have mentioned already the fact that he had a rather shrill voice, a somewhat feminine voice even, and, to boot, the affected lisp of a born gentleman. No sooner had he uttered a few words than someone permitted himself a loud laugh, no doubt some stupid little fool who had never come across a real gentleman and who was, besides, a bit of a wag. But there was no question of any hostile demonstration: on the contrary, the fool was hissed down, and he effaced himself completely. But Mr Karmazinov went on to declare, in his affected manner and in mincing tones, that 'at first he would not agree to read' (as though it was really necessary to say that!). 'There are,' he said, 'some things which come so straight from the heart that one hesitates to utter them aloud, so that so sacred a thing cannot be exposed to the public gaze' (so why on earth expose them?); but as he had been asked so much, he was going to expose it, and as, moreover, he was laying down his pen for good and had vowed never to write anything again, he had written this last thing of his; and as he had vowed 'never, not for anything in the world, to read anything in public', and so on and so forth, all in the same vein.

But all that would not have mattered, for who does not know what an author's introduction is like? Though I must say that taking the ignorance of our public and the irritability of the back rows into consideration, all this may have had an influence. Would it not have been much better to have read some little story, one of those very short stories he used to write in the past – that is, a story which, though it was highly polished and affected, was sometimes witty? That would have saved the situation. But no! Not a bit of it! Instead he read us a whole edifying oration! Dear me, what wasn't there in it? I can positively say that it would have reduced even a Petersburg audience to a state of stupor, let alone ours. Imagine over thirty printed pages of the most pretentious and useless chatter; and, besides, this gentleman read it in a sort of mournfully condescending tone of voice, as though he were doing us a favour, so that it sounded rather like an insult to our public. The subject ... But who could make it out – that subject of his? It was a sort of account of certain impressions and reminiscences. But of what? And about what? However much we knit our provincial brows during the first half of the reading, we could not make head or tail of it, and we listened to the second part simply out of politeness. It is true, there was a lot of talk about love – the love of the genius for some lady – but, I confess, it produced rather an awkward impression on the audience. For the great genius to tell us about his first kiss, seemed to my mind somehow inconsistent with his short, fat little figure....And, again, it was a pity that those kisses were somehow different from the kisses of ordinary mortals. There were always some gorse-bushes about (it had to be gorse or some other plant which has to looked up in a botanical dictionary). And there had to be some violet tint in the sky, such as no mortal, of course, had ever observed, or if he had seen it, he would not have taken any notice of it; but, you see, 'I jolly well did see it, and now I'm describing it to damn fools like you as if it were the most ordinary thing.' The tree under which the fascinating couple sat had naturally to be of an orange colour. They were sitting somewhere in Germany. Suddenly they behold Pompey or Cassius on the eve of the battle, and a chill of rapture runs down their backs. Some water-nymph starts squeaking in the bushes. Gluck plays a fiddle in the rushes. The title of the piece he was playing was given in full, but no one seemed to have heard of it, so that it would have to be looked up in a musical dictionary. Meanwhile a mist arises, which is more like a million pillows than a mist. And suddenly everything vanishes, and the great genius is crossing the Volga in winter in a thaw. Two and a half pages of the crossing, but he still manages to fall through a hole in the ice. The genius is drowning – did he get drowned, you think? Good Lord, no! All this is merely dragged in to show that when he was already on the point of drowning and yielding up the ghost, he caught sight of a little ice-floe, a tiny little ice-floe the size of a pea, but pure and transparent 'like a frozen tear', and in that ice-floe the whole of Germany was reflected, or, to be more precise, the sky of Germany, and by its iridescent glitter recalled to his mind the very same tear, which 'you remember rolled down from your eyes when we sat beneath the emerald tree and you cried joyfully, "There is no crime!" "No," I said, through my tears, "but if that is so, there are no saints, either." We burst into sobs and parted for ever.' She went off somewhere to the sea-coast, and he to some caves; and then he descends and descends for three years in Moscow beneath the Sukharev Tower, and suddenly in the very bowels of the earth, in a cave, he finds a lamp burning before an icon, and before the lamp – a hermit. The hermit is saying his prayers. The genius puts his face close to the bars of a tiny window and suddenly hears a sigh. You think it was the hermit who sighed? What does he care about your hermit! No, this sigh simply reminds him of her first sigh, thirty-seven years ago, when 'do you remember how we sat beneath an agate tree in Germany and you said to me, "Why love? Look, ruddle is growing all round, and I am in love, but when the ruddle ceases to grow, I shall fall out of love." Here a mist rises again, Hoffman appears, the water-nymph whistles a tune from Chopin, and suddenly out of the mist Ancus Marcius appears over the roofs of Rome, wearing a laurel wreath. A shiver of rapture ran down our backs and we parted for ever,' and so on and so forth. In a word, I may not be reporting it correctly and, indeed, I may not even know how to report it, but the burden of the chatter was something of that sort. And, really, how disgraceful is this passion of great intellects for abstruse epigrams! The great European philosopher, the great scholar, the inventor, the toiler, the martyr – all these who labour and are heavy laden are to our great Russian genius just like so many cooks in his kitchen. He is the master, and they come to him with their tall chef hats in their hands and wait for his orders. It is true, he sneers contemptuously at Russia, too, and he likes nothing better than to proclaim the bankruptcy of Russia in every respect before the great intellects of Europe, but so far as he himself is concerned – no, sir! – he has risen higher than the great intellects of Europe; they all are merely material for his epigrams. He takes someone else's idea, tacks its antithesis on to it, and the epigram is ready. There is such a thing as crime, there are no such things as secrets; there is no truth, there are no such men as searchers for truth; atheism, Darwinism, Moscow church-bells. ... But, alas, he no longer believes in the Moscow church-bells; Rome, laurels. ... But he doesn't believe in laurels. ... Here you get a conventional attack of Byronic spleen, a grimace from Heine, something of Pechorin – and off he goes full steam ahead, with his engine emitting a shrill whistle. .. 'But do praise me, do praise me, for I like it awfully; I'm only just saying that I'm laying down my pen; you wait, I'm going to bore you three hundred times more, you'll get tired of reading me. ...'

Of course, it did not go off so well. But the trouble was that it was his own fault. People had for some time been shuffling their feet, blowing their noses, coughing, and doing everything people do when a writer, whoever he may be, keeps an audience for more than twenty minutes at a literary reading. But the genius noticed nothing of all this. He went on lisping and mumbling, without paying any attention to the audience, so that everybody began to look bewildered. And then suddenly a solitary voice in the back rows exclaimed loudly:

'Lord, what nonsense!'

The interjection was quite involuntary and, I am sure, there was no question of any demonstration. The man was simply worn out. But Mr Karmazinov stopped, looked ironically at the audience, and suddenly said in his highly affected voice and with the dignified air of a Court chamberlain whose feelings had been badly hurt:

'I'm afraid, ladies and gentlemen, I have been boring you awfully, haven't I?'

His mistake, of course, was that he was the first to speak; for by provoking a reply in this way, he presented every ruffian with the opportunity of having his say, too, and quite legitimately, so to speak, while if he had controlled himself, they would have gone on blowing their noses, and it would have passed off somehow. Perhaps he expected applause in reply to his question; but there was no applause; on the contrary, they all seemed to shrink within themselves, to get frightened and fall silent.

'You never saw Ancus Marcius; it's just your way of writing,' an irritated and apparently even hysterical voice cried suddenly.

'That's right,' another voice echoed at once. 'There aren't any ghosts nowadays, only natural phenomena. Look it up in a book on natural sciences.'

'Ladies and gentlemen, I expected such objections least of all,' Karmazinov said, looking terribly surprised. The great genius had completely lost touch with his native country in Karlsruhe.

'In our age it is shameful to say that the world stands on three fishes,' a young girl suddenly burst out. 'You could not possibly have gone down to the hermit's cave, Karmazinov. And, besides, who talks of hermits nowadays?'

'Ladies and gentlemen, what surprises me most of all is that you take it all so seriously. However – however, you're absolutely right. No one respects truth and realism more than I do.'

Although he was smiling ironically, he was greatly startled. His face seemed to say: 'But I'm not at all the sort of person you take me for. Why, I'm on your side; only, please, praise me, praise me more, praise me as much as possible, I like it awfully. ...'

'Ladies and gentlemen,' he cried at last, stung to the quick, 'I can see that my poor poem is out of place here. And I am rather out of place here myself, I’m afraid.'

'You aimed at a crow and hit a cow,' some fool shouted at the top of his voice. He must have been drunk, and, of course, no notice should have been taken of him. It is true, though, that his words evoked some disrespectful laughter.

'A cow, you say?' Karmazinov echoed at once, his voice growing shriller and shriller. 'I'm afraid, ladies and gentlemen, I'd better say nothing about crows and cows. I've too great a respect for any audience to permit myself any comparisons, however innocent. But I thought –'

'If I were you sir, I'd be more careful,' someone from the back rows shouted.

'But I imagined that, as I was laying down my pen and taking leave of my readers, I'd be given a fair hearing.'

'Yes, yes, we want to hear, we want to hear,' a few voices at last plucked up courage to cry from the first row.

'Read! Read!' a few ecstatic female voices echoed the cry, and, at last, there was some applause, thin and feeble, it is true.

Karmazinov smiled wrily and got up from his chair.

'Believe me, Karmazinov, everybody thinks it an honour –' even the Marshal's wife could not refrain from saying.

'Mr Karmazinov,' cried a fresh young voice from the back of the hall suddenly. It was the voice of a very young teacher from the district school, an excellent young man, quiet and honourable, who had only recently come to our town. 'Mr Karmazinov, if I were so lucky as to fall in love as you've described to us, I should never have put my love in a story intended for public reading.'

He even blushed to the roots of his hair.

'Ladies and gentlemen,' Karmazinov cried, 'I have finished. I will leave the end out and go. But let me read the last six lines:

'"Yes, dear reader, farewell!'" he began at once to read from the manuscript without resuming his seat. '"Farewell, reader; I don't even insist on our parting friends: why, indeed, should I trouble you? You may even abuse me. Oh, abuse me as much as you like, if that gives you any pleasure. But much better if we forget each other for ever. And if all of you, readers, were suddenly so kind as to go down on your knees and begin begging me with tears: 'Write, oh, write for us Karmazinov – for the sake of your country, for the sake of posterity, for the sake of laurel wreaths,' I'd reply to you, after thanking you, of course, very courteously, 'No, my dear fellow-countrymen, we've had quite enough of one another, merci! It is time we went our several ways! Merci, merci, merci!'"'

Karmazinov bowed ceremoniously and blushed red, as though he had been cooked, and was about to go off behind the scenes.

'No one is going down on their knees – what ridiculous nonsense!'

'Conceited, isn't he?'

'It's only his humour,' someone more sensible corrected.

'May the Lord save me from your humour.'

'But, really, it's damned cheek, ladies and gentlemen.'

'Thank goodness he's finished.'

'Dear me, what a dull programme!'

But all these ignorant exclamations in the back rows (not only in the back rows, incidentally) were drowned in the applause from the other section of the audience. There were calls for Karmazinov. A number of ladies, headed by Mrs Lembke and the Marshal's wife, crowded round the platform. In Mrs Lembke's hands was a gorgeous laurel wreath, on a white velvet cushion, surrounding another wreath of roses.

'Laurels!' said Karmazinov with a faint and somewhat caustic smile. 'I'm touched, of course, and I accept this wreath which has been prepared beforehand and which has not yet had time to wither, with deep emotion; but I assure you, my dear ladies, that I have suddenly become so great a realist that I think laurels are in this age more appropriate in the hands of a skilful cook than in mine.'

'Yes, a cook is more useful,' the divinity student who had been at the 'meeting' in Virginsky's house cried.

There was some disorder. In many rows people jumped up to watch the presentation of the laurel wreath.

'I'd give another three roubles for a cook this instant,' another voice echoed loudly – too loudly, indeed: so loudly as to be insistent.

'Me, too.'

'Me, too.'

'Is there really no buffet here?'

'Why, this is simply a swindle!'

However, it must be admitted that these unruly fellows were still very much afraid of our high officials and the police inspector who was present in the hall. Ten minutes later they all, somehow or other, resumed their seats, but there was not the same good order as before. And it was this seething chaos that poor Mr Verkhovensky had to face.

... مِرسى, مِرسى

Like little children before a great genius;
...Magdi is almost eating out of his hands!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Judges troupe strikes again

I have written before about how funny I've been finding the press-related behaviour of the universal judges troupe, from their lecturing Arab leaders on how they should be acquiring nuclear technology, to their opposition to the instatement of women judges; from judge el-Khodeiri, former head of the Alexandria judges' club, asking the religious institution of el-Azhar for a fatwa to bind a legal ban of gas sales to Israel, to judge Abdelaziz sparing moments of his valuable time to sue the minister of justice for state-sponsored trips of senior justices to if all that weren't enough already, the funniest of late was judge Bastawisi now getting himself in a row at a legal conference with international gay-rights activists:

دفعت آراء المستشار هشام البسطويسي، نائب رئيس محكمة النقض، الرافضة منح الحريات الشخصية لـ«المثليين» في مصر، بعض المشاركين في ورشة عمل أمس حول: «حرية واستقلال المنظمات غير الحكومية في مصر» إلي الانسحاب، خصوصًا ما اعتبره بهي الدين حسن، مدير مركز القاهرة لدراسات حقوق الإنسان «غير لائق».

بدأت الأزمة عندما عرض البسطويسي مسودة مشروع قانون بشأن الجمعيات والمؤسسات الخاصة في الورشة، التي عقدتها الشبكة الأورومتوسطية لحقوق الإنسان بالتعاون مع مركز القاهرة لدراسات حقوق الإنسان، مساء أمس الأول، طالب عثمان أشكي، الناشط التركي، بإلغاء مادة تنص علي أنه لا يجوز أن يكون غرض الجمعية متعارضًا مع الدستور أو منافيا للنظام العام أو الآداب.

قال اشكي: إن استخدام مصطلح الآداب في تركيا تسبب في إغلاق بعض المنظمات التي تدافع عن حقوق المثليين.

وقال البسطويسي «أنا احترم آراء وأفكار الآخرين، ولكن عليهم أن يحترموا آرائي ولا يصادروها، وإذا كنت أرفض فكرة المثليين الآن، فمن الجائز بعد ١٠ سنوات أن أغير رأيي».

But why does judge Bastawisi let this personal position of his, which is perfectly understandable, and even logical, get in the way of the enactment of the non-personal and higher ideals of blind justice? Is it because he fancies himself as a political leader who may lose popularity among the masses if he would rule otherwise, by any chance?...

وتابع البسطويسي: «في مصر لنا سقف يضعه الشعب وعندما أدعو إلي جمعيات لحقوق المثليين فسوف يرفض المجتمع المصري هذه الدعوة».

Two activists walked out in protest, but he showed them...

وتدخلت آن لوران، ناشطة من السويد، لتعبر عن إحباطها الشديد، متهمة البسطويسي بأنه علي علاقة بمسؤولين بالحكومة، ورد البسطويسي، «الاختلاف بين الثقافات لابد أن يؤدي إلي مثل هذه المواقف».

وقال لها: المثلي في نظر المجتمع المصري شخص مريض يحتاج لعلاج، أو منحرف يحتاج إلي عقاب.

وأضاف: حتي العلاقة بين الجنسين ينظر إليها نظرة مختلفة لأسباب دينية وتاريخية غير التي ترونها في الغرب، مشيرًا إلي أنه يتم التعامل مع بعض الأشخاص المثليين في دول الخليج، علي سبيل المثال، بشكل شديد القسوة، بل ويصل الأمر إلي قتلهم سرًا.

وقبل أن ينهي البسطويسي شرحه لموقفه، انسحب أحد المشاركين ويدعي بانايوتي ديمترس، ناشط من اليونان، وتبعته لوران وسط صمت وذهول من المشاركين.

Finally an Egyptian activist had to intercede to salvage the conference from the fiasco that had just happened, pointing out that the debate was a non-issue to begin with.

وتدخل طارق خاطر، ناشط حقوقي مصري، وقال إن هناك سوء فهم والتباسًا عند المعترضين، مشيرًا إلي أن المبادرة المصرية للحقوق الشخصية، تتولي الدفاع عن هؤلاء الأشخاص، الذين يتم اتهامهم في القضايا المتعلقة بالمثليين والقانون المصري لم يجرم الجرائم المثلية.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

الناس لسه بخير

كنت آعد كده فى حتة شعبية على دكّة, وقصادى قاعدة ست مليانة شوية ومنقبة على دكّة. أنا وهى والناس اللى عالدكك حوالينا كلنا مستنظرين أيها شيئ ... آعدة هى وجمبها ست قريبتها على يمينها, وواحدة تانية صاحبتها على شمالها.. وماسكة فى إيديها بتمرجح إبنها الرضيع؛ واد مكلبظ كدا وهادى أوى و جميل..عمال بيضحكلى هو وأمه من تحت النقاب .... مافيش تلت ساعة عدت والولية راحت فاجئة واخدة
...!الواد تحت ملايتها وإبتدت عينى عينك كده ترضّعه

المعروف إن الفلاحين عندنا طول عمرهم بيرضّعوا ولادهم فى أى حتة عامة من غير أى عيب أو كسوف ... واللى عايز أقوله هنا إن تحت الحجاب والنقاب وكل الهباب
.اللى الناس بقت تلبسه اليومين دول .. الناس لسه بخير

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You've gotta love Aljazeera's bosses

They are good at what they do...

...and blame AJ loyalists for being fools.

* el-Masry el-Yom.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pigs are flying...

The first segment of this post is supposed to be my comment on Amnesiac's post on the 6th of April strike...

"Protest against Oppression & Corruption

Tomorrow's peaceful strike, Sunday April 6, 2008

Cairo, April 5 2008,

No Work
No University
No School
No Selling

We need Just Judiciary
We need Enough Salaries
We need Work
We need Education for our Children"

The first two paragraphs of the pamphlet above sound silly: No work? So don't go to work. We need education? So don't go to school. And as for the judiciary demands, you know (or I feel so) they are being pushed in support of a faction that has shown itself to be political and demagogic, rather than one more willing to work quietly behind the scenes for the same just demands, which I'm not so sure is an entirely good thing.

The demands above may not make sense if you merely look at them from the onset, but only if you ponder on them from a deep metaphysical sense. Is it a good idea to send a message across? Perhaps. But as a working formula? I haven't figured that out yet..

And excuse my own cynicism here, but my deepest mistrust of this strike comes from the organizers behind it who have sufficiently demonstrated their sympathies with the poorest of Egyptians ("the pigs") when they were attacked at the border last January. One moment they are halal bacon, and the next martyrs of the evil regime.

It sounds like political expedience to me.

And speaking of expedience, I guess this is what happens when such an undefined strike spirals out of control. What happened here? I thought it was supposed to be peaceful. And as Con says to your post above, the food inflation is related to – besides our uncovered local bread smuggling corruption, and disastrous agricultural mismanagement – a global chain of events that is not entirely in any single government's hands. So back to expedience, I would understand if the strike organizers knowingly use it to play on the real economic suffering of the Mahalla workers and residents, but worried if they believe in their own scenario.

I like what this paper salesman said of the strike over here:

"Al-Ahram newspaper says that some prices have decreased by 20 percent. The strike is good if it has a positive effect. It is like a candle, it can either light up a room or else it can start a fire and burn down a building. One needs to be careful."

Here's to hoping for a future opposition that is more Egypt-focused, and more interested in lighting up the room than burning down the torch.

(Sorry for the delayed dosage of 'negativity', but I felt I had to say it. Here are some more economic points that I suppose one should think about.)

And I guess Mahmoud Amin El-Alem didn't "have Alzheimer's" after all...

All that said and done, maybe the wake up call to the government's mismanagement and corruption is a good thing, but I hope it remains at that...

* * *

And then I achieved enlightenment.

I was unable to get any proper sleep during the last few nights as I was upset at what is going on in Mahalla – not only at the clashes taking place, the casualties and the vandalism, and not at the government's own writers' one-sided takes in their commentaries – we know all that already...but something else irked at me which I understood vaguely, but wasn't quite crystallized until the end. The opposition's own take on the matter which painted the Mahalla clashes as quite a spontaneous thing; from Aljazeera's jumping on headlines of "food protests," to hearing new ones of "the Mahalla intifada," to opposition activists ignoring independent reports that the Mahalla workers did not partake in the riots, and residents expressing suspicion of those who did (in such cases el-Masry el-Yom is quickly relabeled to el-Mokhber el-Yom – for the duration of coverage of that small story alone, then it is once again quoted by them as el-Masry el-Yom). Yes they were food protests by frustrated youths, whomever they are – it doesn’t really matter - but not quite the intended spontaneous protests of the Mahalla workers that was supposed to be – a fact that was left quite naked in the open to any observer the moment the workers resigned their task, and all was thought to be over when suddenly a mass of how many thousand youths appeared to carry on the cancelled show.

So it was one more sleepless night...I re-read Amin el-Alem's interviews in el-Masry el-Yom, which proceeded to bring on him a possibly irrevocable reputation of mental damage...then awake, longer, I was reminiscing through my earlier blog posts when I stumbled on this quote from Wagih Ghali's novel Beer in the Snooker Club, which I had called Convenience over Truth:

We all drank beer in pints. Edna had already explained that if I were offered a beer in England, I must buy a round later on. I enjoyed carrying the glasses to the bar and saying:

'Four pints of bitter, please.'

'Brenda,' I asked, 'are you really a member of the Communist party?'

'Really?' she smiled. 'Yes, I am. I have been since I was fifteen.'

'What do you think of Nasser?'

'Here's to Nasser,' she said and drank her beer.'

And yet,' I said, 'how can you drink to the health of someone who imprisons communists?'

She didn't hesitate: 'I drink to anyone who deals imperialism a blow.'

'That's typical! That's why I left the Party. Harry Pollit tells you to support Nasser, so you do.'

'John dear, I know precisely why you left the Party.' She possessed a type of calm reminiscent of Edna.'

I gave the correct reason for leaving the Party.'

'Correct, but not true.'

'Ha! You make a difference between correct and true? Exactly why I left the Party. The ''correct'' tactics and propaganda had nothing to do with the truth.'

The jury is out on the justice of a lofty-goaled revolution that is based on lies and belittlement of people's minds from the start...

But feel free to shoo me back to my crackpipe...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Introduction (post mortem)

Did you know that a certain Mr. Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky had a blog? He did I tell you; and this is how he introduced it...

On the twentieth of December I learned that everything had been settled and that I was the editor of The Citizen. This extraordinary event—extraordinary for me at least (I don’t wish to offend anyone)—came about in a rather simple fashion, however. On the twentieth of December I had just read in the Moscow News the account of the wedding of the Chinese emperor; it left a strong impression on me. This magnificent and, apparently, extremely complex event also came about in a remarkably simple fashion: every last detail of the affair had been provided for and decreed a thousand years ago in nearly two hundred volumes of ceremonial. Comparing the enormity of the events in China with my own appointment as editor, I felt a sudden sense of ingratitude to our Russian practices, despite the ease with which my appointment had been confirmed. And I thought that we, that is, Prince Meshchersky and I, would have found it incomparably more advantageous to publish The Citizen in China. Everything is so clear over there….On the appointed day we both would have presented ourselves at China’s Main Administration for Press Affairs. After kowtowing and licking the floor, we would rise, raise our index fingers, and respectfully bow our heads. The Plenipotentiary-in-Chief for Press Affairs would, of course, pretend to take no more notice of us than he would of an errant fly. But the Third Assistant to the Third Secretary would rise, holding the warrant of my appointment as editor, and would pronounce in an impressive but gentle voice the admonition prescribed by the ceremonial. It would be so clear and so comprehensible that we both would be immensely pleased to hear it. Were I in China and were I stupid and honest enough, when taking on the editorship and acknowledging my own limited abilities, to experience fear and pangs of conscience, someone would at once prove to me that I was doubly stupid to entertain such feelings and that from that very moment I would have no need of intelligence at all, assuming I had had any in the first place; on the contrary, it would be far better if I had none at all. And without a doubt, this would be a most pleasant thing to hear. Concluding with the fine words: “Go thou, Editor; henceforth thou mayest eat rice and drink tea with thy conscience newly set at rest,” the Third Assistant to the Third Secretary would hand me a beautiful warrant printed in gold letters on red silk. Prince Meshchersky would pass over a substantial bribe, and the two of us would go home and immediately put out such a magnificent edition of The Citizen as we could never publish here. In China we would put out an excellent publication.

I suspect, however, that in China Prince Meshchersky would certainly have tricked me by inviting me to be editor; he would have done it mainly so that I could stand in for him at the Main Administration of Press Affairs whenever he was summoned to have his heels beaten with bamboo sticks. But I would outsmart him: I would at once stop publication of Bismarck and would myself commence writing articles so excellent that I would be summoned to the bamboo sticks only after every other issue. I would learn to write, however.

I would be an excellent writer in China; here, that sort of thing is much more difficult. There, everything has been anticipated and planned for a thousand years ahead, while here everything is topsy-turvy for a thousand years. There I would have no choice but to write clearly. So that I’m not sure who would read me. Here, if you want people to read you it’s better to write so that no one understands. Only in the Moscow News do they write column-and-a-half editorials and—to my astonishment—they are written clearly, even if they are the products of a well-known pen. In The Voice such editorials go on for eight, ten, twelve, and even thirteen columns. And so you see how many columns you must use up in order to win respect.

In Russia, talking to other people is a science; at first glance, at least, it seems just the same as in China. Here, as there, there are a few very simplified and purely scientific techniques. Formerly, for instance, the words “I don’t understand a thing” meant only that the person who uttered them was ignorant; now they bring great honor. One need only say, proudly and with a frank air, “I don’t understand religion; I don’t understand anything about Russia; I don’t understand anything about art,” and immediately you place yourself above the crowd. And it’s especially good if you really don’t understand anything.

But this simplified technique proves nothing. In essence, each one of us in Russia, without thinking much about it, suspects that everyone else is ignorant and never asks, conversely, “What if I’m the one who’s ignorant, in fact?” It’s a situation that ought to please us all, and yet no one is pleased and everyone gets angry. Indeed, sober thought in our time is all but impossible: it costs too much. It is true that people buy ready-made ideas. They are sold everywhere, and even given away; but the ones that come free of charge prove to be even more expensive, and people are already beginning to realize that. The result is benefit to none and the same old disorder.

We are, if you like, the same as China, but without her sense of order. We are barely beginning the process that is already coming to an end in China. No doubt we will reach that same end, but when? In order to get a thousand volumes of ceremonial so as at last to win the right not to think deeply about anything, we must experience at least another thousand years of sober thought. And there you have it—no one wants to hasten this term because no one wants to think.

Something else that is true: if no one wants to think, then, it would seem, so much the easier for the Russian writer. Indeed, it really is easier; and woe to the writer and publisher who in our time begins to think soberly. It’s even worse for one who decides to study and to understand things on his own, and still worse for one who makes a sincere declaration of his intention. And if he declares that he has already managed to understand a tiny smidgen and wants to express his ideas, then everyone quickly drops him. The only thing he can do is to seek out some suitable individual, or even hire one, and simply talk to him and to him alone. Perhaps he can publish a magazine for that one individual. It’s a loathsome situation, because it amounts to talking to yourself and publishing a magazine only for your own amusement. I strongly suspect that for a long time yet The Citizen will have to talk to itself and appear only for its own amusement. Remember that medical science considers talking to oneself a sign of predisposition to insanity. The Citizen certainly must speak to citizens, and that is precisely its whole dilemma!

And so this is the sort of publication with which I have become involved. My situation is as uncertain as it can be. But I shall talk to myself and for my own amusement, in the form of this diary, whatever may come of it. What shall I talk about? About everything that strikes me and sets me to thinking. If I should find a reader and, God forbid, an opponent, I realize that one must be able to carry on a conversation and know whom to address and how to address him. I shall try to master this skill because among us, that is to say, in literature, it is the most difficult one of all. Besides, there are different kinds of opponents: one cannot strike up a conversation with every one. I’ll tell you a story I heard the other day. They say it is an ancient fable, perhaps even of Indian origin, and that’s a very comforting thought.

Once upon a time the pig got into a quarrel with the lion and challenged him to a duel. When the pig came home he thought the matter over and lost his nerve. The whole herd assembled to consider the matter and announced their decision as follow: “Now then, brother pig, there is a wallow not far from here; go and have a good roll in it and then proceed to the duel. You’ll see what happens.”

The pig did just that. The lion arrived, took a sniff, wrinkled up his nose, and walked away. And for a long time thereafter the pig boasted that the lion had turned tail and fled the field of battle.

That’s the fable. Of course we don’t have any lions here—we don’t have the climate for them and they’re too grand a thing for us in any case. But in place of the lion put an honest person, such as each of us is obliged to be, and the moral comes out the same.

Apropos of that, I’ll tell you another little story.

Once when speaking with the late Herzen I paid him many compliments on his book From the Other Shore. To my great pleasure, Mikhail Petrovich Pogodin heaped praise on this same book in his excellent and most curious article about his meeting abroad with Herzen. The book is written in the form of a dialogue between Herzen and his opponent.

“What I especially like,” I remarked in passing, “is that your opponent is also very clever. You must agree that in many instances he backs you right to the wall.”

“Why that’s the essence of the whole piece,” laughed Herzen. “I’ll tell you a story. Once when I was in St. Petersburg, Belinsky dragged me off to his place and sat me down to listen to him read an article, ‘A Conversation Between Mr. A and Mr. B,’ that he had written in some heat. (You can find it in his Collected Works.) In this article, Mr. A., who is Belinsky himself, of course, is made out to be very clever, while his opponent, Mr. B., is rather shallow. When Belinsky had finished reading, he asked me with feverish anticipation:

“‘Well, what do you think?’

“‘Oh, it’s fine, very fine, and it’s obvious that you are very clever. But whatever made you waste your time talking to a fool like that?’

“Belinsky threw himself on the sofa, buried his face in a pillow, and shouted, laughing for all he was worth:

“‘Oh, you’ve got me there, you really have!’”

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Oligarchs have got the jitters

The Oligarchs have made their decision...Let the powerhouses of liberty and free speech follow the lead of Saturday Night Live's transparent and ill-humoured cue to the Hillary campaign, and let them all but ignore Obama's 12-state winning streak that led into, and the upcoming thrashing his campaign will likely give Hillary's again in Wyoming and Mississippi the week after, "Crucial Tuesday"...and let Hillary bask in the glories of her imaginary triumph that gave her a mere 12 delegate gain to trail Obama's current 101 delegate lead...and let her graciously offer her defeated opponent a chance to be her running-mate in November...and let the super delegates be influenced by the Oligarchs' flamboyantly grand decision...Let them do all this, for their efforts are transparent.

The Oligarchs have got the jitters...not in fear of Obama's message of change; for it is open to argument how much or how little his message of change actually represents, and it's certainly up for argument whether his proposed changes would be a good or bad thing for America - they are afraid mostly of the mandate he will be given by the coalition he appears capable of forming to make that change, if he and his voter-base so choose.

It appears now that Bill Clinton sure knew what he was talking about when he said that Jesse Jackson's win in South Carolina didn't propel him to the Democratic ticket in the end. But what I think is most at stake here is for the big shots to do some deep soul-searching for what it would ultimately mean to America for them to override the idea of the American dream; in front of all eyes and in the very heart of American country.

But what I say is nonsense in the end...

The poor Hillary segment:

Monday, February 18, 2008

لا للنووى - رابع مرّة

.. (وادى هو ستات تانية محترمة بتتكلم (مافيش عندنا رجالة محترمين كتير ليام دى
:"وتولول بأعلى صوتها وتقول: "لا, لا للنووى يا جدعان

صباح الفل يا بلد٠٠٠٠استمعوا إليه

دق الدكتور محمد البرادعي ناقوس الخطر.. فهل تنصتون إليه؟!

قال لي الرجل الذي يرأس الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية منذ عشر سنوات وحتي الآن: إن مصر لا تزال تحتاج لدراسات جدوي علمية جادة، وخطة متكاملة للأمان النووي قبل أن تبدأ في برنامجها والسلامة.

قال الرجل: إن الدراسات القائمة لم تكتمل بعد، وإن البنية التحتية غير موجودة، وإن أسئلة كثيرة لابد من الإجابة عليها أولا.. من ضمنها تحديد نوع الطاقة التي نحتاجها، ولماذا نريد طاقة نووية، إضافة إلي العائد الاقتصادي، والأهم هو أولويات الإنفاق في المجتمع.

وقال البرادعي وبكل صراحة وصدق وأمانة: إن الوكالة لن تعطي مصر الضوء الأخضر لتنفيذ برنامجها إلا إذا استكملت الدراسات واستكملت المنظومة الأمنية.

البرادعي قال ذلك علي شاشة التليفزيون المصري وأمام الملايين، كما قاله أيضا للمسؤولين في الاجتماعات المغلقة وعلي رأسهم الرئيس مبارك.. فالقضية النووية لا يمكن العبث بها.. ولايمكن أن نتعامل معها مثل توشكي وشرق التفريعة وغيرهما من مشاريع ننفق عليها المليارات ثم نقول: معلهش دراسات الجدوي طلعت خطأ!!

أن يكون لنا برنامج نووي... هو قرار علمي اقتصادي فني قبل أن يكون قرارا سياسيا.. «القرار السياسي يجب أن يكون مبنيا علي اعتبارات فنية وعلمية وليس العكس».

اقتصاديا يجب أن نعرف جدواه.. ندرسه جيداً، فالمحطة الواحدة تكلف ملياري دولار - بالتأكيد ستوفر طاقة لمدة تتراوح ما بين ٤٠ - ٦٠ عاما، لكن السؤال هو: أي نوع من الطاقة؟ وما هي أولويات المجتمع؟ وهل نحتاج لهذا النوع من الطاقة بالذات أم أن هناك بدائل أخري؟

جملة مهمة قالها البرادعي: «إن الطاقة النووية ليست عنوان التقدم العلمي» فالتقدم يكون عن طريق مراكز الأبحاث.. وهناك دول متقدمة كثيرة مثل إيطاليا، النمسا، النرويج، وأستراليا لا تستخدم الطاقة النووية.. (٣٠ دولة فقط تستخدم الطاقة النووية حول العالم) كما أن هناك علي الجانب الآخر دولا نامية تهتم بالطاقة النووية مثل الصين والهند. القرار إذن يأتي بعد الدراسة وليس العكس.

ويدخل في الدراسة موقع المحطات.. فالضبعة كانت الموقع المختار منذ عشرين عاما. الآن الأمر يحتاج إلي دراسة جديدة خاصة بعد تأكد تأثيرات التغيرات المناخية علي السواحل وحزام الزلازل وغير ذلك كثير.

أما التحذير الأكبر الذي كرره البرادعي دون تردد فهو المنظومة الأمنية.. فسجل الأمان المصري حدث ولا حرج، ولا يمر يوم دون حوادث علي طرق أو مركب أو قطارات.. فما بالك بمحطة نووية الحادثه فيها لا تقتل فقط.. بل تخلف إشعاعات تدمر البيئة والإنسان والحيوان.. لسنوات قادمة.. بدون هذه المنظومة الأمنية المحكمة.. لا يجب أن نبدأ في أي مشروع نووي ولا نفكر فيه.

كلام البرادعي لا يجب أن يزعج القائمين علي البرنامج النووي المصري.. فالرجل يضع الحقائق جميعها علي المائدة أمامنا، وعلينا اتخاذ القرار.. ومرة أخري القرار هنا لا يجب أن يكون قرارا سياسيا، فالحكاية ليست نصرًا جديدًا للحزب الوطني او للحكومة.. ليست مشروعًا نوويا نهرع جميعًا خلفه ونظنه السد العالي الجديد، الحكاية ليست معركة مع البنك الدولي والمؤسسات الأجنبية.. كما كانت في الماضي.

الأمر هنا أكبر من ذلك وأخطر، قد نحتاج بالفعل إلي مصادر أخري للطاقة.. وقد تكون تلك هي الطاقة النووية.. لكن علينا أولا أن نتأكد من ذلك.. وأن يكون لدينا جهاز رقابي مستقل يدرس ذلك، غير تابع للحكومة وغير تابع للحزب الحاكم.. والأهم أن تكون لدينا المنظومة الأمنية المتكاملة.. بلا أخطاء بشرية، بلا اختراقات، بلا أعذار..

فالخطأ هنا لن يدفع ثمنه أشخاص، بل مجتمع بأكمله.. ولسنوات طوال.

البرنامج النووي.. ليس توشكي.. البرنامج النووي ليس شرق التفريعة.. البرنامج النووي - أيضا - ليس السد العالي.. قد يكون المشروع الأهم.. وقد لا يكون.. أرجوكم ادرسوه جيداً.. قبل القرار.. واستمعوا إلي محمد البرادعي... مرة واحدة، استمعوا إلي حديث العقل.. قبل إقامة الاحتفالات وإطلاق الأغنيات: نووي يا نووي.

* * *

وشكر خاص وتقدير لصراحة السيد محمد البرادعى … وأكاد أقول (وأقِر!) إن الراجل بيتكلم كمواطن مصرى قلبه عالبلد أولاً.. قبل ما يكون المدير العام لهيئة الطائة النووية.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Squandering victory

لا تهينوا منتخبنا القومي..علي عتبات الأغنياء أو شواطئ الخليج

فوجئت مثل غيري.. بمنتخب مصر.. وبعد أربع وعشرين ساعة فقط من قدومه إلي القاهرة حاملا كبرياء مصر وكأس أمم أفريقيا.. وقد شحنوه في طائرة خاصة إلي دبي ليتم تكريمه هناك.. وحزنت مثل غيري.. وأنا أري منتخب بلادي يدير ظهره لملايين المصريين الذين رقصوا في الشوارع والبيوت فرحا بانتصاراته ليتجمع مسؤولوه ولاعبوه لأول مرة بعد بطولة الأمم علي شاطئ خليج العرب والذهب.. وليس في مصر.. ليس في استاد القاهرة أو تحت قبة برلمان مصر أو علي شاشة تليفزيوناتها أو فوق أوراق صحافتها.. أو حتي في أي شارع أو ميدان في القاهرة أو أي مدينة مصرية.. وانجرحت مثل غيري.. بعدما اكتشفت أنني كنت واهما حين تخيلت أنني.. وكل طفل وشيخ وفتاة ورجل وامرأة في مصر.. شركاء في هذا الانتصار..
وأن هذه الكأس ملك لنا جميعا.. وأننا كلنا سنتقاسم معا كل هذا الكبرياء.. إلا أنه لم تمض إلا أربع وعشرون ساعة فقط ليصدمني واقع شديد المرارة وتفاجئني حقيقة واحدة بدت ظاهرة وساطعة وباقية.. وهي أننا نعيش في وطن لا يزال فيه من يتخيلون أنهم بإمكانهم بيع هذا الوطن لكل من يدفع.. وأن هناك من يستطيع الاستغناء عن كرامتنا كلنا وعن كبريائنا واحترام الناس لنا مقابل أظرف محشوة بالمال أو ساعات الذهب.. وانكسرت مثل غيري..
وأنا أري لاعبينا الكبار.. نجوم مصر وأفريقيا الذين كسبوا الكأس واحترام العالم كله.. وقد أجلسوهم في مدرجات أحد ملاعب دبي وكأنهم أطفال الملجأ حين تقيم إحدي المؤسسات أو الشركات الكبري حفلة تكريم.. فنجومنا الكبار جلسوا.. وكل منهم يرتدي التريننج سوت تماما مثل البيجاما التي يرتديها طفل الملجأ.. وبجانب كل لاعب منهم ثلاثة كراتين فيها الهدايا التي حصل عليها تماما مثلما يجلس أطفال الملجأ وكل منهم يحمل هديته فوق ركبتيه.. وللترفيه عن نجومنا الكبار جاءوا بمطربين شعبيين للغناء بنفس أسلوب ومنطق الترفيه عن أطفال الملاجئ.. وتساءلت مثل غيري: لماذا يقبل سمير زاهر ذلك؟
لماذا ينهار هكذا فجأة أمام إغراء المال والهدايا وهو الرجل الذي دخل تاريخ الكرة في بلادنا كأنجح رئيس لاتحاد الكرة في مصر بحكم الإنجازات والبطولات التي حققها سمير زاهر لمصر وللكرة في مصر؟ وأرجو ألا يقول لي أحد إنها كانت دعوة كريمة من الشيخ محمد بن راشد ولم يكن من اللائق رفضها.. فهذا حق يراد به باطل..
فاللياقة الحقيقية كانت تقتضي أن يحضر الشيخ محمد بن راشد إلي القاهرة ليقدم هداياه للاعبي المنتخب وللسادة أعضاء اتحاد الكرة.. أو كان من الممكن إبلاغ الشيخ محمد بأن المنتخب سيلبي الدعوة ولكن بعد أن يتم تكريمه في مصر أولا ومن المصريين جميعهم قبل السفر إلي دبي.. خاصة أن هدايا الشيخ لن تضيع والأموال قد يتأخر تسلمها ولكنها لن تذهب لجيوب آخرين.. وآه يا وطني.. كلما بدأت أنا وغيري نعلي رأسنا وندرك ونوقن أننا كبار.. يجيء من يصر علي أننا لا نزال صغارا.. أقزاما وسط عمالقة.. شحاذين وسط شيوخ وأغنياء.. فقراء يشحنهم النبلاء في طائرات خاصة وقتما يشاءون، وكيفما يريدون ونحن لا نملك إلا الطاعة والاستسلام.. آه يا مصر.. يا سوق اللحم والفرجة لكل الدول الأخري.. لكنك يا بلدي.. بالرغم من الدول الأخري.. بلدي.

Not to exaggerate the rhetoric or cast doubt on the good naturedness of the prince's invitation to honour the team - and I think his statements sought to express this - I agree with the writer that this episode was inappropriate on the whole.

...خاصة لما تسمع أغانى أطفال السعودية فى حب مصر

(.. قال كوبرى قال شلّة الحلاليف قال , قال)