Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Change Within

The revolution managed to breathe new life into Egypt and the people of Egypt. Almost overnight and with the press of an imaginary button, morals, values and a sense of unity presided within everyone that was Egyptian. I remember hearing about those values that older generations used to recall, dreamily as they spoke of their younger days. Those values that we had all lost hope of seeing again, submitting to a notion-turned-belief that we were wading through an age where corruption, selfishness and tyranny would only but mushroom uncontrollably. The revolution made us all realise that those values were subconsciously hammered into us as children. They were there all along, dormant and waiting for the right moment, the moment of freedom to emerge forcefully making a statement that they were here to stay. Differences melted away and all that one could see was a united stand  in the midst an invigorated sense of life. 

I compare it to the attitudes of people before January 25th. Several years ago I worked within a company department in a country outside Egypt where the majority of employees were Egyptians. It was one of the more depressing times of my life. I likened the authoritarian attitude adopted by my managers to that of the Mubarak regime at the time. There was fear, oppression, unfairness and of course, corruption. Ideas were not allowed or if there were, they would be shelved and only the managers' ideas would go ahead. It was like a smaller scale of the Mubarak regime in an office environment. It was like a psychological disease that had taken hold of Egyptians, a projection of the regime into their own lives, an adoption of an attitude as a way of life. It was disappointing but most of all it was disconcerting.

Years of brainwashing and of being oppressed led to continued abuse of society and individuals. Thirty years is a long time and for many, they knew no other way of life. It was accepted as the status quo. Corruption breeds corruption and when corruption becomes the way of life, people find themselves dragged along with their society down a pit of despair. Until January 25th when everything changed.

There is now a deep sense of integrity and justice against anything wrong and corrupt. There is a challenging notion to authoritarian attitudes that threaten basic rights. There is love, compassion, understanding, empathy and team spirit. There is a sense of direction, hope and resolve for a bright future and with it, a sense of social justice that will prevail for all. And all this seems to have burst into an emotional display of fireworks on the streets on Egypt and online, overnight.

Now I look back at that workplace where I endured a lack of values and ethics and erase it from the present day. Groggy minds and souls have awoken. Today the people have spoken up and broken the barrier of fear. Their dormant values are dictating their behaviour today. Given the choice, I now want to work with Egyptians.

The revolution's slogan was: Change, Freedom and Social Justice but with it, a change has also happened within. A change that has rippled through and has breathed new life into Egyptians. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011


It has been ages since I wrote. My days and nights since my last entry have been consumed with nothing but with what is happening in Egypt. I surprised myself with a deep sense of national pride. I never even realised that I had one. I surprised myself with an urgency to be a part of this revolution, with a longing to be in Tahrir (Liberation) Square or on the streets of Alexandria, marching, protesting, helping make change happen, smelling, tasting and savouring freedom. 

Several posts ago I wrote about returning to the land of my birth, to be with my family, to settle down and commit myself to a place where I could finally belong. I had decided to give up on the concept of identity and  started to adopt the attitude that home is the place where you make it, surrounded by the people you love. I was serious about this commitment and I washed away any feelings of despair that I might have given in to on making this move. I do love this country, there is no question about it. It did shape me and contributed into making me who I am today. I do feel like I belong here, otherwise I never would have moved back permanently. But I knew that it would never be easy. It has only been two months since moving here and I was determined to overcome any feelings of alienation that I would come across, convinced that with time, this too would be my home, along with the other places where I lived. I would make it my home. I would adapt and find happiness here.

And then the revolution in Egypt happened. And I found myself glued to the likes of facebook and twitter, every waking moment. Food, drink, work even sleep sometimes was optional. At first I was just actively following the updates, trying to make sure my family and friends there were alright. But then I found myself actively participating in the online revolution. When the Internet and mobile network was cut off in Egypt, I would find ways to reach out to those there. I would post their news and use the resources I had to let the world know what was going on from tweets to articles to news and updates. I found myself eating, sleeping and dreaming of this revolution. My heart kept beating to the rhythm of those on the streets there. They spoke for me. They did what I could not do. They filled me with pride as I watched them challenge the regime, holding nothing but courage and resolve. They expressed every sense of despair that I had felt over the years. 

I never lived in Egypt and only went there on family holidays but I still felt the fear and oppression on the streets. I still felt the influence of the authoritarian attitude in the lives of people. I still saw the effect of years of brainwashing on a deterioration of values and a general sense of losing the will to live. I saw it all, over the years, and every time it was a change to the worse.  Then three weeks ago I suddenly I felt myself one with the protesters despite the distance and time difference. Every chant they sang, every sign they held touched my heart, mind and soul. I only had my keyboard. It was my only avenue of expression and I supported them all the way through, confident throughout that the people's will would triumph. One way or another I just knew it in my heart, even though I also knew that Mubarak would never allow himself an exit similar to Ben Ali in Tunisia. Silently I did not want him that exit either. I only wanted his regime over. I wanted change along with the people. I wanted them to voice their opinions and to be able to choose their own leaders, to build their own country. And I wanted to build it too. But I knew the regime, just like the millions of Egyptians who were awakened, for its stubbornness and tyranny. 

There were those who hesitated and said that we have achieved enough, that the protesters should go home, that they should return to a sense of normality. I found myself responding with those on the streets saying that the protests must go on. There was an innate belief that change was coming to Egypt, and with it, a new world order would follow. It was a confidence, a strong resolve and faith that the people will win and that it would all be worth it in the end. Now I sit here miles and miles away, watching the celebrations of freedom on the streets of Egypt. All I want is to be there, cleaning the streets with them. 

I look outside of my window and a southern hemisphere wind blows across gum trees and kookaburras laugh out loud. It all seems so alien to me because in my mind's eye, I can smell the Mediterranean and I can hear it crashing on the rocks on the shore of Alexandria. In my mind's eye I can see the pyramids, the citadel in Cairo and the Nile. And having had the chance to travel, there is just nothing like the Nile.

A bright moon shines,
over a waterway that defines
a city’s character –
caught, in silent enrapture.
The Nile sits still, beneath a surface reflecting,
the city’s lights enchanting,
palms on its banks, mesmerising
senses, so it delights.

Yesterday as Egypt woke up to freedom, all I wanted to do was wrap myself up in an Egyptian flag and hug an Egyptian. Just like the revolution, where things cannot go back to the way they were, I cannot ignore this feeling that has woken up within me. The nagging sense of identity that I had put away is returning and is slowly consuming me.

I dream of the future of Egypt. I dream of all the things that its youth can do for it now, in the next five, ten, fifteen, twenty years as they take it into a bright future. And when I dream, I find myself in the middle of it, playing an active role, doing all the things that I always wanted to do but just could not. Building a country and having a say in how things should be and influencing. 

I have Egyptian blood running through my veins but today even if I were not, I want to be Egyptian.